Fuel-Efficiency Ratings for Tires Proposed

September 15, 2008

Congress has ordered the implementation of a national consumer information program by the end of 2009. The goal of the program will be to produce ratings on passenger tire fuel-efficiency; however, the regulations will not require ratings labels on the tires.

Tires affect vehicle fuel economy through their rolling resistance. As a tire rolls under the weight of a vehicle, its shape changes repeatedly, causing loss of energy in the form of heat, which in turn causes the vehicle to use more fuel to maintain speed. Some of the key variables in a tire’s rolling resistance are its tread design and composition, inflation pressure, and level of maintenance.

 It concluded that a 10% reduction in rolling resistance was both technically and economically feasible and that the resulting increase in fuel economy would save the United States between 1 billion and 2 billion gallons of gasoline per year. 

Color-Coded Bacteria Can Spot Oil Spills or Leaky Pipes and Storage Tanks

Oil spills and other environmental pollution, including low level leaks from underground pipes and storage tanks, could be quickly and easily spotted in the future using color-coded bacteria, scientists were told at a September 11 meeting of the Society for General Microbiology.

"Because bacteria have simple single-celled bodies, it is relatively easy to equip them with a sensor and a brightly colored 'reporter protein,' which shows up under a microscope, alerting us to different substances leaking into the soil or seawater from oil spills, agricultural chemicals, or other pollutants," said Professor Jan Van der Meer from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Scientists have successfully shown that living bacteria can be used as a much more environmentally friendly way of detecting pollution than the chemical methods currently used.

"Chemical methods are often cumbersome, require sophisticated equipment, costly reagents or nasty materials," Van der Meer said. "In comparison, our sensing bacteria are very simple to maintain. Tests with the bacteria are therefore extremely easy to carry out and do not require noxious chemicals."

"Our own tests, and checks by other laboratories, have shown that pollution testing using bacteria is a remarkably robust technique and produces reliable results," Van der Meer said. "The heart of our color sensor system is the bacteria themselves. They reproduce themselves in a growth medium, which makes the whole set-up really cheap."

The new technique has already been successfully tested during a research expedition at sea, when the scientists demonstrated that the bacteria could measure different chemicals seeping from oil into the water, showing up as the blue light of bioluminescence in a simple light-recording device.

"This can help to trace back the age of a spill and helps us to judge the immediate danger," Van der Meer said. "The environmental benefits of this research are very clear. Our methods and results show how relatively simple and cheap assays could be used as a first line of defense to judge contamination in the environment. Once positive values are obtained, more in-depth studies can be performed using chemical analysis."

In principle, the same methods could also be used in hospitals or even to study food samples, according to the scientists. Technical research in this field is heading towards miniaturized sensors, which can incorporate many different bacteria types, each of which responds to a different chemical. These miniaturized sensors could be used for rapid screening of samples with unknown compositions, such as water samples, but air could also be monitored for proper quality.

"You could imagine stand-alone systems such as buoys, in which bacteria sensors screen the presence of polluting compounds continuously. We don't think this will affect people in any way. The bacteria that are used for the sensing are harmless and do not multiply very well in the open environment," Van der Meer said. "This makes it very safe. Although the bacteria are normally maintained in a closed laboratory environment for the assays, it means that in case of an accidental release the bacteria are unlikely to do any harm.”

The main problem with detecting oil spills and other toxic compounds at the moment is that many of the most dangerous chemicals do not dissolve in water very well, making them difficult to detect. These oils also have a strong tendency to stick to surfaces like rocks—or seabirds and shellfish—where they can last for many years, making it tricky to detect small leaks or ancient sources of pollution.

"The bacteria can detect different mass transfer rates of the pollutants and warn us how the pollution is spreading,” Van der Meer said. “The bacteria are also sensitive enough to tell between different soil types and the way these hold the pollution chemicals or release them in a way that plants, animals, and humans can be affected."

Podcast Introduces EPA’s New Problem-Solving Tool

EPA is always trying to find better ways to solve environmental challenges. Our latest audio podcast "Magic MIRA Tells All" introduces EPA Region 3's new Multi-criteria Integrated Resource Assessment (MIRA) problem-solving tool devised to assist in the environmental decision-making process. MIRA's analytical toolbox takes a hard look at environmental problems and seeks improvements using the right mix of programs. 

Green Healthcare Conference

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), together with Metro Health Hospital and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, are sponsoring the state's first "green" conference for health-care providers.

The Green Michigan Healthcare Conference will feature a day of presentations and roundtables on sustainable business practices, climate change, energy consumption, and waste management. The September 25 conference, being held from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Metro Health in Wyoming, Mich., is open to professionals in the health-services sector, as well as health-care industry engineers and facilities managers.

Representatives from the DEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hospital administrators, and county emergency professionals will lead roundtable discussions on a variety of topics, including:

  • Improving energy performance
  • Sustainability, climate change, and hospitals
  • Waste management strategies for hazardous waste
  • Practicing green health care

Metro Health, located at 5900 Byron Center Ave in Wyoming, is the first full-service hospital in the region to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The hospital and its 12 neighborhood outpatient clients have received numerous awards for its green practices, including the national Partner for Change award from Practice Greenhealth.

California Adds Oryzalin to Proposition 65 List and Proposes Fee Increase for Safe-Use Determinations

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is adding oryzalin (CAS No. 19044-88-3) to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer for purposes of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Health and Safety Code Section 25249.5 et seq., commonly known as Proposition 65). The listing of oryzalin is effective Sept. 12, 2008.

. You can then sort the list by date, CAS number, or chemical name using Excel.

 These amendments would delete existing language in subsection (a), providing that Safe Use Determinations are advisory only and replace it with language providing that the Safe Use Determinations will have a presumptive effect, increase the filing fee for a Safe Use Determination request from $500 to $1,000 in subsection (d)(1) to better cover administrative costs for reviewing the requests, and would create in subsection (g) a time limit of 60 days for submitting additional material requested by OEHHA.

A public hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 7, 2008, in the Coastal Hearing Room, California Environmental Protection Agency Building, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, California.

Environmental Defense Fund Launches Guide to High-Quality Carbon Offsets

To help bring transparency to the fast-growing voluntary carbon offset market to combat climate change, Environmental Defense Fund today announced the launch of CarbonOffsetList.org, a first-of-its-kind online resource that will help businesses and consumers identify and purchase carbon offsets that represent real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offsets allow buyers to offset, or neutralize, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced from their own activities by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

Developed through a rigorous review process in collaboration with a committee of external experts in the fields of science and policy, the website identifies 11 prescreened, independently verified offset projects that meet Environmental Defense Fund's criteria for high-quality carbon offsets. Environmental Defense Fund’s evaluation focused on the environmental integrity of the projects and whether projects could show verifiable and measurable proof of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The approach focused on finding high-quality emissions reductions regardless of project type, technology, or supplier.

"Companies increasingly see the value in incorporating carbon offsets into their overall climate action strategies, but until now, buyers had to do their own homework to determine which projects were most credible," said Thomas Murray, managing director of corporate partnerships for Environmental Defense Fund. "CarbonOffsetList.org eliminates the guesswork and offers buyers direct access to a list of thoroughly vetted projects that meet Environmental Defense Fund's high-quality criteria."

The EPA estimates that in the near term (through 2025), nearly one-third of the needed U.S. emissions reductions could be met by offsets. Voluntary action by businesses and individuals to reduce their emissions through on-site reductions and carbon offsets plays an important role. By connecting offset purchasers to high-quality projects, CarbonOffsetList.org will help ensure that money spent on offsets makes a real contribution to combat climate change.

"While most experts are convinced that there is a role for carbon offsets, the subject often prompts more questions than answers," said Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the

Environment and member of the independent expert review committee. "Environmental Defense Fund's CarbonOffsetList.org should give purchasers confidence that the offsets they buy result in real greenhouse gas reductions to help meet their environmental goals."

In response to numerous inquiries from companies seeking guidance on using carbon offsets as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy, Environmental Defense Fund developed the current list through a request for proposal and project-by-project review process. Environmental Defense Fund received more than 70 project proposals from dozens of suppliers, with a wide ranging diversity of project types and approaches. In order to be considered for inclusion, providers submitted project documentation for review, including project design documents and third-party verification reports.

CarbonOffsetList.org features 11 emissions reduction projects ranging from capturing and destroying methane from landfills and dairy farms to reducing emissions at truck stops across the country. They are:

  • Greater New Bedford LFG Utilization, Dartmouth, Mass., offered by CommonWealth Resource Management Corp. and Carbonfund.org
  • North Country LFG Utilization, Bethlehem, N.H., offered by CommonWealth Resource Management Corp.
  • Development Authority of the North Country Solid Waste Management Facility, Rodman, N.Y., offered by Carbonfund.org
  • Upper Rock Island Landfill, East Moline, Ill., offered by Renewable Choice Energy
  • Newton-McDonald County Landfill, Neosho, Mo., offered by 3Degrees
  • Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority Landfill, Lebanon, Pa., offered by Terrapass
  • Greenville County Landfill, Greer, S.C., offered by Sterling Planet
  • Inland Empire Dairy Methane, Chino, Calif., offered by Carbonfund.org
  • IdleAire Technologies Corporation Advanced Truckstop Electrification, Nationwide, offered by Carbonfund.org
  • Integrated Gas Recovery Systems (IGRS) Landfill, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, offered by GreenLife
  • Irani Wastewater Methane, Santa Catarina, Brazil, offered by EcoSecurities

Environmental Defense Fund expects this list to continue to grow as additional information about the projects under consideration is received.

Environmental Defense Fund has no financial interest in any of the featured projects on CarbonOffsetList.org, receives no benefit from transactions initiated at the site, and accepts no funding from corporate partners.

Vessel Permit Exclusion Extended to December 19

In July, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision to vacate the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulatory exclusion for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel (40 CFR 122.3(a)) as of Sept. 30, 2008. This means that as of this date, vessel discharges previously subject to the exclusion would be discharging without a permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Violations of this prohibition can subject dischargers to, among other things, citizen suits, which can result in the imposition of penalties of up to $32,500 per day per violation. In response to this court decision, EPA has been developing an NPDES general permit to cover these discharges. However, due to challenges associated with implementing a permit that is both effective and implementable by the September 30 deadline, EPA requested an extension to delay the vacatur date. On Aug. 8, 2008, the court granted EPA's request for an extension and ordered that the exclusion be vacated as of Dec. 19, 2008, instead of September 30.

Illinois Cement Plant Agrees to $800,000 Fine and Reduce Air Emissions

Two companies that own and operate a Portland cement manufacturing facility near Dixon, Ill., have agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution controls to reduce harmful air emissions and pay an $800,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA).

St. Marys Cement Inc., (U.S.), and St. Barbara Cement Inc., have agreed to have specified pollution control equipment in operation by April 30, 2009, and from that date on to achieve required emission reductions at three of their four cement production lines at their Dixon facility. The two companies have also agreed to replace a kiln at the facility with technology to reduce emissions or to permanently shut it down. These actions will reduce combined emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 2,700 tons each year.

This is the first settlement secured by the federal government as part of its enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from Portland cement manufacturing facilities under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The Portland cement industry is the third largest source of industrial emissions in the nation, emitting more than 500,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, NOx, and carbon monoxide.

“This precedent-setting settlement is the first for the Portland cement industry,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are pleased that this settlement will provide important environmental benefits without the need for complicated and prolonged litigation.”

“This settlement marks a significant step in controlling harmful nitrogen-oxide emissions at the Dixon Plant and from Portland cement manufacturing facilities in general,” said Cheryl Newton, acting director of the Air and Radiation Division of EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago. “The installation of state-of-the-art technology sets an important benchmark for the control of this harmful pollutant. EPA is committed to ensuring that cement manufacturers comply with the Clean Air Act.”

In a complaint filed today, concurrently with the lodging of the consent decree, the federal government alleged that the companies illegally operated four cement kilns at the Dixon Plant after they had been modified. These modifications allowed the kilns to emit more pollution. Specifically, the government cited the companies for operating the modified kilns without obtaining necessary permits and installing required pollution control equipment as required by the CAA.

In 2006, EPA focused on improving compliance at Portland cement manufacturing facilities across the country due to widespread noncompliance and significant amounts of NOx and sulfur dioxide emitted during the manufacturing process.

Portland cement, which is used in virtually all types of concrete, is produced by heating limestone, clay, and other raw materials at high temperatures to form ”clinker,” which is then blended with gypsum and ground into a fine powder. The fine powder is known as Portland cement, and is mixed with water, sand, and stone to form concrete.

NOx emissions cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. This pollutant is also a significant contributor to acid rain, smog, and haze, which impair visibility in national parks. Air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

The proposed consent decree was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. 

EPA Releases 2007 TRI Data

Many stakeholders have requested that EPA share TRI data sooner and in the format received, without waiting for further analysis. The "raw" data released today are not grouped in any way or are as easily searchable as the traditional Public Data Release (PDR), which also includes more quality checks, national trends, and analysis. EPA will still publish the complete 2007 PDR in early 2009.

TRI provides information on chemical releases including disposal of chemicals. In addition, TRI tracks chemical releases and industrial sectors specified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also mandates that facilities report data on other waste management activities, such as treatment, recycling, and energy recovery.

New York to Host International "Green Chemistry" Confab

New York State will be the center of the "green" chemistry and engineering movement when Albany hosts an international "Green Chemistry Conference," September 15–18. It is the first time this gathering of technical experts is being held in the United States.

The conference will bring together chemical engineers and chemists working in industry and academia to delve into the latest research in innovative technologies and processes. It will focus on how emerging green technology can help businesses meet today's environmental and economic challenges.

The aim of green chemistry is to assist industry in reducing its environmental impact by decreasing the use of toxic chemicals, cutting waste generation, decreasing exposure risks to workers, and promoting more efficient use of raw materials and energy.

The conference is being held by the BHR Group, a British consortium of technology companies that regularly hosts the international gathering, and Clarkson University of Potsdam, N.Y. Cosponsors are New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York Pollution Prevention Council. The conference coincides with national "Pollution Prevention Week."

The conference features national and international leaders in nanotechnology and green chemistry. This includes three homegrown New York green chemistry leaders: Dr. Roshan Jachuck of Clarkson University, Dr. Anil Netravali of Cornell University, and Dr. Martin Walker of the State University of New York at Potsdam. Jeff Sama, who serves as DEC's Director of Permits and Pollution Prevention and chairman of the New York State Pollution Prevention Council, will deliver opening remarks.

"The growth of green chemistry and engineering has been dramatic in recent years, with a focus on reducing toxic chemicals and hazardous substances right from the start, and cutting energy costs," Sama said. "That New York State is the site of this conference is a sign we are being recognized as a leader in this area."

The conference, open only to participants, will be highly technical in nature, with such topics as "Intensification of Silicon Reactions Process," "Fluidized Bed Process Intensification," and "Development of a Thermally-Intensive Reactor and Process for Upgrading Heavy Crude Oil." The summit will be held at the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road in Colonie, near the Albany International Airport.

In conjunction with the Green Chemistry Conference, DEC will host a Pollution Prevention Week celebration on September 18 that is open to the public. The event will be held at DEC's "green certified" building at 625 Broadway in Albany. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. It will feature displays about New York environmental leaders, the annual "Environmental Excellence Awards" to businesses and schools, and the pollution prevention intern program. Formal activities begin at 10:15 a.m. with an address by DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, followed by the keynote speaker, Rochester Institute of Technology's Edward Pinero, who serves as the executive director of the Pollution Prevention Institute, a cutting-edge research consortium lead by RIT, working with Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and SUNY Buffalo.

For more information about the DEC celebration, contact Michelle Hinman, Pollution Prevention Unit, 518-402-9469.

Scientists Promote "Global Cooling" with White Roofs and Cool Pavements

The news was announced at the California Energy Commission's Fifth Annual Climate Change Research Conference.

"White roofs can cut a building's energy use by 20% and save consumers money," says California Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld. "The potential energy savings in the U.S. is in excess of $1 billion annually. Additionally, by conserving electricity we are emitting less CO2 from power plants."

Together with Rosenfeld, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) scientists Hashem Akbari and Surabi Menon have successfully quantified the effects of white roofs in populated settings in terms of CO2 offset. In a study to be published in the scientific journal Climatic Change, Akbari, Menon, and Rosenfeld estimate that replacing nonreflective, dark roofing materials with white ones on an average house with 1,000 square feet of roof would result in an equivalent CO2 offset of 10 metric tons annually. With an offset value of $25 per metric ton, that could be worth $250, according to European CO2 markets.

Scientists have known for centuries that putting white roofs on homes and buildings is a simple and effective way to reflect the sun's powerful rays. Similarly, cool-colored pavements aid in the reduction of "urban heat islands." When rooftops and pavements are more reflective, global warming can be reduced.

Since 2005, commercial buildings with flat roofs in California have been required to have white roofs. Residential sloped roofs are also becoming more efficient. Beginning in 2009, new residential roofs and retrofit constructions in California will be required to have "cool-colored" roofs, which reflect a higher fraction of the sun's rays than current roofing materials of the same color.

Because white roofs act as a geo-engineering technique to cool the earth on a global scale, Akbari, Menon, and Rosenfeld propose an international campaign to organize 100 of the world's largest cities in tropical and temperate zones to develop programs to require white roofs and "cool pavements" when roofs are initially constructed and pavements installed. The projected estimate for worldwide CO2 emissions in 2025 is 37 billion metric tons; a proposed global CO2 offset would be 44 billion metric tons, valued at $1,100 billion, and enough to offset more than one year of the total global CO2 emissions.

"This idea of a 'cool cities' campaign could lead to significant energy savings, improved air quality, reduce the heat island effect in summer, and more importantly, cool the globe," Hashem Akbari said. "This simple and effective idea can organize the world into taking measured steps to mitigate global warming. Our findings will help city leaders and urban planners quantify the amount of CO2 they can offset using white roofs and cool pavements."

EPA Fines BioMarin More Than $100,000 for Industrial Wastewater Violations

As part of the enforcement action, the company also will spend an additional $50,270 to restore Novato Creek and one of its tributaries, Vineyard Creek.

In May 2007, the EPA inspected the BioMarin facility, reviewed the company’s 2004–2007 monitoring data, and found that the company had discharged low pH industrial wastewater from the facility, violating both federal and local standards, on 62 days. BioMarin is required by its wastewater discharge permit, issued by Novato Sanitation District, to monitor industrial wastewater effluent from its facility and submit results to the district. Low pH wastewater can cause sewer corrosion and collapses of sewer lines, which often result in sewer overflows and discharges of raw sewage.

“To protect our Bay and the structural integrity of sewer systems, companies are required to properly treat industrial wastewater before discharging it to the city's sewers,” said Alexis Strauss, the Water Division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This settlement will bring much needed restoration to the Novato creek and wetland ecosystems to improve water quality, restore native vegetation, and improve habitat for endangered and threatened species.”

As part of the restoration, BioMarin will remove invasive vegetation and revegetate at least 1,000 feet with native plants along creek banks and wetlands. The company will maintain and monitor the site for three years to ensure an 80% survival rate of the plantings.

Novato Creek suffers from poor water quality that is a result of untreated and treated industrial waste discharges into the watershed, among other things. Non-native species currently degrade the ecosystem, crowd out native species, and provide substandard food and shelter for native plants and animals. The restoration project will complement a larger long-term Marin County Public Works Department restoration of the Novato Creek watershed.

The CWA prohibits companies from introducing pollutants into a public system that will cause corrosive structural damage to the system, and in no case may facilities discharge wastewater with a pH lower than 5.0, unless the treatment system is designed to accommodate the discharges.

BioMarin owns and operates a facility that specializes in producing enzymes to treat diseases and various medical conditions, such as chronic genetic disorders.

Ohio EPA Issues Permit for Carbon Sequestration Project

Ohio EPA has issued a permit that will allow FirstEnergy to test the feasibility of injecting carbon dioxide deep into the ground in an experimental well it owns at the R.E. Burger Power Plant in Shadyside. Battelle Memorial Institute is operating this project in partnership with FirstEnergy.

Ohio EPA held an informational session and public hearing on June 24 at Shadyside High School regarding the draft permit, which explained terms of how the well would be used. All comments, including written comments to the Agency, were considered prior to the final decision on issuance of the permit.

Ohio EPA's deep well regulations are designed to protect underground sources of drinking water so they don't become contaminated by the injected material. In order for the carbon dioxide to be sequestered, or stored indefinitely, it must be heated under pressure to the point that it has properties of both a gas and liquid. Once it reaches this critical phase, it is injected individually into three different rock formations: the 8,207- to 8,274-foot deep Clinton sandstone; the 6,734- to 7,470-foot deep Salina formation, and the 5,923- to 5,954-foot deep Oriskany sandstone.

"Experimental technology is more than promising. It's necessary," Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski said. "I'm proud of the researchers working in Ohio who are leading the way with carbon sequestration studies. While this is just a pilot project, on-the-ground projects like this will play a key role in helping us address climate change."

Issuance of the permit can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC). Many appeals must be filed within 30 days of issuing the final action; therefore, Ohio EPA recommends that anyone wishing to file an appeal contact ERAC at 614-466-8950 for more information.

People who wish to receive copies of fact sheets and other information about the permit may contact Ohio EPA, Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, Attn: E. Charles Lowe, 614-644-2752. Copies of the permit also may be reviewed at the Shadyside Public Library of Belmont County, 4300 Central Avenue, Shadyside; at the Ohio EPA Southeast District Office, 2195 Front Street, Logan, OH, 740-385 8501; or at Ohio EPA, Central Office, 50 W. Town St., Columbus, OH, by first contacting E. Charles Lowe 614-644-2752.

EPA Using the Internet to Announce Revisions to States' Lists of Impaired Waters

EPA is announcing a change to its procedures for seeking public comment when Region 7 revises a state impaired waters list after disapproving the state's submittal.

Effective immediately, EPA Region 7 will provide public notice on the Internet at , in addition to notifying the media, elected officials, and interested parties. Previously, Region 7 published public notices in newspapers of general circulation throughout a state.

"With the increasing use of the Internet, we consider it a better way to reach the public than a one-day notice in a local newspaper,” Region 7 Administrator John B. Askew said. “We want to reach as many people as possible because impaired waters are a concern for all of us."

The Clean Water Act requires states, territories, and authorized tribes to develop lists of impaired waters every two years. By law, EPA must approve or disapprove those lists. If disapproved, EPA is required to seek public comment on EPA's listing decisions.

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Trivia Question of the Week

The Netherlands is now home to the world’s largest biomass power plant running only on:
a. Chicken poop
b. Tulip biomass
c. Saw dust
d. Landfill methane