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Air Pollution Rule for Landfills

Statement of Carol M. Browner Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Air Pollution Rule for Landfills

                          March 1, 1996

Today I am pleased to announce final action that will dramatically reduce air pollution from the nation's landfills. Today's rule is the strongest action ever taken to reduce air pollution from landfills. Across this country, landfills contribute to urban air pollution. Today's rule will cut in half the emission from landfills of smog-forming and toxic air pollutants that are a threat to public health, and significantly reduce methane emissions that contribute to global warming.

Smog causes respiratory problems -- including increased cases of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema -- for millions of Americans across this country. Today's controls are the smog-fighting equivalent of removing 3.5 million cars from the road. We will also remove tons of cancer-causing air toxics -- such as benzene, vinyl chloride, and chloroform -- from the air each year. This action by the Clinton Administration is a common-sense, cost-effective step forward in protecting public health.

As long as landfills are a part of this nation's waste disposal program, we have a responsibility to communities to make sure that they are as safe as they can be, and that dangerous pollution is reduced. The Clinton Administration takes that responsibility seriously, and with today's rule, entire communities can breathe easier.

Today's rule will cut methane emissions from landfills in half. With respect to fighting global warming, today's rule is the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road. These controls can save energy, by capturing enough reusable methane to power 2.3 million homes. Today's rule will also reduce the chance of explosions and reduce the foul odors released by decomposing garbage.

Today's rule is protective and cost-effective. We target only the largest landfills -- those existing today and those that will be built in the future -- and achieve a 90reduction in the emissions from those sites.

The cost to landfill operators and to residential customers will be minimal -- but the benefits will be great. As many as 280 large landfills that emit more than 50 megagrams of smog-forming gas per year will be required to drill collection wells and route the excess gas to an energy recovery or combustion device -- so that it can either be captured for use as a fuel or safely burned. Large landfills will also be required to monitor surface methane on a quarterly basis, and to expand their gas collectors if the concentration exceeds 500 parts per million. According to EPA's analysis, landfills such as the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, New York, emit air pollution comparable to large industrial facilities that have long been identified as major sources of pollution.

Today's rule is another example of the Clinton Administration's common-sense, cost-effective approach to protecting the health of the people of this country and the environment we all share.