For years, the state supported projects to capture methane gas from old garbage dumps and turn it into electricity, a process that eliminates a lethal source of greenhouse gas pollution.
But now at least five of those landfill projects are in danger of being closed down, because the engines used to create electricity from the gas frequently break down and are making the facilities economically unviable. Without the economic relief, five of New Jersey’s county landfill projects are in jeopardy of closing this year. They include projects in Warren, Sussex, Burlington, Atlantic, and Salem counties.
If they are closed it would deprive New Jersey of 20 megawatts of electricity from those landfills, while at the same time leaving utility customers on the hook to pay for power from similar projects in nine neighboring states.
To prevent that from happening, the Legislature is considering a bill that would help offset the costs of some of the state’s landfills by awarding them more renewable energy certificates. But that would saddle ratepayers with additional expenses, according to the state Division of Rate Counsel.
The Division of Rate Counsel argues that the bill inappropriately shifts the risk of “economic loss’’ from the investors in the facilities to gas and electric customers. They believe the bill is nothing more than a ‘bailout’ of these facilities at the ratepayer’s expense.
Neither side disputes what the problem is. Some dumps contain siloxane compounds, which come from hairsprays and aerosols. These more quickly erode the engines used to create the electricity, spiking up maintenance costs.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Backers of the bill say if the landfill projects are closed down, the methane would just simply escape into the atmosphere.