Editorial: Methane plant a positive

Hamm Landfill project combines good environmental sense with good business sense.

The opening of a new methane gas plant and pipeline at the Hamm Landfill is a win both economically and environmentally for the region.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week to celebrate the opening of the $20 million plant and pipeline. Hamm officials said the new plant combined with other projects in recent years, including the recycling center and a new system for capping landfills, lessen the landfill’s impact on the environment.

“All of these projects are a great story for the community,” said Charlie Sedlock, director of waste services at Hamm. “Added taxes, added jobs, added sustainability.”

The Hamm Landfill is five miles north of Lawrence and serves about 500,000 Kansas residents with Lawrence as its largest user base.

The methane gas plant and pipeline at the landfill will accomplish two important things: capture harmful methane gases that are produced as trash breaks down and convert those gases into a renewable fuel source. Methane is the second-most prominent greenhouse gas and landfills account for about 20 percent of its emissions, according to the EPA. Methane emissions’ impact on climate change are more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, the EPA reports.

Hamm partnered with Renewable Power Producers, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Enerdyne, for the plant, which includes 100 extraction wells, a gas-processing facility and a seven-mile gas pipeline.

Extraction wells collect the methane gas from the landfill, and the plant processes the gas and sends it into a pipeline for distribution throughout the region. The plant is expected to collect more than 4 million gallons of fuel annually, which will be sold to various companies through a distributor.

The facility has five employees.

“Unlike many, many, many communities in our nation, we have a landfill that is an absolute asset,” Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said. “Not just as a place to take waste, but as a place to remove dangerous gas from our hurting atmosphere and put it where it belongs.”

The opening of the methane gas plant certainly is a milestone for the area. It reinforces a trend of pursuing projects that make sense from not only an environmental perspective but also from a business perspective. May there be more such projects to come.