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EPA updates to reduce methane from new landfills

Editorial | July 3, 2014 | By:

By Ron Bygness

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed in a July 1 press release updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.

The release continued: “These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health. The agency also is seeking broad public feedback on how and whether to update guidelines for existing landfills.”

Non-hazardous waste from homes, business, and institutions ends up in municipal solid waste landfills, where it decomposes and breaks down to form landfill gas, which includes carbon dioxide, a number of air toxics and methane. Methane has a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide, according to the press release.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said: “Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change. 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.”

The release noted that the proposal would require new MSW landfills to be 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 press release also said: “Today, methane accounts for nearly 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane in the country, accounting for 18% of methane emissions in 2012. Regulatory and voluntary programs, including the agency’s 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 July 1 press release also addressed proposed guidelines to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane. The agency is considering updating those guidelines, including significant changes that have occurred in the landfill industry since the original guidelines were issued in 1996. If a hearing is requested, it will be held on Aug. 12, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

For more information:

Environmental Protection Agency

Information on the Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.

Information on the Climate Action Plan.

Source: U.S. EPA

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