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
If you live or have ever lived in a city, you are probably familiar with the feeling of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of a garbage truck as it makes its way down your street. Not the most pleasant sound to wake up to, sometimes made even worse by the sinking feeling when you realize you’ve forgotten to put the trash out on the curb the night before.
Now, what if you learned that noisy, polluting garbage trucks might soon be a thing of the past? And, what if phasing out these trucks saved your local garbage company money in the process?
A garbage truck revolution might sound too good to be true for some, but for Wrightspeed, a San Jose-based company founded by Tesla cofounder Ian Wright, it might be right around the corner. The company is developing a technology that will allow medium and heavy-duty truck owners to retrofit their existing fleet and turn their trucks into range-extended electric vehicles. This means companies can keep their old trucks while making them cleaner, more gas efficient, and virtually silent. Since old heavy duty trucks also happen to be some of the dirtiest vehicles on the road, the Wrightspeed model can be good for public health, cutting costly greenhouse gas pollution and harmful particulate matter emissions. Read More
Robert Parkhurst was in Los Angeles yesterday speaking at a conference on Navigating the American Carbon World. His panel discussed the “Future Offset Supply.”
California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order this week ramping up the state’s already ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goal, setting a new
target to reduce emissions by 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2030.
“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached — for this generation and generations to come.” – California Governor Jerry Brown
This new target is a timely and significant step in securing a more resilient future for California, which is currently experiencing one of the most severe droughts in the state’s history. But it’s a tall order – and one that will require an array of aggressive strategies across all sectors.
Fortunately, crop-based farmers are well-positioned to help.
A new sector at play
In his remarks at the North American Carbon World conference, Governor Brown stated that we must reduce the release of methane and “manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon.” That’s good news because, for the first time this year, farmers will have the opportunity to earn additional revenue by reducing emissions generated through rice cultivation. 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
By: Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid
There’s something remarkable happening in the city of Los Angeles, you can feel it in the air – and it’s definitely not the country’s worst pollution or the record-breaking heat – it’s the winds of change. Los Angeles is in the process of reinventing itself from a dystopian vision of traffic jams and unbreathable air into an urban leader in sustainability.
Last week L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a bold new plan (pLAn) to revolutionize sustainability in Los Angeles, including taking a bite of the big enchilada responsible for the most air pollution that gets in our lungs and greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change – the transportation sector. Mobile sources (think diesel trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, and cars) account for 90 percent of Southern California’s harmful air pollution. Statewide, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of the state’s climate change pollution every year.
While some progress has been made – the number of non-attainment days (days when an area doesn’t meet the federal air quality standard) has decreased dramatically since the 1990s and the Port of Los Angeles has reduced diesel particulate matter by 80 percent since 2005 – there are still huge clean air disparities. We know the dirtiest zip codes in L.A. are also the ones with a disproportionately large amount of low-income communities and people of color. We cannot run a victory lap on this issue until EVERYONE in L.A. can safely get around the city and breathe healthy air at the same time. Read More