By Patrick D. Joyce

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a proposed rule that would update air standards for new municipal solid waste  landfills (landfills). 79 Fed. Reg. 41796 (July 17, 2014).

The Whitehouse had, earlier this year, issued an update to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.” The update specified that in the summer of 2014, “the EPA will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.” The Agency has met that action item with these rulemaking publications.

Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential twenty-five times that of carbon dioxide.  As such, reducing overall methane emissions was listed as a priority in the President’s Climate Action Plan.  In 2012, landfills accounted for eighteen percent of all methane emissions in the United States.

The proposed rule targets the release of methane from landfills and would require landfills constructed after the publication date of the proposed rule (July 17, 2014) to capture two-thirds of their methane and other air toxics emissions by 2023.  The current rules require new landfills to capture just thirteen percent of such emissions.

In addition, EPA also issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public input on whether it should update emissions guidelines for existing landfills, including methane emissions limits, and how to implement any suggested updates. 79 Fed. Reg. 41772 (July 17, 2014).

Stay tuned for a deeper analysis of the proposed rule.