EPA to reconsider rules to reduce methane emissions at landfills

By Erin Voegele | May 23, 2017

On May 23, the U.S. EPA announced a 90-day administrative stay of two final rules announced in mid-2016 that aim to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.  The stay will allow the agency to reconsider certain aspects of these regulations.

The EPA released prepublication versions of the regulations on July 18. They were published in the Federal Register on Aug. 29. 

One rule contains final new source performance standards (NSPS) to reduce methane emissions from new, modified and reconstructed MSW landfills. The second contains revised guidelines for reducing emissions from existing MSW landfills. The two actions updated standards and guidelines put into place in 1996. 

According to an EPA fact sheet released last year, both rules consider a well-designed and well-operated landfill gas collection and control system as the best system of emission reduction for controlling landfill gas. In addition, both actions require affected landfills to install and operate a gas collection control system within 30 months after landfill gas emissions reach 34 metric tons of non-methane organic compounds (NMOC) or more per year. The previous threshold was 50 metric tons of NMOC.

The rules also state that landfill owners and operators may control gas through combustion for energy generation, or by using a treatment system that processes gas for sale or beneficial use. Gas can also be flared.

The EPA notified industry petitioners that the agency was granting their request for reconsideration of the standards in a May 5 letter. The National Waste & Recycling Association, Solid Waste Association of North America, Republic Services Inc., Waste Management Inc. and Waste Management Disposal Services of Pennsylvania Inc. petitioned the EPA to reconsider the rules in late October.

In the letter, the EPA states that the petition raised several objections to the regulations that arose after the comment period or where impracticable to raise during the comment period. Therefore the agency said it would proceed with reconsideration of six specific topics, including tier four surface emission monitoring, annual liquids reporting, corrective action timeline procedures, overlapping applicability with other rules, the definition of cover penetration and design plan approval.

The EPA indicated it plans to issue a new notice of proposed rulemaking that will provide an opportunity for public comments on six topics it is reconsidering.

In a statement, the EPA also noted that the stay is consistent with President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order, and that the agency will “continue to review these actions to ensure that they protect the environment and enable a growing economy.” 

“EPA is continuing to ensure that the public has the opportunity to comment on agency actions,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Reconsidering portions of the landfill rules will give stakeholders the opportunity to review these requirements, assess economic impacts and provide feedback to the agency through the reconsideration process.”

Additional information is available on the EPA website