"Landfills Leak Methane With Impunity, New Research Shows"

"“Something is wrong with the system.”"

"Any climate action plan that wants to quickly turn the tide of global warming has to tackle methane, which traps orders of magnitude more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide in the first years after it’s emitted. For this reason, the Environmental Protection Agency recently required oil and gas drillers to monitor for leaks of the potent greenhouse gas — and fix them immediately if they’re found. The new regulations also empower community groups and environmental advocates to report fossil fuel companies if they can provide evidence of leaks themselves.

However, none of these requirements apply to one of the largest sources of human-caused methane emissions in the U.S.: landfills. As food waste and other organic matter decompose, they generate methane and other noxious gases. As a result, landfills are responsible for nearly a fifth of the country’s methane emissions, but almost half of U.S. landfills have not installed gas-capture systems, nor are they required to. In fact, emissions from many smaller landfills are not regulated by the EPA at all. For those that are subject to regulation — because of their size and estimated toxic emissions — landfill operators are required to walk around their facility’s perimeter and take methane measurements every 100 feet four times a year.

There are more than 2,600 landfills across the country, and they leak the equivalent of 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year into the air — a volume comparable to that which would result from operating 74 coal plants. A recent study by Carbon Mapper, a nonprofit that operates methane-detecting satellites, found methane emissions from landfills are 40 percent higher than previously estimated by the EPA."

Naveena Sadasivam reports for Grist May 21, 2024.

Source: Grist, 05/29/2024