Advocacy Legal, Economic Staff Visit Small Municipal Landfill

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of revising the standards for municipal solid waste landfills required by the Clean Air Act. As a first step, EPA is conducting a Small Business Advocacy Review panel. This activity brings together the key rulemaking agencies and small business representatives of the industry that the rules will apply to. The panel lets the various parties discuss the approach to achieving air pollution reductions.

The topic of the panel, New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfills, deals with the emissions of landfill gases, the result of biological materials decaying in landfills.  These gases are mostly carbon dioxide and methane, but EPA regulates them because of the small amount of other organic chemicals also released that can endanger public health.

Staff from Advocacy, EPA and the Office of Management and Budget have met twice with small entity representatives (SERs) to discuss the major issues. After participating in these discussions, Advocacy staff wanted to get a better understanding of the issues facing small municipalities and small businesses owning or operating landfills.

At the invitation of one of the SERs, four Advocacy staffers visited two landfills on the Delmarva Peninsula. (Delmarva is the three-state landmass between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean shared by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.)

The first landfill (pictured below) was a small and relatively new one located in Caroline County, Maryland. The operators were just installing the first set of landfill gas controls on its first “cell.” (A cell is a section of the landfill.  Each landfill will have several cells, but will accept solid waste on only one cell at a time,  building up the cell over a hundred feet before moving to the next cell.)  The system of controls requires digging a trench into the compacted trash and laying perforated pipe to collect and move the landfill gases  to well heads set in the side of the pile.  From the well heads, landfill gas can be flared or, if there is enough volume,  burned to generate electricity.

Pictured: In November, four Advocacy staffers got a firsthand account of how landfill operators comply with Clean Air Act requirements. Making the trip were Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca, Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker, and Economists Christine Kymn and Jonathan Porat. They are standing alongside perforated pipes whichare buried in trenches to collect landfill gases and direct them to well heads.
Pictured: In November, four Advocacy staffers got a firsthand account of how landfill operators comply with Clean Air Act requirements. Making the trip were Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca, Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker, and Economists Christine Kymn and Jonathan Porat. They are standing alongside perforated pipes which are buried in trenches to collect landfill gases and direct them to well heads.

The second landfill was a much larger and older facility; it had both open and closed cells with active control and energy recovery systems.  The engineers at both sites were extremely generous with their time, patiently explaining the basics of landfill management and the complexities of dealing with EPA regulations.

Advocacy staff find that site visits like these are invaluable to understanding the issues small entities face in regulatory compliance and help Advocacy present the small entity view to regulating agencies.

—David Rostker, Assistant Chief Counsel

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