EPA Captures More Landfills Under Emissions Regime with New Rules

Published October 21, 2016

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized new rules tightening emissions from landfills. Under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review, and, if appropriate, revise emission performance standards every 8 years. The rules, finalized on August 29, lower the threshold at which a landfill must install controls in an effort to further reduce landfill gas emissions, including methane.

These rules will bring greater numbers of landfills under EPA oversight with many smaller landfills, previously exempt from emissions regulation due to their emissions being below previous thresholds for regulation, now required to control emissions.

Under previous emission standards, EPA required the installation of controls in the form of a gas collection and control system at any landfill emitting more than 50 Megagrams of non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs), which served as a surrogate representing overall emissions of landfill gas. The new threshold requiring mitigation is 34 megagrams per year of NMOCs.

Increased ‘Compliance Burden’

In addition to setting lower emission limits, EPA is also implementing new testing methodologies to determine when landfill operators are required to install emission controls and, for landfills requiring emissions controls, it is requiring increased surface monitoring.

An article on Lexology, an online legal news aggregator, sums up the impact of the new landfill emissions regulations saying “EPA has increased the stringency of regulatory requirements for landfill owners and operators … increasing the compliance burden of both existing and new landfills.”

As the costs of constructing and operating landfills will rise due to the new EPA emissions regulations, the costs of disposing of solid waste at municipal and private landfills should also be expected to rise.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.