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Getting to the Bottom of EPA’s More Stringent Landfill Gas Rules

Those who want to weigh in on the EPA’s latest pair of proposals to rein in methane gas emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills have until Oct. 26 to do so.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave interested parties 60 days to voice their concerns after rolling out the dual proposals in late August. The agency’s aim is for new, existing and modified landfills to collect and control gas at emission levels roughly one-third lower that the current requirements.

That 60-day window prompted the Washington, D.C.-based National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) to pool their resources to respond to the EPA’s request jointly.

“We are furiously drafting comments to meet that deadline,” Anne Germain, NWRA’s director of waste and recycling technology, tells Waste360 in an interview. “We want to have our bite at the apple.”

One proposed rule, with the clunky name New Source Performance Standards for MSW Landfills, addresses the non-methane organic compound (NMOC) emission rate threshold at which an affected MSW landfill must install controls. The companion proposed rule has an equally bureaucratic name, Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for MSW Landfills. In shorthand, the first is NSPS and the second is EG.

These proposals are based on additional data, analysis and public comments EPA officials received after announcing their intent to update landfill gas emissions requirements in 2014. In tandem, they strengthen a previously proposed rule for new landfills from 2014 and update 1996 emission guidelines for existing landfills.

Implementing these rules would cost $55 million, according to EPA estimates. However, climate benefits would add up to $750 million by 2025.  

Both rules, expected to slice methane emissions by about 487,000 tons annually starting in 2025, fall under the auspices of the Clean Air Act. They are part of President Obama’s broader Climate Action Plan.

In 2013, landfills continued to be the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions among stationary source categories in the nation, according to EPA figures. That amounts to 18 percent of total methane emissions in the country and 1.7 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

A couple weeks before comment were due to the EPA, Waste360 picked Germain’s brain about the two proposed rules, abbreviated as NSPS and EG.

Waste360: First off, let’s clear up some confusion. Methane is in the crosshairs but do these proposed rules specifically address it?

Anne Germain: Neither rule addresses methane specifically but methane is used as a surrogate. What that means is it’s easier for landfills to monitor for methane than the rest of the gases. So, if landfills have methane under control, by default they have other emissions such as HAPs (hazardous air pollutants) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) under control.

Waste 360: Do these rules apply to all landfills accepting municipal solid waste?

Anne Germain: These rules apply to all MSW landfills above a certain size. The NSPS rule applies to landfills that are new or have undergone major modifications since July 17, 2014.

The EG rule applies to older landfills that were accepting waste after Nov. 8, 1987 and landfills that were constructed, reconstructed before July 17, 2014. It’s not designed to affect landfills constructed before 1987. If a landfill didn’t take any waste after 1987, how much gas could it be generating?

Waste360: How many landfills would be affected?

Anne Germain: An estimated 1,085 landfills would be subjected to the rules. That includes 645 operational sites and 440 future sites.

Waste 360: Currently, landfills with NMOC emission rates at or below 50 megagrams per year (mg/yr) don’t have to install gas collection equipment. The EPA proposed lowering that number to 40 mg/yr last year. The newest iteration pushes that threshold down to 34 mg/yr. How does NWRA weigh in on that?

Anne Germain: We want the NMOC threshold to remain at 50 mg/yr. At 34 mg/yr, a number of landfills might get pulled into installing systems. Some would be small landfills in rural areas that don’t have the resources to collect landfill gas.

Changing the 50 mg/yr to 34 mg/yr means landfills have to begin collecting the gas earlier. But it’s not possible to collect gas from the very, very beginning when a new landfill is ramping up. There has to be a certain amount of trash at a certain depth—and it has to be decomposing anaerobically—for the wells to be drilled, the vacuums to be added and the pipes to be installed so gas can be collected.

Waste360: Does the EPA give landfills any wiggle room?

Anne Germain: The models used to calculate emissions are not grounded in reality; they overestimate the amount of gas generated.

Our message to agency officials is that if you’re going to go this way, lowering the threshold to 34 mg/yr , you’re going to have to give us flexibility. The amount of gas generated depends on variables such as weather and geography. In theory, the models take those into account.

The EPA was sympathetic to our earlier concerns about this and is allowing landfills to use surface emission monitoring that produces site-specific data for actual landfills. A model is just theory while that type of monitoring is on-the-ground truth-telling. Still, it raises question about practical implementation. It costs a lot of money to install the equipment that collects gas. And even if you install it, can you achieve the required goals?

Waste360: You mentioned that rule compliance could put a disproportionate cost burden on some landfills due to an inverse economy of scale. Can you provide an example?

Anne Germain: Smaller landfills usually bear more of a financial burden. For instance, if you’re installing a gas collection system and you need 50 wells drilled, you’ll be charged a certain, consistent amount per vertical foot. But a separate charge is what’s known as a one-time mobilization cost. It’s a flat fee to move a drill rig to a landfill. That can be expensive if you’re a small landfill and you need only one well drilled.

Waste360: How do these rules affect operators managing landfills in multiple states?

Anne Germain: A federal implementation plan needs to be developed in tandem with the release of these new rules. States can use it as a model. That provides the regulated community with greater consistency and makes everything much easier from a compliance standpoint.

Waste360: Why is the EPA asking for comments again this year? Didn’t NWRA and SWANA submit comments on these proposals last year?

Anne Germain: On the same day in 2014, the EPA released a draft of the NSPS proposed rule along with an advanced notice for proposed rulemaking for EG. EG wasn’t in any sort of rule form so it was very open-ended, but the agency still wanted comments.

Waste360: What’s different this time around?

Anne Germain: This year, we thought NSPS would come out as a final rule. Instead, it’s a supplemental rule because the EPA opted to drop the threshold on when a landfill has to collect gas from 40 mg/yr to 34 mg/yr. As we expected, the EG came out as a proposed rule this time around.

Waste360: These two regulations seem very intertwined. Shouldn’t they be synced?

Anne Germain: Initially, they were on very different timelines. To put them on a similar timeline, the EPA had to slow down NSPS and let EG catch up. The agency wanted to harmonize them so they were essentially the same rule. Our expectation is that by the time they both get published as final rules, they will be identical.

Waste360: The newest proposal allows landfill operators to develop site-specific plans that address treatment of the gas, whether it’s being used to produce renewable fuel or as a raw material in a chemical manufacturing process. Is that helpful?

Anne Germain: Yes. The EPA did listen to our earlier comments because what I see now is a reflection of what we asked for. It defines treatment as filtration, de-watering and compression. It also allows operators to monitor those systems in a way that’s appropriate for their location, whether that’s the desert heat of Arizona or the freezing cold of Montana.

Waste360: From reading the current iteration of the rule, it seems as if the industry can declare victory on the landfill gas treatment front. It allows landfill operators to develop site-specific plans that address treatment of the gas, whether it’s being used to produce renewable fuel or as a raw material in a chemical manufacturing process. How did that happen?

Anne Germain: Establishing numerical standards for treatment can be limiting for a couple of reasons. First, temperatures fluctuate significantly across the country – whether it’s Arizona or Montana. Yet a specified numerical value for temperature could have been required to address de-watering requirements. This requirement would have been very expensive to comply with thus discouraging landfill gas utilization projects. In addition, the options for landfill gas utilization have expanded and the manufacturer requirements vary from one technology to another. And of course, these treatment processes do not result in any emissions. Therefore, it makes more sense to establish site specific operational standards that encompass the requirements to dewater, filter and compress. I think the industry made very reasonable arguments that the EPA took under consideration.

Waste360: With all your other job responsibilities, why is it important to submit comments to the EPA on these proposed rules?

Anne Germain: Between what we wrote last year and now, it does seem we’ve been working on these quite a lot. But this is our last chance. The EPA has drafted a rule that took into account the environmental community and the state regulators but they’ve also taken into account some of the comments made by industry. We see some potential hurdles and we want to make sure they are addressed in the final rule.

The 20 Countries with the Highest Per Capita E-Waste Rates

In a previous gallery we looked at the 20 countries that generated the most e-waste in 2014, ranked by total volume. 

Here we're looking at e-waste a different way--this time showing the countries with the greatest per capita disposal rates.

The data in this gallery, as it was previously, is based on the UN’s “The Global E-Waste Monitor” report. 

The major difference this time around is that some countries make the volume list based on having very large populations, not because they generate a lot of e-waste on a per capita basis. The previous ranking featured countries from around the globe. This one is heavily dominated by European nations. 

Disposing and recycling e-waste, even lighter electronics, can be challenging. In the U.S. states and municipalities have many programs in place to try and collect and recycle e-waste. In some places, kiosks are available for drop-offs. There are national standards as well.

But at the end of the day, a lot of it ends up being landfilled. The United Nations also estimates that up to 90 percent of the world’s e-waste is illegally traded or dumped each year.

Need to Know

Rumpke Gets OK on Huge Cincinnati Landfill Expansion

Rumpke Consolidated Cos. Inc. is planning to proceed with an expansion of its landfill in Colerain Township that would double its size following a judge’s ruling handed down on Tuesday.

Visiting Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lee Hildebrandt Jr. ruled the zoning of 350 acres that the township and Rumpke have been fighting over is “unconstitutional beyond fair debate.”

Continue reading at the Cincinnati Business Journal

Need to Know

Salt Lake Considers Requiring Recycling for Apartments, Businesses

Utah's capital city may soon place mandatory recycling requirements on large condo complexes, apartments and businesses, a law that would be the first of its kind in the state.

It's an ordinance that the Salt Lake City Council has been considering for years, but now the city is in its final stages of gathering feedback on the issue. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 17, and a vote is anticipated for early December.

"We have heard repeatedly from our residents that it doesn't make sense that we provide recycling for single-family homes, but not for the densest part of our city, so it makes sense to the council and to our residents that we broaden our recycling requirements and our ability to supply recycling needs for the entire city," said Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall.

Continue reading at KSL.com

Need to Know

How Unilever Achieved Zero Waste to Landfill Across Europe

Unilever this week announced it has achieved its goal of sending zero waste to landfill across its European operations, taking it a major step closer to reaching its global target.

The achievement means no Unilever owned or operated premises, logistics operations or distribution centre is sending waste to landfill. However, the goal has yet to be achieved in its supply chain.

BusinessGreen spoke to Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer, to find out more. 

Continue reading at Business Green

Need to Know

Oregon DEQ Proposes Increased Fees for Solid Waste Disposal

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has proposed revisions to several rules in accordance with new legislation that will change solid waste permitting and tipping fee rules, as well as grant rules. 

The revisions will update rules to implement the Senate Bill 245 and the Materials Management in Oregon 2050 Vision and Framework for Action. The DEQ’s proposed revisions will increase fees related to per-ton solid waste disposal permits and tipping, which will help fund material management in regards to waste prevention and toxic reduction as outlined in the 2050 Vision and Framework for Action. 

The revisions will also increase the classes of facilities that incur tipping fees and orphan site fees, and create a system for distressed counties to receive reimbursements for a portion of the tipping fee increases. 

Continue reading at EP Newswire

Advanced Disposal Expands CNG Presence with Wisconsin Fueling Station

Advanced Disposal has opened a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in Hartland, Wis.

The Ponte Vedra, Fla.-based Advanced Disposal spent $1.7 million to add the CNG station at its hauling facility in Hartland, according to a news release. About 11 percent of the collection routes in the greater Waukesha County area run on CNG, and it accounts for 11 trucks. The number of trucks will increase as the company replaces diesel trucks that are at the end of their life.

“We are on track to meet our goal to increase our CNG fleet to 15 percent by the end of 2015,” said Advanced Disposal CEO Richard Burke. “Our commitment to CNG is a significant one we’ve made to keep our fleet running cleaner and to creating a more sustainable Earth for future generations.”

Advanced Disposal has expanded its CNG reach steadily. In September it opened a $1.6 million CNG fueling station at its hauling facility in Macon, Ga., and it is now operating 15 CNG trucks in the area, with plans to expand the fleet. The new station is the only multi-truck CNG station in the Macon metro area.

About 25 percent of the trucks operating in the Macon area currently run on CNG. As with the latest CNG station in Wisconsin, the Macon CNG trucks will carry a logo that reads, “powered by CNG.”

Other haulers are making that move as well. Earlier this month Connecticut waste hauler All Waste Inc. opened a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in Hartford, Conn., and will add 10 CNG-fueled vehicles this fall. The Hartford-based All Waste is undergoing a five-year process of converting 60 of its 80 waste trucks to CNG, and already has 20 currently running on CNG.


When Are Recyclability and Zero Waste the Wrong Goals?

For three thoughtful days recently in Indianapolis, my colleagues and I became immersed in the language, implications and policy challenges of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) evolving Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) initiative.

Formally introduced back in 2009 in its publication “Sustainable Materials Management: the Road Ahead,” the EPA has recently hinted that its efforts are becoming more serious. The current name change to its perennial report on municipal solid waste (MSW) characterization and composition now titled, “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures,” is an example.

Starting with its decidedly difficult acronym, SMM is often misconstrued to be something other than intended. It isn’t neatly pigeon holed, but crosses barriers, traditional roles and hierarchies. To say that our group’s initial grasp of sustainable materials management was strained would not be an exaggeration. After all, SMM takes some of the self-righteous notions, to which the waste and recycling industry have been taught to subscribe, and turns them slightly askew.

You see, as honorable as our intentions might be, we’re being asked to accept that our efforts in planning for recyclability, diversion and waste management can be misplaced goals, under certain circumstances. In fact, those very aspirations can create roadblocks for other more comprehensive sustainable solutions to arrest our insatiable consumption of resources.

Don’t misinterpret that to mean that these longstanding practices are suddenly being eliminated. A better view would be that they have been relegated to a smaller segment of an overall process. One that incorporates the broader life cycle of products and material components. One that doesn’t assume planned obsolescence as an option. One that evaluates and tries to affect the material composition during design, rather than determining how to deal with it post production or end of life.

What it doesn’t do is dictate recyclability, reuse or waste reduction as the ultimate performance objectives. Therein lies the paradigm shift for recyclers, or those who subscribe to a zero waste philosophy. SMM looks at a combination of factors throughout the system such as energy, logistics, resource conservation and toxicity, not only what happens to them once they have been discarded. The sum effect of the analysis determines the best options for design and management. This could mean that in spite of its inability to be recycled, an item may have benefits in other categories that outweigh that perceived shortfall.

For decades, advocates have demanded products and packaging to be recyclable above all else. In an effort to attract green consumers, manufacturers responded, even when more sustainable options existed. This forced difficult to handle, marginally marketable, yet technically recyclable items into municipal collection programs. MRFs were left scrambling with the cost of developing mechanisms to manage the material along with increasing residue rates from similar but non-recyclable products.

Will consumers and recyclers be able to let go of this somewhat misplaced passion? Can we stop the train before zero waste planners perpetuate a cycle of bad metrics? Are state legislators and regulatory agencies informed and capable of making the much needed revisions to local mandates and performance measurements?  Are they prepared to establish accountability mechanisms that promote clean marketable commodities by reducing contamination at its source? Are the resources available to develop the infrastructure necessary to provide universal access for proper handling of recoverable and recyclable materials? Should consumers or producers share or independently be held responsible for the consequences of their choices?

These questions just hint at the complexity of issues that encompass a shift to SMM in the realm of discarded materials alone. Upstream decisions and concerns are even more mind boggling.

Based on the 2009 report, certain milestones would be attained by 2020. A much anticipated update is scheduled for release in the near future with accomplishments and new mile markers extending to 2050.

So where and how do recyclers start to travel down this “road ahead?”

I am not convinced that my colleagues and I departed with any true consensus. However, I’ll share my own personal take on the matter.

We need to encourage the EPA to bring state regulators up to speed on SMM to ensure that the goals and objectives of state plans begin to mirror these more refined concepts, rather than the narrow focus on end-of-pipeline controls. They need only to look to the state of Oregon to find a useful roadmap.

To make data-driven decisions, what we measure must complement the goals and objectives of SMM. There needs to be great consistency in data format and reporting across all states and territories. Checks and balances to vet that data are even more essential.

Because consumers respond to “greenwashing” we need to ensure that we communicate “green” in a broader fashion to decrease the need and opportunity for manufacturers to rely on token recyclability as a marketing tool.

We need flexibility to assess products and materials in relationship to local conditions and capacity. For instance, in addition to a desire to minimize waste disposal, policies on glass, plastic packaging, CRT’s must consider financial resources, environmental liabilities, logistical and processing capabilities.

Recycling organizations, state regulatory agencies, local government}, and the private sector must pool resources “to educate, educate some more, and then educate again” (to steal a phrase) on how to recycle right.

Most of all, recyclers must be open minded and be prepared to relinquish their call for recyclability to be the ultimate defining guideline in product or material design or for zero waste and diversion to be the sole solutions to end-of-life management.

Michele Nestor is the President of Nestor Resources Inc., based in the Greater Pittsburgh area, and chair of the board of directors, of the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center, Penn State, Harrisburg. She helps private and public sector organizations develop strategic plans to survive in a transitioning marketplace.

Need to Know

Telematics Will Change Trucks and Trucking

A panel discussion at the recent American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition (MC&E) in Philadelphia explored how telematics is going to change trucks and the trucking industry, largely by offering opportunities created by data analysis to reshape vehicles and operations for greater efficiencies.

“Connectivity is the biggest enabler of a lot of potential benefits for this industry,” argued Wallace Lau, an industry analyst with the automotive & transportation practice at global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan; benefits such as increased fuel economy, less vehicle downtime, higher productivity and – ultimately – trucks that drive themselves.

“There’s also a lot of money to made through offering more connected trucks,” he stressed, noting that his firm predicts some 35 million light, medium and heavy-duty trucks featuring some sort of telematics connectivity will be on the road by 2020.

Continue reading at Fleet Owner

How California’s Tougher Regulations will Affect Composting

Meet Matt Cotton, the man behind Integrated Waste Management Consulting, who during his 25 years in the composting industry has become a go-to resource on everything from providing permitting assistance to new and expanded composting, anaerobic digestion, and chipping & grinding facilities, to providing hands-on odor mitigation at composting facilities, to conducting important statewide studies of the California organics industry.

Cotton has developed training programs for the U.S. Composting Council (USCC), the Solid Waste Association of North America and the California Resource Recovery Association. He’s also a lead instructor for the USCC's 40-hour Compost Operator Training Course.

Just last week, he led a workshop entitled “Composting Under Cover: Minimizing Odors, VOCs and Stormwater Impacts” for the USCC to help those who work in California’s organics recycling to understand and integrate the new regulations into their operation.

“The majority of what I do is related to permitting and permit compliance and that sort of thing for large commercial composting facilities of which there are 130+ in California,” says Cotton. “It’s a very robust market here in California and occasionally I get to go to exciting places like Australia or China.”

We caught up with Cotton before he left for a two-week trip to Beijing to get his insight into how the stiffening air and water regulations in the Golden State will affect the compost industry.

Waste360: Can you give us an overview of what is happening in California right now?

Matt Cotton: Sure. In many ways, it’s more of the same. I've often said permitting anything is challenging in California. We have a lot of people and a lot of land use conflicts, so permitting a composting site is somewhat of a challenge certainly. Some of this has to do with that and increasing regulations on air emissions from composting. But arguably more of it has to do with the very recent development in a new state-wide general order for composting facilities which really, by itself would be driving composting sites to seek a solution or technology that allows them to manage more material on a small space, which is what forced aeration composting can do. So we're hitting a couple of birds with one stone. Forced aeration has a better odor control and can help you comply with the DOC requirements but also help you manage more material on less space. It's not any one of those things, but all of those things, which I think is driving the technology in that direction, at least in some places in California.

Waste360: What is driving these new regulations?

Matt Cotton: We've had an amazing couple of years in California with a lot of very progressive pro-organics, pro-composting, pro-organics diversion landfill type legislation and part of this is the air boards and the state water board anticipating some significant growth in composting in California. So rather than treat every individual facility as its own entity, the state passed a general order as a new state-wide standard for all commercial composting facilities.

Waste360: What’s the biggest implication of this new statewide standard?

Matt Cotton: It basically classifies every facility as tier 1 or tier 2. Most new facilities will probably fall into tier 2 which requires basically a certain permeability requirement for the pad and the conveyances, and they set a higher permeability for the pond. The pond is now considered a waste-water pond whereas prior to this order, it was probably considered a storm-water pond and people complied with the storm-water reqs but this is greater requirements for management of water that hits the site. Any water that hits the composting site is basically going to be treated as wastewater and actually managed in a pond. It’s very consistent with what Washington State did years ago.

Waste360: What are some of the benefits of forced aeration?

Matt Cotton: The biggest thing is, and I should trademark this phrase, more stuff on less space. Why that's important is because if you've got to comply with this new general order then if you have to put down 10 acres of concrete with a windrow facility, you can only put down 6 acres of concrete with a forced aeration system so you’re going to spend a lot less money. That's the biggest thing, but it also helps you comply with the air emission regulations. There are multiple benefits: Better odor control; better emissions control; possibly lower labor costs. It’s not new, it’s just an application of the technology that's been around for a while and it's been evolving. Some of the system manufacturers are coming out of Washington State because they've been doing this for a little bit longer and have a lot more water to manage. A lot of it’s about managing less storm water.

Waste360: What are the drawbacks?

Matt Cotton: Probably cost is the biggest drawback. Really initial capital costs are the biggest challenge for it. Maybe a little part of it is unfamiliarity because there are thousands of windrow composting sites and it's not super challenging to operate. There is a fairly low barrier to entry with windrow composting. The barrier entry for an aerating site is a little higher. It's a little more sophisticated to operate.

Waste360: Composting is clearly a very dynamic, evolving industry. Anything else you’d like to add about the state of affairs in California?

Matt Cotton: California has always had fairly progressive legislation. We have a very progressive governor and he's in his second term, so we have this momentum for a lot of these issues. We've got problems, and we're proposing solutions. Forced aeration is a great solution to a lot of these challenges. We want to manage more of this stuff than we used to -- you know put in a hole and cover with dirt. Now we want to manage what we put underground. Now we want to manage what's on the surface. We want to take the value of those nutrients and materials and put them back on the soil for all the great benefits that compost brings.