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Attorneys General Threaten to Sue EPA for Unlawful Delay of Rule that Helps Ensure Clean Air

EPA refuses to enforce rule overseeing harmful methane emissions from landfills

March 26, 2018
Contact: stateimpactcenter@nyu.edu

Washington, D.C. — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and six other state attorneys general are threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 60 days if it continues to refuse to enforce a critical rule that protects public health and the environment, according to notice from the coalition sent to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday. The Landfill Emissions Rule aims to reduce emissions of methane and other compounds that pose threats to air quality, creating a public health risk. The rule regulates emissions of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, from the third largest source of methane emissions in the country, landfills.

According to the rule, all states and the EPA were obligated to take action according to the following timeline:

  • May 2017:                  States submit plans to EPA to comply with rule
  • September 2017:       EPA approves or disapproves state plans
  • November 2017:        EPA provides federal plan for states with insufficient plan 

“EPA’s failure to take these actions constitutes a violation of a nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act,” Attorney General Becerra and six other attorneys general wrote. “Accordingly, we intend to file a lawsuit in federal district court to compel EPA to comply with its obligations under the statute if EPA continues not to do so.”

“State attorneys general will do everything necessary to protect the air their residents breathe every day,” said David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “Were it not for state attorneys general, Administrator Pruitt would continue flaunt his legal obligation to protect families and the environment from landfill gases and other pollutants that he, for whatever reason, has decided to ignore -- in blatant violation of the law.”

The Landfill Emission Rule, known formally as the 2016 Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills, was promulgated on August 29, 2016.

In addition to Attorney General Becerra, the attorneys general from the following states joined in sending the 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue: Illinois; Maryland; New Mexico; Oregon; Rhode Island; and Vermont.

A February 2018 State Energy & Environmental Impact Center report, “State Attorneys General: 13 Months of Critical Actions,” shows that state attorneys general have taken more than 80 actions to advance and defend progressive clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies since January 2017. Of these actions, 36 have related to the EPA – more than any other federal agency or department. 


ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.