Michigan landfill law eliminating secondary liner requirement if project is for R&D will reduce construction costs of new facilities, says governor's office; state's double liner requirement is tougher than federal standards

KIMBALL TOWNSHIP, Michigan , November 22, 2011 () – A recently signed Michigan law could make it less costly to expand the use of the bioreactor technology to generate energy from landfills.

The technology has been used at the Smiths Creek Landfill in St. Clair County's Kimball Township, Times Herald of Port Huron reported. It captures gases from decomposing garbage and then burns them to generate electricity.

The law was signed Nov. 10 by Gov. Rick Snyder. It eliminates a requirement for a secondary liner at landfill projects that are used for research, demonstration and development. Michigan's double liner requirement for such projects had been tougher than federal rules, Snyder's office said.

"These landfills use innovative methods to dispose of solid waste. ... The new law will bring more landfills into the program and reduce construction costs of new facilities," the governor's office said in a statement released at the time that the bill was signed.

Landfill manager Matt Williams said monitoring has showed one liner was enough at such projects.

"We worked with our legislators to put a bill in place," Williams said.

Hal Newnan, chairman of the Southeast Michigan Group of the Sierra Club, however, said removing safeguards wasn't a good idea. He said there has been a recent move in Michigan to do away with regulations intended to protect the environment and public health.

"It's pro-business in the short term, but when you kill off your customers, are they really going to thank you?" Newnan said.

State law requires that landfills be lined with plastic and a thick layer of impermeable clay to prevent liquids and potentially dangerous chemicals from seeping out.

At Smiths Creek Landfill, the generator is owned by Blue Water Renewables, a subsidiary of DTE Biomass Energy. The energy produced there is sold to DTE Energy Co.'s Detroit Edison unit. That's expected to bring in about $400,000 per year for St. Clair County.

Energy began streaming to the grid from the landfill on Nov. 7, said DTE spokesman Scott Simons.

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