Every signal from the Trump Administration – from pledging to kill the Clean Power Plan, to the recent executive orders that order EPA to begin reversing important climate protections, to the massive proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency– indicate that the United States government is keen to undo some of the fundamental environmental protections that are critical to our health and prosperity. And yet, through these signals, California is moving forward with sensible policies that will hold oil and gas companies accountable for their operations, and their pollution. Read More »
As he settles into his final two years as California’s longest-serving Governor, Jerry Brown has limited time to finalize his energy and climate policy legacy. Meanwhile, with a new crop of state legislators and two new appointees at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California has a fresh set of actors who will be actively questioning the way things are — and the way things should be.
While there are a lot of economic sectors that will be under the microscope for the next two years, for natural gas policy, these five key opportunities will likely have the most relevance. Read More »
After months of speculation, the California agency in charge of setting standards for oil and gas operations (“DOGGR”) this week announced a pair of meetings to take public comment on the reopening of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility.
This development stems from legislation passed in 2016 (SB 380), and is expected to be among the final steps before Southern California Gas Corporation (SoCalGas) is allowed to restart limited use of the facility. So, while it’s critical for the state to get its decisions right for safety and near-term electric reliability related to Aliso, to fully comply with SB 380, the decisions being made also need to take into account the larger issues facing California today. Read More »
When the gusher of methane pouring out of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field was discovered last October 23, it almost instantly transformed the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch into the site of one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent history. It would ultimately take four months to stop the massive leak. According to a new report released today, it pumped nearly 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.
Now, a year later, the question: What’s been done to fix the problem, and to prevent future blowouts – either at Aliso Canyon, or the 400 similar facilities in more than 30 states? The answer is, while there’s been some progress, it’s not nearly enough.
After passing the State Assembly Appropriations committee on Wednesday, a little known bill – SB 1441 – is headed for the assembly floor, which is slated to deliver big benefits for consumers and the environment. Not only will the bill create a strong market driver for utilities to operate tighter infrastructure and save California consumers tens of millions of dollars per year, the simple yet innovative approach it takes can chart a course for curbing methane leaks across the industry.
But first, a little context.
As recent as a couple years ago, non-hazardous natural gas leaks and venting were a commonly accepted occurrence across gas utility infrastructure. As long as a leak or a venting wasn’t likely to ignite, utilities could let it go – with many small persistent leaks lasting for decades. And though it sounds hard to believe, gas utilities continuously collect money from consumers through their gas bills to cover the amount of gas utilities lose, even though they also collect money from those same ratepayers to upgrade pipes. This market design works only to protect utilities – giving them money to fix leaks while also covering them if they don’t. Read More »
As a major producer and consumer of oil and gas, California can set the bar for reducing methane leaks. And today, the Golden State showed it’s up to the challenge, making a critical change in proposed rules aimed at cutting methane pollution from oil and gas wells, pipelines and equipment of the like – now putting California firmly on the path to adopt the nation’s strongest methane controls anywhere.
This matters because methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a common byproduct of oil production, is a damaging greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
A big lesson-learned from the months-long, mega-gas leak at Aliso Canyon, and the similarly tragic eight month gas leak in Arvin, CA in 2014, is that oil and gas infrastructure can fail. While leaks the size of Aliso Canyon are rare, it’s an example of the risk we face daily as this infrastructure ages, and a sobering reminder of how important it is to have protections that ensure methane stays in the pipelines—and not in our air. Read More »