Methane Capture: Options for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Page: 9 of 24
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Methane Capture: Options for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction
nature, since 1996 the Clean Air Act has imposed air emission standards on large solid waste
landfills. However, as discussed below, the vast majority of landfills are not covered under the
Clean Air Act, and there is room to increase the amount of methane captured from solid waste
landfills. Moreover, the primary objective of these standards is to reduce the hazardous air
pollutants and non-methane organic compounds contained in landfill gas, not to reduce methane
emissions for climate-related reasons. Regardless, as mentioned above, the existing Clean Air Act
authorities could be used to address a wider universe of methane sources, for the express purpose
of controlling GHG emissions.
Because methane can be used as an energy source, the existing marketplace provides some
incentive to capture methane for this purpose. If a GHG emission control program were enacted,
such a program would increase this incentive by raising the price of traditional high-carbon
energy sources (e.g., coal) relative to captured methane. The strength of the incentive would
depend on the stringency of the enacted emission control program.
Legislative Proposals Concerning Methane Capture
Members of the 111th Congress have introduced more than 40 bills related to methane emissions.
One group of bills would specify methane as a greenhouse gas, promote biogas production,
support landfill gas recovery projects, and address or promote methane capture.16 Another set of
bills not related to methane capture would, among other provisions, for example, prohibit permit
issuance under the Clean Air Act for methane emissions from biological processes associated
with livestock operations, or expand methane hydrate research.17 Table 2 provides a summary of
selected legislation pertaining to methane capture and methane in general, and shows the range of
H.R. 2454, which passed the House on June 26, 2009,18 contains numerous energy provisions,
including a GHG emission cap-and-trade system. If enacted, the cap-and-trade program may
allow some methane capture activities to generate offsets. However, some methane sources may
be subject to emission performance standards. One enacted piece of legislation (P.L. 111-5, the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) extended and expanded existing incentives
for open-loop biomass and landfill gas electricity production and created a new incentive for the
16 Biogas consists of 60%-70% methane, 30%-40% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases.
17 Methane hydrates-a mixture of water and natural gas-are a potentially huge global energy resource.
18 See CRS Report R40643, Greenhouse Gas Legislation: Summary and Analysis of H R. 2454 as Passed by the House
of Representatives , coordinated by Mark Holt and Gene Whitney.
Congressional Research Service
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Methane Capture: Options for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction, report, February 1, 2010; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc809768/m1/9/: accessed December 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.