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Air Regulations for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

photograph of a large municipal solid waste landfill

On March 12, 1996 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under authority of the Clean Air Act, issued a final rule that controls emissions of a variety of air pollutants from new and existing large municipal solid waste landfills. The regulation included a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) that applied to new, modified, and reconstructed landfills as well as emission guidelines (EG) that applied to existing landfills.

The regulation requires installation of gas collection and control systems for new and existing landfills designed to hold 2.5 million megagrams and 2.5 million cubic meters or more of waste that emit greater than or equal to 50 megagrams per year of non-methane organic compounds (NMOC). In general, controlling emissions involves installing a collection system and routing the gas to a suitable energy recovery system or combustion device. The gas control systems must reduce collected landfill gas (LFG) emissions by 98 percent. Landfills subject to EPA's regulation accept and handle everyday household waste; they do not handle regulated hazardous waste.

What Are the Health and Environmental Benefits?

As the waste in a landfill decomposes, it breaks down to form LFGs, such as methane, smog-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and air toxics, pollutants known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. EPA's rule will reduce emissions of VOCs, air toxics, and malodorous compounds from existing and new landfillsby over 90,000 tons annually (a 53 percent reduction from current levels).

Landfills are also the largest anthropogenic source of methane emissions in the United States.  This rule will result in significant reductions in emissions of methane (over 50 percent in the year 2000), a major constituent of landfill gas and a potent greenhouse gas. By reducing methane emissions, EPA's regulation will also increase safety in and near landfills.

How Many Landfills are Effected by the Rule?  How Many are in Region III?

Only about 4 percent of the existing landfills nationwide are subject to the regulation. Although approximately 7000 landfills exist in the United States, over 90 percent of these landfills have design capacities less than the 2.5 million Mg exemption. In Region III states (DE, MD, PA, VA, WV) with affected landfills, approximately 120 existing and 80 new landfills have to comply.

How Does the Landfill Rule Relate to the U.S. Climate Change Action Plan?

This regulation and the EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) go hand-in-hand to provide substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The regulations will cause many landfills across the country to assess their landfill gas emissions and the potential for cost-effective recovery of energy from this gas. The LMOP will provide these landfills with guidance on how to comply with the regulations, including how to evaluate energy recovery options. Working together, these two cornerstone actions of the Climate Change Action Plan will encourage many landfills to capture and use their landfill gas.

More Information

For additional information about EPA's air rule for municipal solid waste landfills, access the EPA Unified Air Toxics Website:

For additional information about Municipal Solid Waste Landfills and solid waste, visit:

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