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New Jersey Lawmakers Pitch Relief for Landfill Waste-to-Energy Projects

The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would award renewable energy certificates to facilities that report losses related to gas-to-energy projects.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 3358, was introduced in February and echoes the sentiments of its companion bill, Senate Bill 2076, which was introduced in 2014 and earned approval from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The bill’s goal is to offset the costs of meeting New Jersey’s stringent environmental standards, which Fred DeSanti, a lobbyist representing stakeholders behind the bill, says are four times tougher than federal standards.

According to DeSanti, federal allowances for nitric oxide (NOx) are about 40 tons per megawatt-year, compared with New Jersey’s allowance of approximately 12 tons per megawatt-year. Similarly, federal standards for (carbon monoxide (CO) are about 118 tons per megawatt-year compared with New Jersey’s 58 tons per megawatt-year, and federal standards for volatile organic compounds (VOC) are about 23 tons per megawatt-year compared with New Jersey’s 13 tons per megawatt-year.

In New Jersey, some landfills with older waste-to-energy equipment face high and ongoing maintenance costs due to outdated biogas scrubbing technology. Landfills with newer systems aren’t facing the same problems, but those with older systems have few resources to update their systems due to the maintenance costs.

So some New Jersey landfills are asking that, if their standards are to be so much tighter than the federal rules, that they receive compensation by way of energy certificates to help offset the losses they face in order to meet environmental regulations.

Without the benefits laid out in the bill, some landfills may have to discontinue their methane capture activities and methane generated at those sites could be wasted. In fact, without relief, landfills in Warren, Sussex, Burlington, Atlantic and Salem counties are at risk of shutting down waste-to-energy projects, which could result in a loss of 20 megawatts of energy produced at those sites.

According to the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, which has been converting landfill gas to energy since 2005, its energy project generates the equivalent of 25,083 barrels of oil each year. This yields a reduction in greenhouse gases equal to removing more than 45,000 cars from the road, and saves about $850,000 in energy costs each year.

Landfills in New Jersey currently only receive 5 percent of the credits needed to meet the state’s environmental regulations, DeSanti says. By comparison, ratepayers in New Jersey pay about $15 million for energy generated by landfills compared to $100 million or more in other states.

The energy certificates outlined in the bill would shift additional cost to utility customers, but without burning the methane to create energy, it would simply be released into the atmosphere, wasting a resource and compromising New Jersey’s goal to reduce greenhouse has emissions.

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