Today, a group of major investors from across the country, who manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets, issued a letter calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Among them are California’s two biggest retirement funds – CalPERS and CalSTERS, which together manage nearly $500 billion in funds on behalf of approximately one and a half million members.
The powerful statement issued by the group of investors calls out the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability, saying that it compelled them to support action on the issue to avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”
California’s Leadership Role
Although the investors’ letter focuses on national rules, the relevance to California cannot be overlooked as the state has, over the past year, taken a leadership position on regulating harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations. For example, California is currently developing new rules at the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and a new statewide plan and regulations are being developed at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production. Read More
Earlier this year in Oregon, as they did in California several years ago, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), together with American Trucking Alliance (ATA) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), filed a federal lawsuit to try and derail a cutting-edge, scientifically-based, and legally sound clean fuel standard. Not discouraged by their recent losses challenging California’s clean fuels program (the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have proceeded with nearly identical constitutional law arguments – simply recycling issues and claims that were rejected many months ago.
Like the California LCFS, the Oregon Clean Fuels Program reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by requiring fuel sold in state to have reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Compliance is based on the schedule developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection and designed to spur innovation in the fuel sector, as the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard has already done. The fuels program itself does not choose a formula for carbon reduction, but allows the market to find the best path forward.
A significant portion of Oregon’s climate pollution comes from the use of gasoline and diesel in transportation, as it does in many other U.S. states, and it’s high time for Oregonians to have access to cleaner burning, lower carbon alternative fuels. Once in use, these alternatives not only cut climate pollution, they also deliver reduced emissions of multiple air contaminants that damage the health of the public while also improving energy security. In light of these substantial benefits to the people and economy of Oregon, on March 12, 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill passed by the state legislature that removes the sunset date established in the 2009 law, allowing the Oregon Clean Fuels Program to move forward unimpeded. Read More
A great thing happened today for the environment and people of California. On the very day we released new maps measuring methane leaking from natural gas lines under Los Angeles-area streets, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) announced they would begin publishing their own maps showing the locations of leaks they find on their system.
It is a positive move that brings the company a big step closer to complying with the California law requiring them to publish not only the whereabouts of known leaks, but also the amount of methane escaping (which their newly announced maps do not). The public has a right to know where and how much harmful air pollution is being emitted by SoCalGas and any other company in California.
It is precisely the ability to accurately measure this leak rate quickly and cost effectively that makes Environmental Defense Fund’s mapping project so important for the natural gas utility industry, and it is the reason we have spent nearly three years working with Google Earth Outreach and researchers at Colorado State University to pilot this important technology (which we plan to make available on an open source basis).
Methane is a potent climate pollutant, packing 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. That means it is both a serious challenge, and a major opportunity to make a big dent in our total greenhouse emissions quickly. It’s also an issue that has mostly been ignored until recently. But now California is leading the country in requiring gas utilities to both measure and reduce the amount of methane they are leaking.
We commend SoCalGas for taking their first big step on the road to a solution.
Methane, refrigerants, black carbon – these are all pollutants that fall within a class of global warming agents known as SLCPs, or short-lived climate pollutants. As the name suggests, each has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than their better-known cousin, carbon dioxide (CO2) – but at the same time each is more potent (and works in different ways) than CO2 at warming the planet.
While SLCPs are a serious problem – responsible for nearly a quarter of the warming we’re experiencing today – cutting them is a huge opportunity to have almost an immediate benefit on slowing global climate change.
SLCPs and California Climate Policy
On April 30, Governor Jerry Brown announced new statewide targets for all greenhouse gas emissions – stating by executive order that all GHGs must be reduced to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. And, while many may be asking what more the state can do to cut more GHGs to meet the governor’s overall goal, on May 7 the Air Resources Board demonstrated that SLCP reductions are going to play a major role.
The new SLCP plan (released as a concept paper) didn’t receive a tremendous amount of fanfare. That lack of attention isn’t surprising – the SLCP plan after all is about a specific class of pollutants that is named by a rather obscure acronym. But, while the pomp of the governor’s executive order to cut all GHGs may have stolen the show on April 30, the May 7 plan may have just as much circumstance. Read More
Oil and gas geothermal fields in California, 2001
Methane from oil and gas operations is a serious climate risk, but also a ripe opportunity to make a huge dent in overall greenhouse emissions. This past week, one state took a big, and long-awaited, step to address the challenge.
While we wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to release draft federal methane rules this summer, the California Air Resources Board has just released a draft of the most comprehensive and forward thinking regulations to cut methane pollution from oil and gas yet.
While the April 22 proposal still needs work – such as in the area of how often equipment needs to be inspected and how best to reduce venting associated with well unloading and other activities – it’s a big and fundamental step in the right direction. It has the potential to deliver what the rest of the country needs – comprehensive equipment standards on new and existing sources for both oil and gas operations, and enhanced leak detection and repair requirements across the methane value chain.
But the benefits will be felt closest to home first. Read More
Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge at a press conference prior to the event
Los Angeles has a methane problem. Recent analysis by NASA and CalTech reveals that concentrations of methane in the Los Angeles basin are more than 60 percent higher than previously estimated. That’s a serious issue, because the invisible, heat-trapping gas packs a volatile climate change punch that is 84 times greater than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released.
The good news is that cutting methane pollution is a no-nonsense, can’t-lose proposition for fighting climate change. A dynamic discussion of solutions to the methane challenge brought nearly 200 people to a symposium in downtown Los Angeles last week.
The event was sponsored by EDF, in partnership with Climate Resolve and 11 other organizations representing diverse communities across California. Participants heard from climate change and methane experts from leading academic and research institutions about the science of methane pollution and what can be done to control it. The event drew officials from local, state, and federal agencies; utility representatives; business leaders; and a large array of concerned citizens.
NBC4 Los Angeles has a great story HERE.