Quite a few years ago, an alternative to traditional landfills known as a bioreactor landfill was proposed at the Smiths Creek landfill, which is managed by St. Clair County. The proposal called for the addition of liquid waste to the landfill in order to urge faster decomposition. However, when the plan was proposed, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act prohibited the disposal of liquid waste in the landfill. In 2005, an amendment was passed to permit the disposal of liquid waste in the landfill and approved the Smiths Creek bioreactor landfill plan. Nonetheless, due to Michigan's location among the Great Lakes and the new technology connected to the project, the amendment included a requirement that the landfill have a secondary liner and leachate system to monitor the effectiveness of its primary liner. Conversely, House Bill 4875 was going to change that.. House Bill 4875 was introduced on July 27, 2011 by Representatives LaFontaine, Gilbert, and Muxlow and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation. The purpose of the Bill was to amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994 by enacting the following: the elimination of the requirement that a landfill research, development, and demonstration project have a secondary liner and leachate collection system.
Furthermore, with each state legislative proposal, there are proponents and opponents. On the proponent's side, House Bill 4875, which was signed by Governor Snyder into law on November 10, 2011, has opened the door for research projects designed to develop renewable energy from gases, specifically methane, created by the decomposition of waste in landfills. The use of these gases to produce electricity has had a lot of success in the past. The law is intended in a way to promote innovative ways to produce more methane using the bioreactor technology to further advance the methane production abilities of landfills.
Michigan landfills were required to have a secondary liner. Under the new rules, this requirement has been eliminated resulting in the expansion of landfills for methane production so energy can be generated. The outcome of this new law will result in a new source of renewable energy, the removal of methane from the atmosphere and the extension of landfills that incorporate bioreactor technology.
Nevertheless, there are opponents to House Bill 4875 also. The reason that Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act used to require that the landfill have a secondary liner was due to past experiences with leaking landfills. A number of people have argued that there was not an adequate amount of information to justify the elimination of the requirement. Although the price of a secondary liner might be costly, the expenses for water pollution and putting the public's health at risk can possibly be more expensive.
All in all, I believe that this new legislation is a positive move in the right direction for the great State of Michigan. By converting the methane gas into energy, there will be enough electricity to power thousands of homes and businesses as well as bringing Michigan in line with federal standards for landfill research development projects. Following the enactment of House Bill 4875, Representative LaFontaine has said, "Smiths Creek Landfill has made incredible progress with the technology they've created. With this legislation, the potential of this type of gas-to-energy project will be opened up to landfills statewide, making Michigan extremely competitive in the field of alternative energy production."