Sometimes We Get It Right: Sometimes we don’t. At issue is our publication of an opinion piece in our January/February 2011 Viewpoint column, “LFG: Some Essential Facts,” that runs counter to the scientific research on landfill gas emissions accepted by the majority of landfill experts. The crux of the concern is not so much whether fugitive emissions are fair game for debate, but the lack of scientific evidence supporting the opinions presented in this piece. At the bottom of this is the question as to whether MSW Management should have presented the piece at all.
Peter Anderson’s opinion in the January/February edition was one small piece of a very large and long-standing debate about the proper way to manage waste and the efficacy of landfill gas systems. It is unfortunate that another, opposing piece of the debate was not presented at the same time. Sometimes the purpose of trade magazines can be to further debate. To accomplish that, they must actually present opinions from more than one participant in that conversation.
As you will see here in our Letters-to-the-Editor department, we’ve received some comments questioning the soundness of our judgment, nearly of all of which cite sound reasons as to its unfitness to be included in what is considered the most respected trade journal in the MSW field.
So where does that leave us?
MSW Management erred in not including other viewpoints at the same time it presented Anderson's viewpoint, and, as editor, I have a responsibility to more closely oversee the editorial process for volunteered opinion pieces.
To the Editor:
I am appalled that the current issue of MSW Management, a journal I read to get informed about various waste management options, should publish Peter Anderson’s “LFG: Some Essential Facts.” I have researched the LFGTE issue for several years, keeping up with the recent peer-reviewed literature, and I find that this article has nothing to do with “facts.” Anderson manipulates and misquotes data, attacks experts, makes unsupported statements, and confuses readers, especially since his opinion piece contradicts many of the conclusions in another article appearing in the same issue of MSW Management.
Anderson’s article blatantly ignores recent data, purposely misquotes and manipulates sections of the IPCC report, and contains no evidence for its absurd conclusion that “only a trivial fraction of landfill gas is captured” at current LFGTE facilities. This article provides welcome ammunition for landfill opponents and seriously undermines the nation’s successful effort to utilize a source of renewable non-fossil fuel. LFGTE projects are supported and encouraged by the EPA, by the international scientific community, and by the nation’s major environmental organizations.
Honest debate is essential in the scientific community. But this article does not lend itself to honest debate. After checking the real facts, I hope your journal will retract Anderson’s opinion piece.
Caroline Snyder, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus/Rochester Institute of Technology
To the Editor:
I found Peter Anderson’s Viewpoint article (“LFG: Some Essential Facts”) in the Jan./Feb. 2011 MSW Management to be less than forthright, objective, or factual. Mr. Anderson’s factual tenets are flawed, as is his subsequent lambasting of Banister via the IPCC. His claim that escaping CH4 comes “at a time when we confront irreversible climate tipping points” flags his radical environmental position nicely. Those that are free of the leftist bias see no real evidence of anthropogenic climate change. I would assert the only thing that may be irreversible at this time is the far-left agenda to shove CO2 footprints down the throats of a free society. Searching for added evidence of Mr. Anderson’s extreme leftwing bias did not take long, to wit: his remarks of apparent glee at SUV owners on 6 Jan 1999 via (GRRN) SUV.
I would suggest to you that a more objective “viewpoint” would help maintain the credibility of your magazine if you avoid printing Mr. Anderson’s missives.
John Hartwell, PE, CHMM
LTC EN USA (Ret)
Much of Peter Anderson’s Viewpoint challenges the chapter on background, procedures, and technical conclusions on gas collection efficiency in the [ITALIC]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report (AR4), Working Group III (WGIII): Mitigation of Climate Change[ITALIC] (Bogner et al., 2007). The report was cooperatively written and edited by an international group of scientists nominated and approved through their respective national governments. This group included scientists from Finland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark, China, Japan, Indonesia, Sudan, Cuba, the US, and the UK.
IPCC reports must be strictly “policy neutral.” IPCC does not do original research, nor does it monitor climate change. The major function of the various IPCC writing groups is to rigorously assess the peer-reviewed literature and, in the case of WGIII, focus on policy options for climate change mitigation. However, IPCC reports are “policy neutral” in that the chapters discuss policy options, but do not, and in fact cannot, prescribe policy choices for national governments. Mr. Anderson’s involvement with this report was limited to the submission of review comments during one of the formal review stages.
Based on extensive discussion at LA (lead author) meetings, the LAs for the waste chapter of the AR4 WGIII concluded that a fair approach would be to simply cite the recovery range found in the literature. Those published numbers range from the low percentages calculated in the older Oonk and Boom report (1995), which did not involve field measurements, and the much higher percentages based on extensive field measurements in the newer Spokas et al. (2006) paper.
The IPCC report cites the range. Quoting from Bogner et al. (2007), p. 600: “The implementation of an active landfill gas extraction system using vertical wells or horizontal collectors is the single most important mitigation measure to reduce emissions. Intensive field studies of the methane mass balance at cells with a variety of design and management practices have shown that greater than 90% recovery can be achieved at cells with final cover and an efficient gas extraction system (Spokas et al., 2006). Some sites may have less efficient or only partial gas extraction systems, and there are fugitive emissions prior to and after the implementation of active gas extraction; thus, “lifetime” recovery efficiencies may be as low as 20% (Oonk and Boom, 1995).” MSW
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