The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued two proposals to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills.
As part of the President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions — the proposals target new, modified and existing landfills. If passed, landfills would begin collecting and controlling landfill gas at emission levels nearly a third lower than current requirements.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide. In addition to methane, landfills also emit other pollutants, including the air toxics benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and vinyl chloride.
Municipal solid waste landfills receive non-hazardous wastes from homes, businesses and institutions. As landfill waste decomposes, it produces a number of air toxics, carbon dioxide, and methane. MSW landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., accounting for 18 percent of methane emissions in 2013 – the equivalent of approximately 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.
Combined, the proposed rules are expected to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 487,000 tons a year beginning in 2025 – equivalent to reducing 12.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the carbon pollution emissions from more than 1.1 million homes. EPA estimates the climate benefits of the combined proposals at nearly $750 million in 2025 or nearly $14 for every dollar spent to comply. Combined costs of the proposed rules are estimated at $55 million in 2025.