Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
A LaGrange methane-harvesting program sparked a collaboration between CIFAL Atlanta and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will take the two agencies to China and South America in 2007.
Although CIFAL and the EPA are still deciding which cities to target, the agencies plan to teach Chinese and South American municipal officials to use methane emitted from landfills as an energy source for local businesses.
“To us, CIFAL seemed like a great partner. They have the communication with mayors that we don’t have, and we have the expertise that they don’t have,” said Victoria Ludwig, program manager with EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program in Washington.
CIFAL first approached EPA to work on a June conference in LaGrange that highlighted the city’s public-private methane harvesting program with Atlanta-based carpet manufacturer Interface Inc.
Working on the conference was a benefit to EPA, although the agency will not use the LaGrange model in China or South America, choosing instead to localize methane-harvesting conferences to each city, Ms. Ludwig said.
From the LaGrange conference, however, EPA was able to work with CIFAL, gain access to southeastern communities and draw attention to an important harvesting program, she explained.
“LaGrange is unique. It’s a small project that is an efficient coordination between the town of LaGrange and two carpet manufacturers who are the end-users of the methane,” Ms. Ludwig said, noting that most methane harvesting programs use a third-party facilitator.
The LaGrange project, which captures methane from a municipal landfill and redistributes it directly to manufacturing facilities for energy use, was first developed by Interface in 2003. But Milliken & Co., another carpet manufacturer with facilities in LaGrange, began participating in the methane program shortly after it was implemented in 2005.
Capturing methane for energy use creates a revenue for the city of LaGrange and provides the companies with an energy source that is now cheaper than using natural gas, according to Dave Gustashaw, an Interface engineer who started the project.
While implementing the program cost the city of LaGrange and Interface some $2.5 to $3 million, Mr. Gustashaw told GlobalAtlanta that he expects both the city and Interface to have recovered their investment by 2010.
Twenty times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, methane is also an important source of energy. EPA has encouraged communities and businesses to collect the gas for energy purposes since it started the methane outreach program in 1994.
CIFAL Atlanta is a United Nations agency charged with training municipal officials in the Western Hemisphere and has developed contacts in North and South America by encouraging socioeconomic development in urban areas.
For more information, contact Jennifer Wilson, CIFAL program coordinator for the LaGrange conference, at (404) 957-1923.
To learn more about the EPA’s methane outreach program, visit http://www.epa.gov/methane/ or contact Ms. Ludwig at email@example.com.