LANDFILL: Companies Report Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Few people may want admit to having gas, but the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, D.C., is encouraging them to report it.

Through the DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA), individuals, associations and companies that emit or act to reduce greenhouse gases are encouraged to voluntarily document their actions.

Reporting through the EIA's Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program provides annual public recognition for the projects while helping others to identify new ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, as well as certain manufactured gases including perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride, trap the atmosphere's heat by absorbing infrared radiation from the sun. It is difficult to quantify how much influence humans have on global climate change, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Nevertheless, evidence suggests that humans affect the world's climate, and the United States is committed to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions to minimize this.

In 1992, the United States showed its commitment by signing the UNFCCC, which was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The following year, President Bill Clinton released the Climate Change Action Plan, implementing a series of voluntary actions that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through government and industry partnerships.

The Voluntary Reporting Program was established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to report actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon. Many program respondents are affiliated with government-sponsored voluntary programs, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), Washington, D.C.

Participation in the Voluntary Reporting Program has grown steadily during its five years of existence. In 1995, 108 U.S. organizations submitted information on 645 emission reduction and carbon sequestration projects, which reduced the equivalent of 74 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1994. By 1999, participation had increased by 73 percent, with 187 organizations reporting on 1998 actions. In total, 1,507 projects claimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration of carbon, which amounts to 212 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Thirty-three of the companies who voluntarily reported on 1998 actions were alternative energy providers. Of these, 18 were solid waste management companies providing information on 79 projects that involved avoiding landfill methane emissions. Many of these projects recovered methane for energy, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by displacing energy produced from burning fossil fuels. The emissions reductions reported for these 79 projects totaled 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, approximately half of the 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reported by alternative energy providers.

The largest reduction claimed by an alternative energy provider was reported by the Integrated Waste Services Association (IWSA), Washington, D.C., on behalf of leading waste-to-energy plant operators.

In addition to reporting reduced carbon dioxide emissions from displaced fossil fuel consumption, IWSA said the diversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) to its members' plants reduced landfill methane where MSW otherwise would have been buried. The remaining projects reported by the solid waste management industry involved landfill methane recovery for flaring or energy production.

The increasing number of reports from solid waste management companies reflects an increase in methane recovery at landfills.

According to LMOP, more than 280 landfill gas-to-energy projects currently are operating, nearly twice the 150 operating projects in 1997. This growth largely can be attributed to the expiration of the Section 29 Federal tax credits, which required projects to be operating by June 30, 1998, to qualify for this subsidy. Also, the EPA recently implemented New Source Performance Standards and Emissions Guidelines requiring many landfills to install methane collection and flaring or energy recovery systems.

The Voluntary Reporting Program's Public Use Database contains information reported to the program since its inception in 1995. Visit www.eia.doe. gov/oiaf/1605/database.html or call toll-free (800) 803-5182 or (202) 586-0688 for more information or to report your emissions.