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State v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 5, 2019

STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS RULE 60(B) MOTION TO ALTER JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 109

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         After the Court's May 6, 2019 Order granting in part Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 98, “Order”), Defendants U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Andrew R. Wheeler, in his official capacity as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (collectively, “EPA”) filed the instant motion seeking relief from the Court's Order and Judgment (Dkt. No. 99) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5).[1] Specifically, EPA argues that because the EPA Administrator signed a final rule on August 16, 2019, changing the submission deadline for state plans from May 30, 2017, to August 29, 2019, and changing EPA's timeline to promulgate a federal plan from within six months of the submission deadline to within two years of the submission deadline, these significant changes in facts and law warrant a revision of the Court's May 6, 2019 Order and Judgment. The Court disagrees and DENIES EPA's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As relevant for the pending motion, on August 29, 2016, EPA promulgated a final rule related to Municipal Solid Waste landfills.[2] Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills, 81 Fed. Reg. 59, 276 (Aug. 29, 2016) (“Old Rule”). The Old Rule became effective on October 28, 2016. Thereafter, according to EPA's regulations:

1. States were required to submit implementation plans by May 30, 2017, see 40 C.F.R. § 60.23(a)(1);
2. EPA was required to approve or disapprove submitted plans by September 30, 2017, see 40 C.F.R. § 60.27(b); and
3. If either (i) states to which the guideline pertained did not submit implementation plans, or (ii) EPA disapproved a submitted plan, then EPA was required to promulgate a federal plan within six months of the submission deadline (November 30, 2017), see 40 C.F.R. § 60.27(d).

         The parties agreed that EPA failed to fulfill certain non-discretionary duties under 40 C.F.R. § 60.27, and after finding that Plaintiffs had standing to bring suit, the Court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs. Dkt. No. 98. Specifically, the Court ordered the EPA to approve or disapprove existing state plans no later than September 6, 2019, and to promulgate regulations setting forth a federal plan no later than November 6, 2019. Id. at 15-16. According to EPA's status report filed on August 7, 2019, it was complying with the Court's Order by making progress on approving or disapproving existing state plans. See Dkt. No. 108. On August 22, 2019, EPA published notice of the proposed federal plan. See Federal Plan Requirements for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills That Commenced Construction On or Before July 17, 2014, and Have Not Been Modified or Reconstructed Since July 17, 2014, 84 Fed. Reg. 43, 745 (Aug. 22, 2019) (“Proposed Federal Plan”).

         On August 16, 2019, EPA amended its regulations to change the applicable deadlines. States must now “submit a state plan to the EPA by August 29, 2019, ” pushing the deadline back over two years. 40 C.F.R. § 60.30f (“New Rule”). Additionally, EPA amended the regulations applicable to the Administrator's actions as follows:

(c) The Administrator will promulgate, through notice-and-comment rulemaking, a federal plan, or portion thereof, at any time within two years after the Administrator:
(1) Finds that a State fails to submit a required plan or plan revision or finds that the plan or plan revision does not satisfy the minimum criteria under paragraph (g) of this section; or
(2) Disapproves the required State plan or plan revision or any portion thereof, as unsatisfactory because the applicable requirements of this subpart or an applicable subpart under this part have not been met.

40 C.F.R. § 60.27a(c) (emphasis added). EPA promptly filed this Motion to Amend Order and Judgment on August 28, 2019, for which briefing is complete. Dkt. Nos. 109 (“Mot.”), 114 (“Opp.”), 116 (“Reply”). EPA asks the Court to vacate its order and judgment that requires EPA to promulgate a federal plan by November 6, 2019. See generally Mot.[3] The Court held a hearing on the motion to amend order and judgment on October 24, 2019. Dkt. No. 120.

         II. ...


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