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Grass to gas?

May 21, 2012
Legislation decried by environmental groups may soon legalize methane production via grass clippings

by Sam Inglot, Lansing City Pulse

Michigan banned throwing away yard waste in neighborhood trash bins 17 years ago because of concerns about landfill space. Now, though, both Democrats and Republicans are trying to limit the ban to allow for the creation of alternative energy. Similar bills have been sponsored and supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

The legislation, HB4265 and HB4266, would allow Michiganians to throw their grass clippings away after mowing their lawns. The grass would be collected by a landfill company and used to produce methane gas for electricity by capturing the landfill gas that is released as it decomposes.

“We’re not overturning the ban,” said Rep. Paul Opsommer, the bill sponsor, in an email, R-Dewitt. “The bills would allow this only for those landfills that will use a gas collection system and then create alternative energy from it. The ban is still in place for all the other landfills.”

Landfill gas is constantly created at dumpsites. The breakdown of trash releases methane gas that is then captured or “flared” off by burning it. The law would expand the practice of landfill gas capture by specifically allowing the grass to be used for gas production.

The job debate

Those opposing the laws say the legislation would hurt jobs in Michigan while those on the other side of the fence say jobs would be created.

Companies like Lansing’s own Granger would stand to greatly benefit from the laws, said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. The legislation would spell “guaranteed bankruptcy” for many small composting businesses in Michigan who use grass clippings as their main raw material for fertilizer, Clift said, the move by landfills is to essentially eliminate their compost competition.

Read the rest of the story at The City Pulse
RELATED TOPICS: green economy
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