U.S. EPA Plan to Tighten Landfill Methane Emission Regulations

As part of President Obamas Climate Action Plan the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  has proposed updates to its air standards for new Municipal Solid Waste landfills.

Image Credit: Bill McChesney

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed updates to its air standards for new Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfills.

According to the agency, the updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane and help further reduce pollution that harms public health.

The EPA added that it also is seeking broad public feedback on how and whether to update guidelines for existing landfills.

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” commented EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy.

The proposal would require new MSW landfills subject to the rule to begin controlling landfill gas at a lower emissions threshold than currently required. Under the proposal, landfills would capture two thirds of their methane and air toxics emissions by 2023 – 13% more than required under current rules.

The EPA estimated the net nationwide annual costs of complying with the additional requirements in the proposed rule would be $471,000 in 2023.

Currently methane is said to account for nearly 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., with landfills the third-largest source of human-related methane in the country, accounting for 18% of methane emissions in 2012.

The agency noted however, that regulatory and voluntary programs, including its own Landfill Methane Outreach Program, have helped reduce emissions from landfills by 30% from 1990 to 2012. However, without additional actions, methane emissions are projected to increase through 2030.

The EPA has also issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking broad public input on whether and how to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane. The ANPR is focused on the existing 1800 landfills currently operating in the U.S.

It said that it is considering updating those guidelines based on a several factors, including significant changes that have occurred in the landfill industry since the original guidelines were issued in 1996.

The EPA said that it will take public comment on the proposed performance standards updates and the ANPR for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. If a hearing is requested, it will be held on August 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Industry Comment

According to the National Waste & Recycling Association for landfills subject to these new regulations, the most significant change is to the emissions thresholds, which would require installing controls.

The organisation explained that other proposed changes include clarifications to landfill gas treatment and to start-up, shutdown, and malfunction procedures. Existing landfills would continue to be subject to existing regulations.

“The National Waste & Recycling Association will carefully review the proposed regulation and the advanced notice of rulemaking during the next couple of months,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of NW&RA.

“We will provide comments to the Agency that will promote lower emissions, but still be economically realistic and operationally practical to protect the business interests of our members,” she added.

More information can be found HERE and Information on the Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions can be found HERE.

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