Overview of the Climate Action Reserve: Opportunities for Landfill Operators

The Landfill Project Protocol, originally adopted in November of 2007, is currently on version 3.0 (adopted December of 2009). This protocol allows for crediting of the methane gas that is collected and destroyed from certain landfills.

Max DuBuisson

There is an active and growing market for carbon credits in the U.S., and landfill owners/operators need to be aware of the opportunities that this may present for their businesses. Though we do not yet have a nationwide cap-and-trade system, there is an active voluntary market for carbon credits (millions of dollars and millions of credits were traded in 2009) and momentum is gaining behind various proposals for compliance systems. It is only a matter of time before we have a national compliance program for greenhouse gas emissions, and this will likely include a large market for offset credits.

Project Protocols

The Climate Action Reserve is a non-profit, national offsets program working to ensure integrity, transparency and financial value in the U.S. carbon market. It does this by establishing regulatory-quality standards for the development, quantification and verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction projects in North America; issuing carbon offset credits known as Climate Reserve Tonnes (CRT) generated from such projects; and tracking the transaction of credits over time in a transparent, publicly-accessible system. Adherence to the Reserve’s high standards ensures that emissions reductions associated with projects are real, permanent and additional, thereby instilling confidence in the environmental benefit, credibility and efficiency of the U.S. carbon market.

The Reserve’s project protocols are developed in an open, stakeholder-driven process, ensuring the creation of uniform standards with wide applicability and acceptance, and building on the best practices from existing methodologies when available. The Landfill Project Protocol was originally adopted in November of 2007, and is currently on version 3.0 (adopted December of 2009). This protocol allows for crediting of the collection and destruction of methane from landfill gas (LFG) at certain landfills. Methane is a potent GHG, 21 times more potent than CO2. Thus, each metric ton of reductions in methane emissions results in 21 offset credits.

As of mid-January 2010, 123 landfills have been submitted to the Reserve for consideration. Of these, 20 have successfully completed the verification process and have received credits, and 82 have been publicly listed and are now seeking verification. The Reserve has issued 1,212,088 landfill CRTs (one CRT is equal to one metric ton of CO2e).

Is Your Landfill Eligible?

There are a few basic eligibility requirements for every offset project protocol.

  • Location: Landfills must be located in the U.S. or its territories (there is a separate protocol available for landfills located in Mexico).

  • Start date: You must submit your paperwork no later than six months after the day your gas collection and destruction system became operational.

  • Regulatory test: The installation of your active LFG system must not have been required by any legally-binding mandate, be it local, state or federal. If you are subject to NSPS/EG (New Source Performance Standards and Emission Guidelines) under the — USEPA, your eligibility ends on the date that the system is mandated to be installed.

  • Performance standard: Landfills must install an active gas collection system, and the ultimate fate of the methane must be destruction. This includes both onsite destruction (flares, generators, turbines, fuel cells) and offsite destruction (pipeline, vehicle fuel). If there was any pre-existing passive destruction occurring on the landfill, this must be deducted from the gas destroyed in the active system going forward.

  • Regulatory compliance: Your landfill must also be in compliance all other applicable regulations in order to receive credits.

How Does the Process Work?

The process is very straightforward. Landfill operators may want to develop the carbon credits themselves, or they may want to work through a carbon project developer. The first step is to open an account with the Climate Action Reserve and submit your paperwork. This includes a Landfill Project Submission Form and an Attestation of Title to the carbon credits. If your project is eligible, it will then be publicly listed in the Reserve’s project registry. A landfill is eligible to receive carbon credits for 10 years from their start date, or up until the date they fail the regulatory test, whichever is first.

The next step is verification of the gas destruction. There are a number of consulting firms that are approved verification bodies. Verification must occur at least once every 12 months, but you may have it done more frequently if you would like to earn CRTs more often. After you have destroyed the methane, you will calculate your total based on the guidance in the protocol. The verifier will then visit your landfill and go through your data to check your calculations. If they agree with your total then they will submit the verification report and opinion to the Reserve for approval, after which the CRTs will be credited into your account.

Successful verification relies on clean, complete, and accurate data keeping at the landfill. The protocol requires that you meter the flow of LFG to each destruction device in the system, as well as the methane concentration (corrected for temperature and pressure). There are also requirements that must be followed regarding equipment calibration, inspection, cleaning, etc. Each project must have a monitoring plan detailing how you will be recording and storing your data.

How to Get Started

If you are considering installing an active LFG system and seeking carbon credits, the first thing you should do is read the Landfill Project Protocol v3.0. It is available for download from at Make sure you design your system and procedures to meet all the necessary monitoring and metering requirements so that you are not missing any data when it is time for verification. The Reserve also offers a free, introductory Webinar during the first week of each month; look for it on the Events Calendar (

An average-sized landfill can easily generate tens of thousands of CRTs each year, which can be a significant source of revenue to help defray the capital costs of installing the LFG system. Depending on your location and conditions, there may also be opportunities for revenues from electricity or gas sales. There are numerous consultants and project developers working on these projects around the country. A list of all of the companies that are participating in the Reserve program, as well as projects that have been accepted, is available at From the list of projects, you can also view the documentation for other landfills in the program and see what information is required to submit your own project.

Max DuBuisson is the Business Development Associatefor the Climate Action Reserve. Max works on the growth and development of the Reserve through public outreach. He serves as a source for inquiries and information for interested stakeholders, especially concerning methane destruction projects. Max has been with the Reserve since 2008. He can be reached at (213) 785-1233, e-mail [email protected] or visit for more information on all of the Reserve’s project protocols.


Waste Diversion Protocols

Organic Waste Digestion

These projects credit for avoided emissions by diverting MSW food waste from landfills to an anaerobic digester. They can also include certain agro-industrial wastewater streams or livestock manure co-digestion.


The Reserve began development of a composting protocol in December and expects to have it finished and adopted this summer. This protocol will give credit for MSW food waste diverted from landfills to composting facilities.