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EPA's Final Landfill Methane Rule Sets Stricter Limits

Date: July 18, 2016

Source: News Room

On July 15, the EPA issued final rules to reduce methane emissions from modified and existing landfills by a third of previously acceptable levels. The agency issued separate regulations for new and modified municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills, issued under section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act, and existing landfills, issued under air act section 111(d). Both rules strengthen standards for new and existing facilities that were issued by the Clinton administration in 1996.

The new rules, which are expected to cut methane emissions by nearly 334,000 tons per year starting in 2025, are part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan: Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. Despite the stricter threshold, the rules are not expected to draw significant opposition from the landfill sector. Industry officials had tentatively embraced the proposed version of the rules after EPA allowed site owners to use monitoring results, rather than modeling data. However, some in the industry worry that the stricter rules could challenge the economics of methane recovery projects leading to a slowdown in their development.

The rules could face other challenges. Some in the utility sector say the agency lacks legal authority to strengthen existing source standards under section 111(d). And, industry and congressional opponents are also likely to take issue with EPA's use of the administration's controversial social cost of carbon (SCC) and social cost of methane (SCM) metrics to calculate the rule's climate change benefits.

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