• EPA Wants Landfills To Spend $37,000 Per Ton To Reduce This Pollutant

    The EPA has decided it wants landfills to reduce reduce pollutants and methane, then install gas wells to capture and reuse energy. Sounds like a great plan, until you see the price tag.

    The agency’s plan to clamp down on non-methane organic compounds (NMOC) from landfills could end up costing municipalities and companies a whopping $37,000 per megagram (equivalent to a little over one ton), according to the agency’s regulatory impact analysis of its proposal.

    The proposal is part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce U.S. methane emissions, and part of the president’s broader plan to fight global warming. The EPA is targeting methane emissions from landfills which the agency claims is the third-largest source of methane in the country.

    The EPA is also clamping down on non-methane organic compounds which occur naturally in landfills. The problem with non-methane organic compounds, however, is they can contain substances that can combine to create ground-level ozone, or smog, in certain climates, so the federal government is looking to reduce such emissions by installing emissions control technology at landfills.

    But even the EPA admits that reducing non-methane organic compounds will be a costly endeavor. The agency says that “the overall average cost effectiveness for NMOC reductions is $29,800 per [megagram of NMOC] under the baseline and roughly $37,000 per Mg NMOC under the proposed option 2.5/34 and alternative option.”

    “The average cost-effectiveness of controlling methane is significantly lower than for NMOC because methane constitutes approximately 50 percent of landfill gas, while NMOC represents less than 1 percent of landfill gas,” according to the EPA.

    Landfill operators, however, could earn revenues from “beneficial-use” projects. Taking this into account, the EPA said that the “overall average cost effectiveness for NMOC reductions is $5,200 per Mg NMOC under the baseline and roughly $17,000 per Mg NMOC under the proposed option 2.5/34 and alternative option.”

    So, assuming landfills — many of which are owned by local governments — can recoup some of their expenses, the total cost of capturing non-methane organic compounds goes down significantly — though it’s still extremely expensive.

    The EPA’s proposed landfill rule lowers the allowable threshold for non-methane organic compounds from 50 megagrams per year to 34 megagrams per year. The agency says its rule could reduce such emissions between 2,270 and 2,560 megagrams by 2025.

    “EPA analyses show that the climate-related benefits of the proposed guidelines would outweigh costs, yielding $14 in benefits for every dollar spent to comply,” according to an agency fact sheet.

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