EPA publishes methane reduction proposal for new landfills

By Erin Voegele | July 01, 2014

The U.S. EPA is taking action to reduce methane emissions from landfills. On June 30, the agency published proposed rule to update its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The same day, the EPA also published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public input on whether and how to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane.

According to the EPA, the proposed rule would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce methane emissions and help reduce pollution that harms public health. The proposal is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. That strategy was released in March. 

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This latest step from the President’s methane strategy builds on our progress to date and takes steps to cut emissions from landfills through common-sense standards.”

Information released by the EPA indicates that the proposal would require certain new MSW landfills to begin controlling landfill gas at a lower emission threshold than currently required. Under the proposal, landfills would capture two-thirds of their methane and air toxics emissions by 2023. That is capture level 13 percent higher than that required by current rules. The EPA has estimated that the net nationwide annual costs of complying with the additional requirements in the proposed rule would be $471,000 in 2023.

Regarding landfill gas treatment, the proposed rule explains that the EPA is addressing two issues. First, it is proposing to clarify that the use of treated landfill gas is not limited to use as a fuel for a stationary combustion device, but also allows other beneficial uses such as vehicle fuel, production of high-Btu gas for pipeline injection, and use as a raw material in a chemical manufacturing process. Second, the EPA is proposing to clarify what constitutes landfill gas treatment as well as monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for treatment systems.

A 60-day comment period will open on both the proposed fuel and ANPR following publication in the Federal Register. Pre-publication versions of the proposals can be downloaded in the EPA website.