The EPA Issues Rules to Reduce Methane Emissions from Landfills

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) took two actions designed to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills.  First, the EPA issued final New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for new landfills.  Second, the EPA issued revised emission guidelines for reducing emissions from existing landfills.  Both actions updated regulations that had been issued in 1996.

Part of the EPA’s Program to Reduce Methane Emissions

In taking these steps, the EPA referenced the President’s Climate Action Plan: Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.  This plan identified landfills as one of four key sources for methane reductions; the others are coal mines, agriculture, and oil and gas.

Methane, when burned, produces far less in greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions than other fossil fuels, especially coal, for the equivalent amount of energy.  For methane released and not burned, the EPA estimates that 1 ton of released methane has the GHG equivalent of 25 tons of carbon dioxide.  Thus, reducing methane emissions is a key part of the Climate Action Plan.

Landfills Subject to the Rules

In general, the size triggers in the 1996 rules continue to apply.  Landfills with a design capacity of 2.5 million metric tons and 2.5 million cubic meters of waste or more are covered by these rules.

NSPS Date: July 17, 2014

Landfills constructed, modified or reconstructed after July 14, 2014 and that meet the size trigger are subject to the NSPS.  Landfills constructed, modified or reconstructed on or before July 14, 2014 and that meet the size trigger are subject to the revised emission guidelines.

EPA’s Estimates of the Number of Affected Landfills

The EPA estimates that 128 new, modified or reconstructed landfills will be subject to the NSPS, and 115 of these landfills will require controls in 2025, based on projected emissions.

The EPA estimates that 1,014 of the active older landfills will be subject to the updated emission guidelines.  The EPA estimates that 731 of these existing landfills will be controlling landfill gas in 2025, based on projected emissions.  The EPA expects that 206 of these older landfills will be closed within 13 months after the emission guidelines are published and will have non-methane organic compound emissions below 50 metric tons per year, which will eliminate the need for them to collect and control gas.

For a copy of the EPA’s fact sheet on these rules click here.

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