Environmental groups to sue EPA for inaccurate landfill emissions estimates

Environmental groups to sue EPA for inaccurate landfill emissions estimates

The groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the agency for failing to perform duties required by the Clean Air Act.

December 15, 2021

Three environmental groups are taking action to hold the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accountable for inaccurately tracking emissions from the nation’s landfills.

On Dec. 9, the Environmental Integrity Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Sierra Club filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA, stating the agency “failed to perform nondiscretionary duties required by the Clean Air Act.

“EPA has failed to review and, if necessary, revise the methods—emission factors—that are used to quantify emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and carbon monoxide (CO) from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills at least every three years,” says the groups in a letter to the EPA.

According to the notice, the EPA has not revised emission factors for MSW landfills since 1998 despite acknowledging that the current emissions factors are flawed.

“When it comes to pollution, it’s very difficult to manage what you can’t measure,” said Ryan Maher, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, in a press release. “EPA needs to fix how it estimates emissions from this massive source of methane and other air pollutants, not only to help us understand the full extent of the landfill problem but also to make sure that we’re holding polluters accountable and regulating these facilities properly.”

In June, Maher authored a study that found that Maryland’s landfill methane emissions were four times higher than the state had estimated. As previously reported by Waste Today, the state’s Department of the Environment (MDE) agreed with the report’s finding and has since corrected the mistakes.

Emissions from municipal landfills are currently responsible for about 15 percent of the country’s human-caused emissions of methane. In July, Inside Climate News reported that the EPA’s top expert on methane believed the agency was undercounting landfill methane emissions.

“It’s not just Maryland, it’s the whole country,” Tom Pelton, a spokesman for the Environmental Integrity Project, told Inside Climate News.

The EPA has 60 days to attempt to resolve the conflict with the environmental groups.