Lane County will start building facilities next year to capture and treat methane from wastewater, turning it into a renewable natural gas product. A new state law allows utilities to use it as an energy source despite it being a higher-cost resource.

The law, which Gov. Kate Brown signed at the end of July and takes effect Sunday, clears the way for natural gas distributors to use renewable natural gas in existing systems. Oregon public utilities are required to deliver service as cheaply as possible, a longtime barrier for using renewable natural gas.

Using renewable natural gas from waste products is more expensive than using fracked natural gas but is cleaner, according to the resource’s proponents. Renewable natural gas is, essentially, methane harvested from rotting food, livestock waste, wastewater and other sources. That gas then can be injected into current natural gas infrastructure and used to power homes, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel natural gas.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, a Eugene, Springfield and Lane County partnership, may begin adding renewable natural gas to that distributor’s system by 2021 following the construction of a facility that will harvest methane from wastewater. “We generate it locally,” said Springfield Managing Civil Engineer Josh Newman.

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