Natural gas development at landfill discussed

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Legislature’s Audit and Control Committee discussed various proposed resolutions, including one concerning the potential renewable natural gas development at the county landfill.

The idea was approved by the committee, and once the proposed resolution comes to the Chautauqua County Legislature, the group can decide to authorize County Executive George Borrello to negotiate the final terms of the lease agreement that would grant landfill gas rights to a developer, projected to be Montauk Energy Holdings of Pittsburgh, to enable the construction and operation of a renewable natural gas facility at the landfill.

The landfill’s gas-to-energy electric generating facility has provided revenue to the county since 2010. Revenue has recently decreased to the worsened market conditions regarding the sale of electricity generated by landfill gas. The resolution describes how selling the gas for processing into renewable natural gas would be more advantageous for the county.

Previously, the county issued a request for proposals for the development of a renewable natural gas facility at the landfill. This facility would allow the county to continue to retire outstanding debt on the existing gas-to-energy facility and generate additional revenue.

The resolution would provide for 20 years of commercial operation of the renewable natural gas facility on the approximately 2-acre landfill site. The first 10 years would allocate $1 million base payments annually to the county plus an additional 12 percent of sale revenue, including revenues from environmental credits or offsets. The second period of 10 years would consider 20 percent of sale revenue payable to the county.

Legislator and committee member Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said the landfill’s gas-to-energy generating facility debt should be paid off within the first 10 years of the operation of the facility with revenue raised for reserves as well.

This comes at an opportune time for the landfill as New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Thursday reported local government-owned landfills face nearly $300 million in estimated long-term costs for both active and closed landfills. Costs are mostly associated with monitoring and maintenance required to prevent waste and other contaminants from seeping into groundwater.

At least 768 solid waste facilities active in New York are owned by local governments according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

To assist costs of cleanup, the DEC provides a Landfill Closure and Landfill Gas Management State Assistance Program that provides grants to governments to either close inactive landfills or manage active ones. The program is funded at $250,000 per year and has a long waiting list.

“Owning a landfill can generate significant revenues, but also carries a significant long-term price tag,” DiNapoli said. “Before landfills begin to reach capacity, it is critical that local governments plan for future costs that will be paid long after the revenue stream has ended.”

DiNapoli stressed the need to manage landfill assets carefully and suggested giving consideration to measures including establishing reserves to pay for a landfill closure to help ensure landfills do not eventually burden residents.


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