The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Vickie Patton - (720) 837-6239 or
Kevin Lynch - (303) 447-7200 or

Sean Crowley - 202-550-6524 or 

Environmental Defense Fund Takes Legal Action to Address Landfill Methane Emissions

New US Climate Change Science Report Calls Methane Reductions a "clear win-win solution"


Environmental Defense Fund filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to update
emission standards for hundreds of landfills nationwide. Landfills are the nation's second largest source of manmade methane pollution. Methane
is a potent greenhouse gas and a contributor to the smog air pollution
that is associated with respiratory illnesses affecting millions of
Americans. In September, the U.S. Climate Change
Science Program issued a landmark report declaring measures to reduce
methane emissions a "clear win-win" solution.

the waste gas leaking from the nation's landfills and converting it to
a local source of energy is a trifecta for the nation's economy,
environment and energy security," said Vickie Patton, Environmental Defense Fund Deputy General Counsel. "Converting
methane pollution to a homegrown energy source is a common sense
solution to address global warming and protect our kids' health while
boosting our economy."

The recent U.S. Climate Change Science Program report determined that measures to reduce methane emissions are: a "clear win-win solution for climate (less warming) and air quality (less pollution)." See Climate Projections Based on Emissions Scenarios for Long-Lived and Short-Lived Radiatively Active Gases and Aerosols, ps. 64-65, (Sept. 2008), at

landfill emissions also creates an economic boon to local communities
because cost-effective technology provides access to an untapped energy

has failed to update the emission standards for landfills for a dozen
years, violating its duty under the nation's clean air laws to
modernize the emission standards at least every eight years.

Methane contributes to harmful ozone and is a potent greenhouse gas

Methane emissions contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Exposure
to ground-level ozone has been linked to serious health effects
including premature mortality, decreased lung function, respiratory
illness, and asthma. Methane is also a potent global warming gas - about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane's
relatively short atmospheric lifetime (10 years), coupled with its
potency as a greenhouse gas, makes reducing methane emissions from
landfills one of the best ways to mitigate global warming over the

Landfills are top emitters of methane gas

Methane is emitted from a variety of human and natural sources. Municipal solid waste landfills are the second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 23 percent (125 Tg CO2 eq.) of emissions in 2006. These
emissions are comparable to nearly three times the total carbon dioxide
emissions released from all of the nation's cement manufacturing. And the U.S. is responsible for about 18% of global methane emissions from landfills - equal to the landfill emissions of Canada, Mexico, China and Russia combined.

Landfills can become clean energy sources

Landfill gas is created as solid waste decomposes in a landfill. This gas consists of about 50 percent methane, about 50 percent CO2, and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds. Because
methane is a principal component of natural gas, methane emissions from
landfills present a key opportunity to capture and use a significant
home-grow energy source.

Landfill gas is extracted from landfills using a series of wells and a vacuum system. This system directs the collected gas to a central point where it can be processed and treated. From
this point, the gas can be used to generate electricity, replace fossil
fuels in industrial and manufacturing operations, fuel greenhouse
operations, or be upgraded to pipeline quality gas.

A number of landfills around the country are already utilizing this energy from methane. The 16.6 million tons-in-place Lopez Canyon landfill, run by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, produces 7.1 megawatts of energy, enough to power 4,500 homes. And the Coffin Butte Landfill in Oregon produces enough methane to generate 5.66 MW and power 4,000 homes. While
many landfills are realizing the economic benefits of capturing and
utilizing the energy from methane, there are still hundreds of
landfills across the nation missing this critical opportunity.

EDF's Notice of Intent to Sue:

Environmental Protection Agency's response to EDF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request:

Environmental Defense Fund's mission is to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. Guided by science and economics, we find practical and lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems. We work to solve the most critical environmental problems facing the planet. This has drawn us to areas that span the biosphere: climate, oceans, ecosystems and health. Since these topics are intertwined, our solutions take a multidisciplinary approach. We work in concert with other organizations -- as well as with business, government and communities -- and avoid duplicating work already being done effectively by others.