Despite Cross Purpose Legislation, County To Reap Landfill Methane Production Profit

San Bernardino County is pushing forward with two arrangements with Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC to allow that company to capture methane produced at the county’s Rialto and Colton landfills despite progression toward compliance with a state law aimed at radically reducing methane production at all of the state’s landfills.
In June 2022, the solid waste management division of the San Bernardino County Public Works Department entered into agreements with Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC that involve selling landfill gas from the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill and the Colton Sanitary Landfill.
At the Mid-Valley Landfill, the landfill gas will be processed and turned into renewable natural gas, known by the acronym RNG. This renewable natural gas will be sold and delivered to the nearby SoCal Gas pipeline, which is a system for distributing natural gas. The gas will be processed to meet the standards set by SoCal Gas for accepting RNG into their pipeline.At the Colton Landfill, the landfill gas will be used to generate electricity. This electricity will power a hydrogen generation plant that will convert natural gas from a nearby gas pipeline into hydrogen fuel. The Colton Landfill facility is still in the design phase.
Under the agreement entered into last year, Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC is to pay a minimum of $600,000 per year, and potentially up to an estimated $3 million per year, in lease and royalty payments for the rights to use the landfill gas and produce the different products.
The Mid-Valley Landfill facility is planned to be completed by September 2023, while the Colton Landfill facility is still in the design phase and construction is expected to begin in the next few years.
County officials are pleased that two landfill projects are moving forward even though Senate Bill 1383, which passed in 2016 and is in the course of being implemented, is intended to bring about a 75 percent reduction of statewide organics waste disposal into landfills from 2014 levels. Organic waste is the primary precursor of natural gas and methane within landfills.
Senate Bill 1383 was titled California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, which aimed to reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions statewide. To meet that goal, the bill established two targets by 2025, those being the aforementioned 75 percent reduction of statewide organics waste disposal from 2014 levels and a 20 percent greater recovery (for human consumption) of edible food currently disposed of in California.
The resultant regulations required jurisdictions to provide organic waste collection services to all single-family and multifamily residences of all sizes and businesses that generate organic waste beginning January 1, 2022. An extension on that deadline was given, but single-family and multifamily complexes are soon to be required to recycle both green waste and food waste, as well as other organic waste materials, using another separate refuse bin – beyond the ones most San Bernardino County residents now have for trash, recyclables and green waste – which will be intended to contain organic or food waste.
The conversion to such a four separate refuse stream model that was envisioned in 2016 has not been as easily put into place as was anticipated. With the goal of reducing food waste in landfills by 75 percent, the measure has proven to be a challenge for both households and businesses, in no little part because the state’s refuse-hauling companies, which instituted rate increases in 2019 on the basis of having to comply with SB 1383, have dragged their feet in obtaining and providing the organic waste bins to their customers.
While technically, Under SB 1383, all California residents were supposed to stop putting food scraps and other organic waste in trash bins as of January 1, 2022, at least 20 percent of California cities, counties and other jurisdictions sought and obtained extensions from the state to allow them to delay collecting those materials. Some rural and mountain communities have been granted extensions to 2027. That’s why residents in most San Bernardino County communities have not gotten the supplies – a fourth type of bin – to initiate compliance with Senate Bill 1383.
In the meantime, the amount of methane being produced at the Rialto and Colton landfills has not diminished and the county’s deal with Bio-Fuels San Bernardino Biogas, LLC is moving ahead full speed.
-Mark Gutglueck

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