Roughly a year after federal prosecutors announced a settlement intended to slash toxic air pollution at a landfill gas-to-energy facility in northeastern Washtenaw County, Michigan regulators are reviewing permit applications for a new renewable natural gas plant at the site. The new facility would convert biogas produced from decaying waste into pipeline-quality natural gas for use as fuel for heavy-duty tracking fleets, according to a 2021 news release from OPAL Fuels, LLC, whose subsidiary Arbor Hills Energy, LLC owns the existing landfill gas plant at the Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Township.
The new plant would be one of the largest of its kind in the country by volume, according to the company. Building the new facility is one pathway the company could take under a 2021 federal consent decree stemming from alleged air pollution violations including unpermitted sulfur dioxide emissions, which prosecutors said can cause heart attacks, respiratory problems and premature death.
“There will necessarily be a significant reduction in the emissions of any toxic air contaminants as a result of this project,” reads an air permit application the company has submitted to Michigan regulators, received on Aug. 30. “The (renewable natural gas) plant is the best option for the community,” wrote The Conservancy Initiative, a local nonprofit formed in 2015 to fight expansion of the landfill that has pushed for environmental compliance, in a Sept. 6 update.