Covanta Energy’s recent comments on DEP’s draft Climate Action Plan Update highlighted the need for the Plan to recognize the benefits of energy-from-waste facilities in reducing climate-changing emissions from the disposal of waste as countries around the world have done.
Covanta fully supports Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The draft Climate Action Plan inaccurately included negative emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents in Pennsylvania from waste landfills, when in fact, landfill operators reported 2.66 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents as part of the U.S. EPA Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
The draft plan also attributed a 75-99 percent lifetime methane collection system efficiency at landfills, when in fact, California, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario have data to justify a 35 to 70 percent efficiency.
To achieve DEP’s collection efficiency number, a landfill would have to collect 100 percent of its methane gas all the time with no leaks, failures or downtime for 90 years, a clear impossibility.
Covanta noted energy-from-waste facilities are recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the European Union and many other states and national governments and nongovernment organizations around the world as a way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gas mitigation is achieved by displacing grid connected fossil-fuel fired electricity, recovering metals from the waste stream for recycling, and most importantly, by avoiding landfill emissions of methane, a potent Short Lived Climate Pollutant over 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 100 years when all of its impacts are considered and over 80 times stronger over 20 years.
The only sure way of reducing landfill methane emissions is to prevent their generation in the first place through landfill diversion. In fact, this approach has been followed with great success by the European Union, primarily through the Landfill Waste Directive, which calls for the reduction in landfilling of biodegradable wastes.
Covanta recommended Pennsylvania include energy-from-waste facilities in Tier 1 of its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards as an additional strategy to comply with the EPA Clean Power Climate Rule.
EPA gave very clear guidance to states on how to incorporate renewable energy, including WTE, as an eligible component of approvable state plans.
Senate Bill 1035 sponsored by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), now in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, would make this needed change to the AEPS.
Covanta concluded its comments by saying, “As Pennsylvania, the region, and the nation develop growing and significant amounts of intermittent renewable generation, it is critically important to ensure sufficient capacity is available from baseload renewable sources, such as waste-to-energy facilities.”
A copy of the Covanta comments are available online.
Covanta operates 5 energy-from-waste facilities in Pennsylvania, including in Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery and York counties and an electronics waste recycling facility in Philadelphia.(Note: Crisci Associates represents Covanta in Pennsylvania.)