EPA Proposes Updates to Reduce Methane, Other Harmful Pollution from New Landfills

As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health. The agency also is seeking broad public feedback on how and whether to update guidelines for existing landfills.

Non-hazardous waste from homes, business and institutions ends up in municipal solid waste landfills, where it decomposes and breaks down to form landfill gas, which includes carbon dioxide, a number of air toxics and methane. Methane has a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” said Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This latest step from the President’s methane strategy builds on our progress to date and takes steps to cut emissions from landfills through common-sense standards.”

Today’s proposal would require new MSW landfills subject to the rule to begin controlling landfill gas at a lower emissions threshold than currently required. Under the proposal, landfills would capture two-thirds of their methane and air toxics emissions by 2023 – 13 percent more than required under current rules. EPA estimates the net nationwide annual costs of complying with the additional requirements in the proposed rule would be $471,000 in 2023.

Today, methane accounts for nearly 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane in the country, accounting for 18 percent of methane emissions in 2012. Regulatory and voluntary programs, including the agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, have helped reduce emissions from landfills by 30 percent from 1990 to 2012. However, without additional actions, methane emissions are projected to increase through 2030.

Also today, EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking broad public input on whether and how to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane. The agency is considering updating those guidelines based on a several factors, including significant changes that have occurred in the landfill industry since the original guidelines were issued in 1996. Nearly 1,000 MSW landfills in the U.S. currently are subject to either the 1996 emission guidelines for existing landfills or the 1996 NSPS for new landfills.

EPA will take public comment on the proposed performance standards updates and the ANPR for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. If a hearing is requested, it will be held on August 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 sets 85% carbon emissions reduction goal by 2050, strongest in the United States

Read the full post in the Climate Law Blog.

On June 19, 2014 both houses of the Rhode Island legislature passed the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014, which addresses climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and establishes greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets of 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% by 2035, and 85% by 2050. The bill also provides many guidelines for meeting these targets, such as a focus on improving efficiency in order to reduce its need for “energy from out-of-state sources.” It also calls for “intentional community effort that networks existing capacities in state agencies” and declares a need to establish “new capacities, purposes, goals, indicators, and reporting requirements for climate change mitigation and adaptation in public agencies.” The Resilient RI Act was supported by Governor Lincoln Chafee, a number of state agencies, and academic institutions including Brown University.

Without Much Straining, Minnesota Reins In Its Utilities’ Carbon Emissions

Read the full story in the New York Times.

When city leaders and state legislators agreed last year to fund roughly half the $1 billion cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, they attached the usual strings for such projects: It had to be architecturally iconic, employ steel made from Minnesota iron ore and offer at least a few cheap seats.

It also had to be energy efficient, from lighting to building materials to the sources of its power. In this state, that is not unusual. Minnesota has mandated sharp reductions in energy use in every new state-financed building for more than a decade, and in renovated buildings for more than five years.

While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities’ carbon pollution for decades — not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either.

Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.

Wasting water in California will now cost you $500

Read the full story at Grist.

Here’s a list of things that could now get you fined up to $500 a day in California, where a multi-year drought is sucking reservoirs and snowpacks dry:

  • Spraying so much water on your lawn or garden that excess water flows onto non-planted areas, walkways, parking lots, or neighboring property.
  • Washing your car with a hose that doesn’t have an automatic shut-off device.
  • Spraying water on a driveway, a sidewalk, asphalt, or any other hard surface.
  • Using fresh water in a water fountain — unless the water recirculates.

Those stern emergency regulations were adopted Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the State Water Resources Control Board – part of an effort to crack down on the profligate use of water during critically lean times.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: States’ Tools for Reducing Costs & Increasing Benefits to Consumers

Download the document.

States are well positioned to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, according to a new study conducted by Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney and Vice Presidents Paul Hibbard and Andrea Okie. The report, “EPA’s Clean Power Plan: States’ Tools for Reducing Costs & Increasing Benefits to Consumers,”is based on a careful analysis of states that already have experience regulating carbon pollution. It finds that those states’ economies have seen net increases in economic output and jobs. “Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine. The bottom line: the economy can handle – and actually benefit from – these rules,” said Dr. Tierney.

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan would regulate carbon emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants using EPA’s existing authority under the Clean Air Act. The draft rules, due to be finalized next year, allow a variety of market-based and other approaches states can choose from to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The Analysis Group team analyzed the carbon-control rules already in place in several states to see what insights they might hold for the success of the national rule. The report was based on states’ existing track records, rather than projecting costs and benefits that might be expected under the Clean Power Plan. The report, funded by the Energy Foundation and the Merck Family Fund, was released at the summer conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in Dallas, Texas.

EU — Higher recycling targets to drive transition to a Circular Economy with new jobs and sustainable growth

Read the press release from the European Commission.

Today the Commission adopted proposals to turn Europe into a more circular economy and boost recycling in the Member States. Achieving the new waste targets would create 580 000 new jobs compared to today’s performance, while making Europe more competitive and reducing demand for costly scarce resources. The proposals also mean lower environmental impacts and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The plans ask Europeans to recycle 70 % of municipal waste and 80 % of packaging waste by 2030, and ban burying recyclable waste in landfill as of 2025. A target is also included for reducing marine litter along with food waste reduction objectives…

See also:

  • Questions and answers on the Commission Communication “Towards a Circular Economy” MEMO/14/450
  • Environment/industrial policy: Live and work in better buildings IP/14/764
  • Questions and answers on sustainable buildings MEMO/14/451
  • Employment: Commission outlines measures to maximise job opportunities in the green economy IP/14/765MEMO/14/446
  • Green Action Plan for SMEs: turning environmental challenges into business opportunities IP/14/766
  • Green Action Plan for SMEs: Combining a lasting recovery with a resource-efficient European economy MEMO/14/452

Further information:

Use EPA’s ECHO tool to discover which companies in your community comply with environmental regulations

From the ECHO web site.

ECHO provides integrated compliance and enforcement information for about 800,000 regulated facilities nationwide. Its features range from simple to advanced, catering to users who want to conduct broad analyses as well as those who need to perform complex searches. Specifically, ECHO allows you to find and download information on:

  • Permit data
  • Inspection dates and findings
  • Violations
  • Enforcement actions
  • Penalties assessed

EPA designed ECHO to help you quickly conduct specific tasks. Tasks are grouped into four primary categories, each of which you can access by clicking on a tile on the home page:

  • Search Community — perform a location-based quick search. Enter an address, city, state, or zip code to retrieve a list of regulated facilities within the specific geographic area. Summary-level data are presented initially, but detailed facility data are only a click away.
  • Explore Facilities – conduct a targeted search for facilities based on detailed criteria such as type of search (e.g., enforcement and compliance activity). Summary data are initially presented in a default view that you can further customize. You can also download data sets and analyze detailed facility reports. Additionally, you can search enforcement and compliance data or find EPA enforcement cases.
  • Create Maps – access data visualization tools that allow you to view and interact with published maps or create your own.
  • Analyze Trends – display  trends in compliance and enforcement data through dashboards, maps, and charts, as well as access other EPA tools designed to identify pollution sources, including:
    • Greenhouse gases
    • Wastewater discharges
    • Toxic chemicals

To learn more about finding compliance information using ECHO, take a look at the advanced searching guide, Become an ECHO Pro.

Hazardous Waste Compliance a Balancing Act at the Retail Level

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

Today, hazardous waste compliance is no longer just an issue for the industrial or manufacturing industries. It’s become an area of significant concern for retailers as well. When it comes to managing hazardous waste, retailers are in a precarious balance of complexity and control due to a number of factors. As many high profile fines against retailers underscore, the financial repercussions of failing to strike the right balance can be significant. Not only do such infractions place a monetary burden on retailers, public fines can also negatively impact a brand’s reputation. With consumer loyalty at stake, it’s safe to estimate that negative news and the reputation damage to a brand could cost a company millions in lost sales in addition to these fines. In light of these variables, it’s critical that retailers strike the right balance to comply with today’s hazardous waste regulations.

With that in mind, the following are just a few challenges of hazardous waste management for retailers.

EPA’s Proposed Carbon Dioxide Regulations for Power Plants: Testimony before the House Energy & Commerce Committee

The archived web cast of the House’s hearing on EPA’s proposed carbon rules and the prepared statements of each of the witnesses, are available at

EPA Releases Final Risk Assessment on TCE

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

The EPA has released a final risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical the agency says may harm human health and the environment.

The final risk assessment identifies health risks from TCE exposures to workers when TCE is used as a degreaser in small commercial shops and as a stain removing agent in dry cleaning. It also identifies health risks to consumers using spray aerosol degreasers and spray fixatives.

TCE is carcinogenic to humans and can harm the central nervous system, kidneys, the liver, the male reproductive system, the immune system, and can cause abnormalities in developing fetuses, according to the EPA’s human health assessment.