Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Biosolids/Residuals Management

This page provides resources on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biosolids management and related activities. NEBRA is working with stakeholders across the continent on advancing understanding of how biosolids management affects climate change and how biosolids managers can optimize operations to reduce their "carbon footprint." Ultimately, biosolids can be a resource for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing renewable energy, reducing use of fossil fuels and energy-intensive fertilizers, and stimulating carbon sequestration in soils.

Workshop presentations are available, below.

NEBRA's involvement:

GHG Emissions Accounting for Wastewater Treatment & Biosolids Management

A NEBRA Workshop

originally presented Thursday, October 1, 2009, Lawrence, MA
and repeated March 4, 2010, at Eatontown, NJ for the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA) & NJWEA

Co-sponsored by U. S. EPA Region 1

This workshop provides wastewater treatment facilities, biosolids management programs, engineers, and regulatory agency staff the background and basics of GHG emissions accounting, using both standard protocols and more detailed, site-specific analysis. Topics included a brief history of GHG accounting, current leading protocols and registries (e.g. The Climate Registry and its Local Government Operations Protocol), and key accounting concepts such as scopes, tiers, and verification. Presentations are followed by analyses of typical northeast wastewater treatment and biosolids management programs.

Workshop Agenda (212 KB)

Workshop Presentations:

Beecher - Introductory Information (2.5 MB)
Carpenter (1) - Accounting for Carbon Credits & Debits (2.6 MB)
Willis (1) - Example Using the Local Government Operations Protocol at DCWASA (4 MB)
Carpenter (2) - Applying the BEAModel & Making Comparisons (1 MB)
Willis (2) - Why Are We Doing This? What Are Limitations? Where Will It Lead? (900 KB)


February 27, 2012

EPA Proposes to Keep Greenhouse Gas Permitting Requirements Focused on Largest Emitters

(News release from U. S. EPA)

Options to streamline process would help state and local permitting authorities

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing not to change the greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs. Today’s proposal is part of EPA’s common-sense, phased-in approach to GHG permitting under the Clean Air Act.  EPA is also proposing steps that would streamline the permitting process for large emitters already covered by the agency’s program, including sources that account for nearly 70 percent of the total GHG pollution from stationary sources.

EPA’s proposal is consistent with its phased-in approach, announced in 2010, to “tailor” the requirements of the Clean Air Act to ensure that industrial facilities and state governments have the tools they need to minimize GHG emissions and that only the largest emitters need permits. After consultation with states and evaluating the process, EPA believes that the current approach is working well, and that state permitting authorities are currently managing PSD permitting requests. Therefore, EPA has proposed not to include additional, smaller sources in the permitting program at this time.

EPA's GHG permitting program follows the same Clean Air Act process that states and industry have followed for decades to help ensure that new or modified facilities are meeting requirements to protect air quality and public health from harmful pollutants. As of December 1, 2011, EPA and state permitting authorities have issued 18 PSD permits addressing GHG emissions. These permits have required new facilities, and existing facilities that have chosen to make major modifications, to implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their GHG emissions.

The GHG Tailoring Rule would continue to address a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). The PSD permitting program protects air quality and allows economic growth by requiring facilities that trigger PSD to limit GHG emissions in a cost effective way. An operating permit lists all of a facility’s Clean Air Act emissions control requirements and ensures adequate monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The operating permit program allows an opportunity for public involvement and to improve compliance.

Under the approach maintained in this proposal, new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year (tpy) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) continue to be required to obtain PSD permits. Existing facilities that emit 100,000 tpy of CO2e and make changes increasing the GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e, must also obtain PSD permits. Facilities that must obtain a PSD permit, to include other regulated pollutants, must also address GHG emission increases of 75,000 tpy or more of CO2e. New and existing sources with GHG emissions above 100,000 tpy CO2e must also obtain operating permits.


January 11, 2012

EPA Provides Data from First Year of Mandatory GHG Reporting 

(News release from U. S. EPA)

For the first time, comprehensive greenhouse gas (GHG) data reported directly from large facilities and suppliers across the country are now easily accessible to the public through EPA’s GHG Reporting Program. The 2010 GHG data released today include public information from facilities in nine industry groups that directly emit large quantities of GHGs, as well as suppliers of certain fossil fuels.
“Thanks to strong collaboration and feedback from industry, states, and other organizations, today we have a transparent, powerful data resource available to the public,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The GHG Reporting Program data provides a critical tool for businesses and other innovators to find cost- and fuel-saving efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technologies to protect public health and the environment.”
EPA’s interactive GHG Map Tool allows users to view and sort GHG data for calendar year 2010 from more than 6,700 facilities in a variety of ways—including by state, county, facility, industrial sector, and the type of GHG emitted. This information can be used by communities to identify nearby sources of GHGs, help businesses compare and track emissions, and provide information to state and local governments.
GHG data for direct emitters show that in 2010:
•Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions, with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), followed by petroleum refineries with emissions of 183 mmtCO2e.
•CO2 accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions, with 95 percent, followed by methane with 4 percent, and nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases accounting for the remaining 1 percent.
•100 facilities each reported emissions over 7 mmtCO2e, including 96 power plants, two iron and steel mills, and two refineries.
Mandated by the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, EPA launched the GHG Reporting Program in October 2009, requiring the reporting of GHG data from large emission sources across a range of industry sectors, as well as suppliers of products that would emit GHGs if released or combusted. Most reporting entities submitted data for calendar year 2010. An additional 12 source categories will begin reporting their 2011 GHG data this year.
Access EPA’s GHG Reporting Program Data and Data Publication Tool:
Information on the GHG Reporting Program:
Information on the U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Sources and Sinks:
State and local officials interested in additional information about developing and implementing cost-effective climate and energy strategies that help further environmental goals and achieve public health and economic benefits may visit:

August 2011:  WERF fact sheet on wastewater and energy

Titled "Energy Production and Efficiency Research - The Roadmap to Net Zero Energy," this is a primer on current understanding of energy management and production potential at wastewater treatment facilities.  Download

March 11, 2011

EPA "Tailoring Rule" Update:  Deferral of Rule for 3 Years for CO2 from Biomass

U. S. EPA announced that it will "defer, for a period of three years, greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources."   Emissions for methane, nitrous oxide, and other regulated gases are not included in the deferral.

This action applies to the so-called “Tailoring Rule," which stems from the Clean Air Act (see below).  The rule, finalized in May 2010, triggers "PSD [Prevention of Significant Degradation] and Title V applicability requirements for GHG emissions.”

Those affected by this rule include:  wastewater treatment facilities and landfills that emit CO2 from biological decompostion or combustion of biogas, facilities that combust biosolids, pulp and paper mills, and wood-fired electricity generators ("biomass plants").  Such facilities will not have to start tracking and reporting CO2 emissions during the three-year deferral period.

See NEBRA News story for more details.

June 1, 2010


On May 27, 2010, U. S. EPA announced technical updates to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule that was adopted in fall, 2009 (see below). "In general, the proposed updates would not change the overall requirements of the rule but would improve clarity and ensure consistency across the calculation, monitoring and data reporting requirements." See this EPA webpage for details.

June 1, 2010

Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas - The "Tailoring Rule" - FINAL


NEBRA Summary: U. S. EPA is working on applying the Clean Air Act to GHG emissions with the so-called “tailoring rule,” which will “trigger PSD [Prevention of Significant Degradation] and Title V applicability requirements for GHG emissions.” If current PSD and Title V thresholds and standards were applied to GHGs across-the-board today, state environmental agencies would be overrun by compliance applications from thousands of companies and facilities seeking permits. Thus, the tailoring rule, which was finalized in May, 2010, will phase in the PSD and Title V standards, beginning with a 6-year period during which compliance would be required by facilities that directly emit >75,000 or >100,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) GHG emissions, depending on whether the emissions are from a new facility or from a change to an existing facility.

At this time, wastewater treatment and biosolids management are not affected by this proposed rule (except very large producers of biogas may be required to comply; not sure on this as of June 1, 2010). However, over the next decade, as additional facilities are drawn into this proposed regulation, wastewater treatment facilities could be required to comply with this rule. See NEBRA news article on this topic.

September 30, 2009

U. S. EPA Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule Is Finalized

Rule subpart regarding centralized domestic wastewater treatment plants is not final, but they will likely continue to remain exempt.

[EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0508; FRL-]RIN 2060-A079
Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Final Rule.

SUMMARY: EPA is promulgating a regulation to require reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy. The final rule applies to fossil fuel suppliers and industrial gas suppliers, direct greenhouse gas emitters and manufacturers of heavy-duty and off-road vehicles and engines. The rule does not require control of greenhouse gases, rather it requires only that sources above certain threshold levels monitor and report emissions.

The rule will come into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Wastewater Treatment: At this time, EPA is not going final with the wastewater treatment subpart (40 CFR part 98, subpart II). As EPA considers next steps, we will be reviewing the public comments and other relevant information. Please note, as originally proposed for this rule, centralized domestic wastewater treatment plants continue to be excluded.

The Agency received a number of comments regarding the applicability of this subpart as well as clarification of the definition of anaerobic wastewater treatment processes. In addition, commenters requested that EPA consider a de minimus exemption for emissions from wastewater treatment. The Agency also received a number of comments requesting redefinition of the monitoring requirements for this subpart.

Based on careful review of comments received on the preamble, rule and TSDs under proposed 40 CFR part 98, Subpart II, EPA will consider alternatives to data collection procedures and methodologies and examine additional study results that have been released since the proposal was issued. Specifically, EPA will consider requirements for the location of meters for taking flow measurements, the frequency of flow and chemical oxygen demand (COD)measurements taken, as well as the potential use of alternate parameters, such as BOD. EPA will also consider the inclusion of indirect or non-methane volatile organic compound emissions. Lastly, EPA will consider the acceptable methods for estimating missing data. EPA will consider optimal methods of data collection in order to maximize data accuracy, while considering industry burden.