The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new proposal last week to update the air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The proposal is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.
As waste decomposes in a landfill, it breaks down to form landfill gas that is made up of carbon dioxide, methane, and other air toxics. The release proposes to require new landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which includes methane. By reducing methane emissions, the risk to public health would be reduced. Additionally, because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, this proposal is also a step towards curbing climate change.
“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” said Administrator Gina McCarthy. “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 proposal would require new MSW landfills to capture two-thirds of the methane and air toxics emissions by 2023. This is 13% more than what is currently required. Landfills accounted for 18% of the U.S. methane emissions in 2012, the third largest source of human-related methane. Methane makes up about 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
Along with the proposal, the EPA is seeking public feedback on whether guidelines for existing landfills should be updated and how to go about this process. They are doing so through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), released on June 30th, 2014. The EPA is also accepting comments on the proposal for new landfills for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
To learn more about the proposal, click here.