New York announces plan to reduce methane emissions

By Erin Voegele | May 18, 2017

On May 17, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a methane reduction plan that, in part, supports energy production from biogas at farms and landfills across the state.

The plan includes a suite of 25 actions aimed at reducing methane emissions from the state’s landfill, oil and gas, and agricultural sectors.

“With this action, New York will continue to shrink our carbon footprint by reducing emissions that contribute to climate change,” Cuomo said. “This administration has made remarkable progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and with this plan, we take a major step in securing a cleaner, greener New York for all.”

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, methane accounts for approximately 9 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The plan released by Cuomo targets the three sectors in New York responsible for the majority of these emissions, including oil and gas, landfills and agriculture. The suite of 25 actions identified in the plan aim to align with New York’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, when compared to 1990 levels. Implementation of the actions is expected to begin this year and be complete by 2020.

“This is the latest step under Governor Cuomo’s leadership to ensure our environment is cleaner and healthier for all New Yorkers,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “The actions outlined in the Methane Reduction Plan to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions will help the state meet its nation-leading energy goals and provide cleaner air for generations to come.”

Eight of the specific actions identified in the plan target emissions reductions at landfills. According to the plan, landfill emissions make up approximately 58 percent of the state’s methane emissions, or about 5 percent of the state’s GHG emissions.

Three of the actions targeting landfills aim to reduce future methane emissions by diverting organic waste. The DEC is directed to continue developing and conducting outreach and other programs and policies to encourage large generators of food waste to donate edible food or compost, anaerobically digest or otherwise recycle food waste that is not donated. The plan also calls on the state to continue funding to support diversion of organics, including funding that supports anaerobic digestion projects.

The five additional actions targeting landfills aim to reduce emissions at existing landfills. It proposes that horizontal gas collection systems be installed in new landfills and subsequent development of existing landfills. It also indicates the SEC will pursue actions to suggest best management practices for enhancing methane capture at landfills that are required to and/or voluntary collect landfill gas to ensure that the maximum feasible amount of landfill-generated methane is captured and destroyed. The plan indicates this effort will include analysis, evaluating and making recommendations on active, inactive and closed landfills based on age, size, emissions criteria, and offset eligibility. The DEC is also tasked with identifying best practices, in conjunction with evaluations of potential revisions to regulations, to reduce methane emissions and diminish odors, enhance the monitoring of landfills to achieve emissions reductions, and determine the most effective way to promote these practices in the state’s landfills. In addition, the DEC will examine U.S. EPA GHG reporting criteria and assumptions for New York landfills and determine if it should develop guidance to more accurately report methane capture and emission and waste-in-place. Finally, the plans calls for the update and improvement of State Environmental Quality Review Act guidance for assessing GHG emissions and how to incorporate the projected effects of climate change on landfills.

The plan also notes that agricultural emissions make up approximately 22 percent of New York’s methane emissions, or about 2 percent of the state’s GHG emissions. Six specific actions apply to the state’s farm sector, including two that aim to reduce emissions through farm management. First, the plan calls for methane reduction to be incorporated into state plans related to manure management, including actions to support the development of methane capture systems and anaerobic digestion facilities. Second, the plan calls for the development of strategies to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation.

In addition, two actions aim to improve management of methane emissions at agricultural operations through monitoring and reporting. This includes improving GHG accounting and climate change impact considerations in the Agricultural Environmental Management framework that farms use to identify best practices and addressing data gaps and prioritizing research needs so that the state is able to monitor progress at reducing GHG emissions and direct resources to successful programs.

Finally, two actions focus on increasing agricultural soil carbon sequestration to reduce GHG emissions. This includes convening a work group to assess the potential for net GHG reductions through agricultural soil carbon storage and the development of communication and funding strategies to effectively identify and promote the benefits of soil carbon sequestration.

The remaining 11 actions target the oil and gas sector, which is responsible for 11 percent of New York’s methane emissions, or 1 percent of the state’s GHG emissions. The actions aim to reduce infrastructure emissions, improve management of methane emissions by requiring monitoring and reporting, and improving consistency across regulatory jurisdictions and programs.

A full copy of the Methane Reduction Plan can be downloaded from the New York DEC website.