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EPA issues final actions to cut methane emissions from MSW landfills

News | July 18, 2016 | By:

In a press release issued July 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced steps to further reduce emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.

The EPA’s release stated: “Cost-effective updates will strengthen requirements for new, modified and existing landfills, and will provide important climate and public health benefits.”

Under final rules, new, modified, and existing landfills will begin capturing and controlling landfill gas emissions at levels that are one-third lower than current requirements, updating 20-year-old standards for existing landfills.

The release said that, all told, the final rules are expected to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 334,000 tons a year beginning in 2025—equivalent to reducing 8.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The EPA estimates the climate benefits of the combined rules at $512 million in 2025 or more than $8 for every dollar spent to comply.

The EPA explained that methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide. Climate change impacts include exposure to extreme heat waves, degraded air quality, and diseases spread though food, water, and insects; and further threaten the economy by increasing insurance premiums and food prices, and damaging infrastructure and ecosystems.

The press release noted that MSW landfills receive non-hazardous waste from homes, businesses, and institutions. As landfill waste decomposes, it produces a number of pollutants, including air toxics, volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, and methane. MSW landfills are the second-largest industrial source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for 20% of methane emissions in 2014. Methane from landfills can be cost-effectively captured and used in place of other fossil fuels.

The EPA said that the final rules took into account public comments and additional data and analysis received since the agency issued the proposals in July 2014 and August 2015. The actions issued last week update the 1996 guidelines for existing landfills and strengthen the previously proposed rule for new landfills issued in 2014.

In addition, EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program provides landfill owners and operators a suite of tools and technical resources to facilitate development of landfill gas energy projects. During the last 20 years, LMOP-assisted projects have reduced and avoided more than 345 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Source: U.S. EPA

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