California’s Landmark Methane Legislation

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Governor Brown giving remarks before the bill-signing in Long Beach, California. Photo credit: Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol.

On 19 September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation enacting new emission limits on short-lived climate pollutants, particularly methane, in the state of California. This historic legislation is globally relevant as it limits methane emissions from the most populous U.S. state and one of the largest economies in the world. California emits roughly 40 MMTCO2e each year, of which 21% comes from landfills and more than half comes from its impressive agriculture sector (source: California Air Resources Board).

 

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Breakdown of 2014 methane emissions in the state of California, by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board (CARB)

The new law calls for a statewide reduction of methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. In addition to the statewide reduction of total emissions, the legislation further specifies a steep reduction in organic waste disposal in state landfills (up to a 75% reduction below 2014 disposal levels by 2025) and 40% reduction from 2013 levels of methane emissions from the state’s dairy and livestock sectors by 2030.

The rules lay out strategies to limit emissions, including a suite of new methane capture and re-use programs tied to more than $90 million in funding. Most of that funding – $50 million from the state’s pre-existing Cap-and-Trade program – is to be directed to help the dairy industry offset the cost of new digester equipment that will be used to control methane emissions.

In addition to direct funding, the new laws include strategies to “identify and address technical, market, regulatory, and other challenges and barriers” to biomethane projects. This includes helping to develop five new pilot projects, establishing new energy infrastructure development and procurement policies (including a biomethane pipeline system), and a pilot financial mechanism “to reduce the economic uncertainty associated with the value of environmental credits.”

The law also calls for a 50% increase in composting in the next four years in order to support the new organic waste stream reductions, and lays out a provisional mechanism to provide financial incentives for the deployment of technology to reduce enteric methane emissions – that is, those from gaseous bovine expulsions – should that technology become both cost-effective and “scientifically proven.”

Methane Gains Traction While New Study Provokes Debate

It’s been quite a busy week for methane – in the past few days the U.S. EPA’s new methane regulations were discussed in the U.S. Congress and the Governor of California signed new legislation to dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, in his state.

We’ll have more on the California legislation for you next week! In the meantime, with all that as a back-drop, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences just published a new study which argues that fugitive emissions from fossil fuel activities may be driving recent increases in atmospheric methane concentrations. Previous studies, however, have pointed that finger at agriculture and landfills.

For the full scoop, check out this great Scientific American article.

Anaerobic Digester Training Deck

GMI has finalized its interactive Anaerobic Digestion (AD) for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) instructional presentation. The presentation – designed to be reviewed by a group or individually – is a truly comprehensive collection of resources, including:

  • Introduction to AD for MSW
  • Overview of AD processes and technologies
  • Review of the benefits of AD
  • Review of the key areas to consider when developing an AD project
  • Assorted AD case studies and a review of AD worldwide

The presentation can be used sequentially, or by using its internal links to navigate between sections. Click below to start your tour!

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August News Round-Up

We’re back after an August holiday! On to the latest news…

As you can see from the assortment of links below, much of the August methane news focused on methane emissions from livestock digestion, also known as enteric fermentation. Although enteric fermentation is the world’s largest source of methane emissions, we here at GMI do not cover it due to the difficulties in measuring and recovering it, but we certainly take a keen interest in mitigation developments. Significantly reducing meat consumption (particularly red meat) and demand is the ultimate mitigation solution, but such incentives and policies are not even under consideration at this time (although California has recently proposed regulation). As scientists study the issue in cows, pigs, and even buffalo, stopgap solutions have emerged such as improvements in feed efficiency and high tech backpacks that capture passed cow gas. The backpacks catch and contain almost 300 liters of methane per cow per day – or enough to power a refrigerator for a day.

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In related news, last year Italian dairy farmers opened The Shit Museum, featuring home goods that are made out of a compound of baked manure and clay that they call merdacotta — “baked excrement.” The group of farmers recently won the top prize for their exhibition of merdacotta goods design at this year’s prestigious Milan Design Week. Check out The New York Times’s fascinating profile on merdacotta goods and the farmers’ commitment to zero waste.

NASA has methane on its radar – the prestigious U.S. space organization is studying the “hot spot” of methane emissions in the Four Corners region of the United States leaking from more than 250 oil and gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, coal mines and other fossil fuel facilities as well as methane released from thawing Arctic permafrost.

Finally, we also recommend this interesting read on why utilities have little incentive to plug methane leaks.

See you next month!

August Methane News Round-Up