GASP on Nov. 15 sent a Beaver County landfill operator a notice of intent to sue under the Clean Air Act and Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act. The notice is based on the landfill’s continued failure to submit a timely application for a Title V operating permit as required by the Clean Air Act.
“We are determined to bring the Brunner Landfill in New Sewickley Township into compliance with the Clean Air Act’s Title V Operating Permit requirement,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “Both the Clean Air Act and Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act authorize citizen suits to abate continuing violations of the air pollution control laws, including permitting requirements.”
Title V operating permits are important because when issued, they must include all emission limits and operating restrictions to which the source is subject. Such permits make it easier to determine whether or not the source is complying with those limits and restrictions.
The Brunner Landfill has been in operation for nearly 35 years but first applied for a Title V Operating Permit in 2013, according to state Department of Environmental Protection records.
However, during the 25 years between 1988 (when the landfill began operating) and 2013, the landfill did apply for - and was issued - plan approvals for pollution control devices including a flare that destroys landfill gas and a leachate evaporation system that reduces amounts of hazardous solid and liquid wastes.
Then in 2015 - before DEP acted on the landfill’s initial application for a Title V Operating Permit - the landfill replaced its then-existing landfill gas flare and leachate evaporation system without getting prior authorization from DEP, something prohibited by Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act.
“The unauthorized replacement of those flare and leachate evaporation systems rendered the landfill’s 2013 application for an operating permit incomplete because the equipment described by the permit application no longer matched the equipment at the facility,” GASP senior attorney John Baillie explained.
Accordingly, DEP never acted on the application.
While Brunner landfill did finally submit a revised Title V permit application in June 2020, DEP deemed it incomplete and returned it in September 2021, telling facility operators they had failed to provide the required notice to Beaver County and New Sewickley Township officials.
Since then, Brunner hasn't resubmitted its application for a Title V Operating Permit. The federal regulations that require most landfills (including Brunner Landfill) to have Title V Operating Permits established a June 21, 2022 deadline for them to do so.
If you’re asking yourself, “It’s been nearly 35 years, what difference does it make for the landfill to have an operating permit now after all this time?” two problems come to mind.
“First, because the landfill is operating equipment that has not been properly permitted, valid limits and restrictions have not been established for the equipment,” Baillie explained, “It may be impossible to determine for sure whether the equipment is being operated properly until acceptable performance tests are conducted, and such limits and restrictions are set.”
Second, it appears that the landfill currently may not be subject to emission reporting requirements. When we checked on Oct. 21, 2022, no information about the landfill’s emissions was available on DEP’s webpage for Air Emissions Reporting. That makes it impossible to know just how much air pollution the landfill is creating.
The landfill has 60 days to submit a complete application for a Title V Operating Permit before GASP is permitted to file a complaint in federal or state court.
Editor’s Note: You can read the entire letter GASP sent to Brunner here.