Is Climate Change a Game Changer for Industry?

With new greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taking effect earlier this year, many waste companies are wondering how they will be affected. As attendees of this WasteExpo session learned, landfills, transfer stations and other waste facilities are stationary sources of GHG subject to Prevention of Significant (PSD) and Title V permitting. In addition, new rules could impact flares and waste-to-energy facilities, regulate fugitive emissions, adjust threshold levels and applicability, and extend regulations to closed landfills. Efforts also are underway to establish Best Available Control Technologies (BACT) for the waste industry, which facilities will be expected to have in place in the near future.

Matt Stutz, P.E., of Weaver Boos Consultants LLC, led discussion of the new Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule. It affects 31 emissions sources, including municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills that exceed 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually that accepted waste after Jan. 1, 1980. The monitoring requirement took effect Jan. 1 of this year and the first report must be submitted electronically by March 31, 2011.

According to Stutz, the report will be comprised of a range of information, including GHG emission calculations, landfill cover material and acreages, waste depths, and much more. To collect this data, many waste firms will likely need to obtain new equipment — flow meters, data recorders, gas analyzers, scales — or adjust calibration and maintenance schedules. Stutz noted that the EPA estimates for labor, capital, and operations and maintenance are far too low, but that the costs of non-compliance are far higher and more than justify the expense.

David Friedland, an attorney with Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., summarized legislation, rules, and judicial decisions that led to the current regulations, noting that Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings were the initial building blocks of all subsequent GHG rules. He also summarized the petitions to EPA and judicial challenges that have been filed by industry organizations (including NSWMA and SWANA).

Friedland highlighted potential pitfalls before GHG reports are due, including debates over a "grandfather" or transition period, and gaps between the federal rules and state permitting requirements. He also explained the PSD/Title V Tailoring Rule, which seeks to adjust statutory thresholds to more manageable levels to prevent an "absurd" number of PSD and Title V permit applications (NSWMA and SWANA, for their part, have filed comments arguing that these adjusted thresholds are still far to low).

Friedland concluded with a recap of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's recent testimony to congress, which provided more precise hints at how the agency plans to roll out GHG oversight in the next one to three years.

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