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Energy & Environment

After Request from Waste Industry, EPA Will Reconsider Landfill Methane Rules

The industry says the rules, as written, aren’t feasible to implement.


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A landfill in the Houston area

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering proposed rules on methane emissions from landfills. It’s a move that comes at the request of the waste disposal industry.

The emissions come from stuff like leaves and food scraps naturally breaking down. Landfills already have to capture methane if emissions get above a certain threshold, but the new rules – now delayed – would lower that limit. Waste disposal companies worry they'd have to build costly new control systems as a result.

But the industry also promotes its ability to turn methane into energy.

Anne Germain with the National Waste and Recycling Association talked about that at an energy forum in 2015.

“By capturing the landfill gas and turning it into energy, we can power homes and factories, and even cars,” she said. “Sometimes, the trucks that pick up the waste and recycling are themselves powered by the trash that they pick up.”

So why oppose these rules? Kerry Kelly with Waste Management, Inc. says it's because as written, they're just not feasible.

“It's never been our desire to repeal the rules,” she says. “We want the rules on the books, we want them to work.”

Some environmental groups also oppose the rules, but for different reasons.

They say they don't do enough to limit methane, and that instead, the government should focus on getting the decomposing waste that causes methane into composting bins, and out of landfills.

The EPA plans to draft a new rule on the issue, and to take public comment on it.