MassDEP Issues Final Rules for Anaerobic Digestion Facilities: Let’s Hope They Work

This week, MassDEP announced that it had finalized regulatory revisions intended to encourage anaerobic digestion projects in the Commonwealth. The regulations are the culmination of a long stakeholder process . Since our firm knows from personal experience MassDEP’s ability to tie itself in knots on this issue, there is little doubt that this package was necessary as a practical matter.

Highlights of the regulations include:

  • An exemption from the site assignment process for anaerobic (and aerobic) digestion operations
  • A general permit for digestion operations receiving no more than 100 tons per day (30 day rolling average) – That’s up from a 60 tpd limit in the original proposal
  • Site-specific permits for facilities receiving more than 100 tpd
  • Revisions to wastewater regulations allowing digesters at publicly owned treatment works to receive organic waste from off-site.

MassDEP is clearly hoping that this process will not become the NIMBY nightmare that onshore wind seems headed towards in Massachusetts. Those of us of a certain age will also recall state efforts to overcome local opposition to the siting of hazardous waste facilities. Of course, as MassDEP has acknowledged, it cannot by regulation overcome local zoning; it can only do what it has done – eliminate the site assignment requirement. It has pledged to work with communities and provide information to educate residents.

For the moment, I will let my naturally optimistic self have free rein. If it’s 2014 and the MassDEP has banned landfill disposal of organic waste, but no anaerobic digesters have been built, I reserve the right to say I knew it all the time.

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