Energy Exchange

New study finds elevated health risks due to pollution from oil and gas activity in Colorado

By Ananya Roy and Tammy Thompson

As production of oil and gas in the United States has expanded, it’s no longer uncommon to see rigs and well pads nestled in communities. For example, Weld County in Colorado ranked fourth in the nation for population growth in 2017, and has issued thousands of new permits for oil and gas extraction in the past few years. Emissions from the intensive energy development sprouting along highways, in fields and within sight of homes, playgrounds and school yards has led to concerns about rising pollution from this industry and the subsequent health risks.

Communities are concerned about all of the emissions from these operations but focus on the brew of volatile organic compounds that include benzene, toluene and ethyl benzene, since some are known carcinogens or have established impacts on the brain, lungs and blood. VOC emissions, however, vary considerably between different processes. Well sites and changing weather conditions either spread or concentrate the pollution over different distances and directions, suggesting that intermittent measurement campaigns are inadequate to capture population exposures and risks.

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Posted in Air Quality, Colorado, Methane / Comments are closed

Two years after Hurricane Maria, community leader stresses the need for long-lasting solutions

Cristobal Jimenez

Cristobal Jimenez is a community leader in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He is one of the many survivors of Hurricane Maria. Recently, Cristobal and members of his community have been working to find long-lasting solutions to their energy challenges, effective ways to address the needs of their families and preparations for the future in the wake of superstorms.

Below is an edited version of the conversation we had with him.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Puerto Rico / Comments are closed

EPA’s proposal to rollback methane rules ignores scientific evidence, will lead to 5 million tons of methane pollution

By Rosalie Winn and Jessica Christy

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to entirely eliminate regulation of methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. He also proposed removing all federal regulation for both methane and harmful volatile organic compounds from pipelines and other midstream facilities.

The proposal is an attempt to prevent any federal oversight of pollution from more than 850,000 older oil and gas facilities across the country, while removing additional safeguards for new sources in major swaths of the oil and gas supply chain.

The proposal targets previous rules EPA adopted to address air pollution from oil and gas facilities built or updated after 2015. These “new source” rules include commonsense requirements to cut both methane and VOC emissions across the upstream (production, gathering and boosting, and processing) and midstream (transmission and storage) segments of the oil and gas supply chain. While companies have been complying with these policies for years, the current proposal seeks to:

  1. Eliminate all methane standards across the oil and gas supply chain.
  2. Exempt facilities in the transmission and storage segment from any federal standards.
  3. Prevent any future regulation of pollution from “existing” sources built before 2015.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

New climate law, new opportunities for gas supply planning in New York

By Natalie Karas and Erin Murphy

New York recently enacted one of the most ambitious climate targets in the country. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires an 85% reduction in statewide greenhouse emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels). All state agencies — including the New York Public Service Commission, which oversees utility companies — must now assess whether every decision they issue will, or will not, interfere with those emissions goals.

Meeting this bold new standard will depend heavily on the state’s natural gas utilities. That’s because residential and commercial heating are major contributors to the state’s greenhouse gas footprint. Unfortunately, utility companies today are continuing to rely on old assumptions, programs and ideas when making multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments that will last for decades. If allowed to continue, these investments will significantly hinder the state from meeting its climate goals, while locking in expensive and potentially unnecessary infrastructure for decades to come.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, New York / Comments are closed

Pipeline damage prevention: A win-win for safety and the environment

By Mishal Thadani, Director of Market Development and Policy, Urbint

Every year in the United States, 400,000 excavation projects damage underground infrastructure like water and gas pipes and electric and cable lines. A strategic mix of best practices, good policy and artificial intelligence will drive that number down.

One of the advantages of burying critical infrastructure underground is that it keeps it safely away from people, cars and other things that could cause damage. Though unaffected by most day-to-day human activity, its concealment renders it highly susceptible to excavation damage like road work and construction. Not only can the damage be expensive and inconvenient, it can create safety and environmental threats for local communities.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration estimates that excavation damage caused more than 800,000 leaks on distribution pipes over the last 10 years. For natural gas pipes in particular, reducing damage is an opportunity to improve local safety while simultaneously decreasing the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

New analysis shows golden opportunity for New Mexico to dramatically reduce oil and gas methane pollution

By Jon Goldstein and Hillary Hull

A new EDF analysis reveals that, over the next five years, New Mexico policymakers have the opportunity to eliminate up to 60% of methane emissions stemming from the oil and gas industry by implementing a suite of nationally leading controls.

Methane is a potent climate pollutant and the main ingredient in natural gas. Methane that escapes from oil and gas facilities is damaging to the climate and the state’s economy.

Our analysis finds that by implementing leading practices for methane capture, New Mexico can make a serious dent in its headline-making pollution problem, save more than $5 billion worth of natural gas and add more than $730 million to the state budget over the next decade. These measures will protect children’s health and improve education funding for the next generation of New Mexicans.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, New Mexico / Comments are closed