Attorney General Becerra Leads Coalition Demanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Withdraw Proposal Delaying Landfill Methane Regulations
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), leading a multistate coalition, filed comments demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdraw its proposed rule delaying by four years implementation of a critical regulation that would reduce emissions from landfills. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions – a pollutant with a global warming potential that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. The regulation, once implemented, would prevent 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year, which translates to 1.5 million passenger vehicles driven, or 850,000 homes’ electricity use, for one year. In addition to harmful methane, landfills emit volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Not only do these pollutants contribute to climate change, but they can cause cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, especially among children and older adults.
“We demand that EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler withdraw this unlawful proposal and immediately implement measures that are on the books to reduce harmful methane emissions and that already should have been implemented,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This outrageous proposal flies in the face of the mission of the EPA to protect public health and the environment.”
“Capturing and reusing methane is one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to cut global warming emissions,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The EPA should not delay efforts to control this powerful climate pollutant.”
In May 2018, Attorney General Becerra and CARB also led a coalition of eight Attorneys General and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in a lawsuit against the EPA for its failure to implement and enforce the regulation – known formally as the 2016 Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. The regulation went into effect on October 28, 2016, but the EPA has not complied with its mandatory duties to implement it. In a recent ruling rejecting EPA's effort to dismiss the case, the court found Congress's intent to hold EPA accountable for complying with the regulatory implementation deadlines "readily discernible." But instead of complying with those deadlines, and with no legal basis for doing so, EPA has used one unlawful tactic after another to delay implementation and enforcement of the regulation while it works to revise the regulation, a process which EPA says it will complete by Spring 2019.
In the letter, the Attorneys General argue that the EPA’s proposal:
- Violates the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to swiftly and aggressively reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants endangering public health and the environment;
- Fails to justify adding four years to the timeline to implement the rule and for the inconsistencies of the proposal with its prior factual findings; and
- Provides no analysis of the purported benefits and costs of the rule.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the comments are the states of Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont; and the California Air Resources Board.