Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Next Step, Landfill Methane

Having gotten the Clean Power Plan out the door, EPA has moved on to another target of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan:  landfill methane emissions.  landfill methaneLate last week, EPA proposed both new emission guidelines for existing landfills and a supplemental proposal to modify the new source performance standards for new or modified landfills.  The landfill rule is a somewhat easier lift than the Clean Power Plan.

Under EPA’s proposal, the trigger for installing a landfill gas collection/control system at existing facilities would decrease from 50 metric tons/year to 34 metric tons/year.  EPA would define the best system of emission reductions as being a well-operated collection/control system.  Landfill owners may also use an alternative, site-specific approach to determining applicability.  Under the site-specific approach, landfills would avoid the collection/control requirement if methane emissions are below 500 ppm for four consecutive quarters.

Similar changes are proposed to the NSPS.  The supplemental proposal would reduce the threshold from 40 metric tons/year proposed last year to the same 34 metric tons/year applicable to existing facilities under the emission guidelines.

EPA has not proposed revising the design capacity thresholds, which would remain at 2.5 million metric tons and 2.5 million cubic meters of waste for both new and existing facilities.

One final note.  EPA has estimated that the climate-related benefits of both rules would far exceed their costs.  EPA also asserts that the rules would have ancillary benefits from reductions in emissions of other compounds, including air toxics.  However, EPA has not attempted to quantify those benefits and they do not factor into EPA’s cost-benefit analysis.  Readers familiar with the Supreme Court’s decision on EPA’s MATS rule will hear echoes of that case here.  Different sections of the Clean Air Act are involved, but it will certainly be interesting if EPA takes a different position on remand of the MATS rule – relying on ancillary benefits to justify the rule – than it is taking in the landfill methane proposals.

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