The city of Billings stands to make at least $20 million over 40 years after signing a deal with Montana-Dakota Utilities to sell methane from the city landfill. With the deal, the city turns a liability into an asset.
But some are disappointed that the city gave away what could be millions of dollars in energy credits to MDU – credits that may be worth more than the gas itself.
“It’s as if you’re selling a house without knowing the value of house, and you didn’t know how many bedrooms the house had,” said Jeff Griffin, a Billings environmental consultant who tried, beginning in April, to persuade the city to change the deal. Griffin has worked for the United Nations and is certified as a carbon auditor for a company based in Germany. He runs a consulting business in Billings and is finding more work in energy credits.
But city officials and others in the waste business are quick to point out that the carbon market is speculative and untested, and few outside that business truly understand what’s going on.
“It is a commodity market, and I simply don’t have the staff to do that,” City Administrator Tina Volek said. “We have a project that will bring us an estimated $500,000 a year. We’re expecting revenue from that, and we’re not investing anything.”