RUBBISH dump owners are accusing the Gillard government of performing a last-minute backflip on its carbon credits scheme and wasting the chance to cut up to 1 million tonnes of greenhouse from Australia's annual emissions.
The change could also leave the landfill gas generation sector - which collects methane arising from rubbish tips and burns it to create clean electricity - facing a financial hit.
The government yesterday released the rules on its Carbon Farming Initiative for landfill - a scheme under which rubbish dumps can earn carbon credits by burning methane for electricity or ''flaring'' it to produce less potent carbon dioxide.
Dump owners say they had been given every indication from the government that older gas capturing systems on rubbish dumps would be eligible for the credits, which can be used to offset carbon tax liabilities or sold for profit.
But they now say about 10 older facilities appear to be ineligible. These include a landfill gas generator in Clayton where government ministers launched the scheme in December.
Max Spedding, secretary of the Australian Landfill Owners Association, said the backflip penalised dump operators who had done the right thing and got in early to create green power.
A government statement last August said the scheme would ''ensure that early movers who have already adopted more sustainable practice are eligible to participate in the scheme''.
Parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus said 50 landfill gas projects around Australia will earn carbon credits, while just eight older sites were under question. He said the government was prepared to listen to their case for deserving taxpayers' money.