No tax, for now

LATROBE City has predicted it will avoid a carbon tax liability next year, which could be incurred through methane gas emissions created at its landfill site.

However due to the growing size of the Hyland Highway Landfill site, it remains unclear how long it will continue to avoid liability and a potential pass-down to ratepayers through garbage collection rates.

Under the Federal Government’s carbon pricing scheme, companies which emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (or equivalent) will be charged $23 per tonne emitted over the threshold in the next financial year.

However, the government announced recently landfills would be exempt until the 2013-14 financial year.

Latrobe City Council manager natural environment sustainability Deirdre Griepsma said council had been calculating potential liability for the past two years.

Ms Griepsma said it did not anticipate methane emissions at the Hyland Highway Landfill to surpass the liable threshold for “at least another 10 years”.

While the Hyland site currently calculates potential gas emissions on tonnes of waste received, Ms Griepsma said measuring actual emissions was impossible due to the relatively “young age” of the site, and could not be captured and quantified until the current section of waste was capped and contained; a process which would begin within the next 12 months.

However, Gippsland Regional Waste Management Group, which assists council to develop sustainable waste management practices, estimated the Hyland site was “very close” to the liable emission threshold.

GRWMG managing director Matthew Peake said while it was unlikely the Hyland site would be liable in the first year, without measures in place to cut emissions, he could expect it to become liable in the “next couple of years”.

“It is by no means simple to understand what’s likely to happen here; (landfills) are very different to power generators that emit immediately, where emissions come out of the stack nice and linear,” Mr Peake said.

“We are talking about organic waste; it creates an emission bell curve that is skewed to the front end; within a few years of decomposition, emissions will ramp up to a peak and with a reasonably long tailing, where it can take 60 years for gasses to dissipate.”

Due to a 2007 works approval, the Hyland site is required to install a gas flare, which burns methane emissions into a lower emitting by-product which Mr Peake said could reduce emissions well below the carbon tax threshold.

The Federal Government’s Clean Energy Regulator is due to identify landfill operator entities in June, which it has “reasonable grounds” to believe will be liable to pay the carbon tax in 2013/14.

Ms Griepsma said Latrobe City was unaware of any other activity in its current operations that would attract potential liability under the current carbon tax legislation.