This summer’s dialogue on greenhouse gas emissions, or GHGs, has focused largely on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which regulates CO2 emissions for power plants under Section 111D of the Clean Air Act. This section of the law has also spurred measures to reduce significant sources of other GHGs, including the regulation of methane in municipal landfills.
Landfills are a significant source of heat-trapping GHGs in the United States. They are the nation’s third-largest source of methane emissions, producing 18 percent of that pollutant. Since methane has 34 times more global warming potential than CO2, and since landfill size is only increasing, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, must take action on this issue. On September 15, it closed the comment period on its proposed emissions standards for new landfills, as well as for an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for existing landfills. These steps signal the EPA’s progress on mitigating methane emissions. As the EPA continues this process, it should seek opportunities to cut landfill emissions in the simplest way: reducing landfill use and the need for new landfills altogether. This will help mitigate the impact of landfills on climate change, while also yielding economic benefits in the form of higher property values and job opportunities.