Author Archives: Tim O'Connor

NASA helped locate over 300 methane hot spots across California

Last week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC) released interim results from a NASA study that offers the most clear-eyed assessment yet of California’s largest individual sources of methane pollution.

Methane – a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about a quarter of global warming – is emitted from several different sources, including refineries, landfills, dairy farms, and oil and gas facilities. This new study identifies 329 of the largest pollution sources and offers insights to policy makers about opportunities for reducing these emissions.

Here are four key takeaways from the latest research.

California must focus on super emitters to cut pollution

Previous studies in other regions have shown that when it comes to methane, a small set of high-emitting sites, known as “super emitters” tend to be responsible for a significant amount of total emissions. The new CARB study suggests the same is likely occurring in California (measurements of actual amounts of the methane will be released in the second phase of the project next year).  Many times these super emitters occur randomly, such as when a major piece of equipment breaks and releases a large amount of pollution. Other times, as this study shows, these sites can be landfills, dairy farms, and refineries that simply release a lot of pollution.  Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Californians benefit from continuous pollution monitoring at oil and gas sites

Sophia Brewer, Oil and Gas Intern, contributed to this article.

Since the 1892 discovery of oil in California, the oil and gas industry has been a major economic engine and energy supplier for the state. Although this oil and gas production may be broken down into dollars and barrels, it doesn’t tell the story of the potential impact of drilling activity on the lives of the people in Los Angeles and the Central Valley who live right next to these operations.

While some production sites may be meeting stringent operational and environmental standards, others may not –there simply isn’t data to discern which is which – and that is where monitoring comes in. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Whether it’s safe or not, do we need Aliso Canyon?

In early 2016, southern California awoke to the harsh reality that reliable operation of the regional energy system might be tied to a single aging natural gas storage field called Aliso Canyon, where a catastrophic blowout that started the previous October was not closed until February. So while Southern California Gas Company got to work to repair the facility, several government and private institutions also went to work assessing whether the facility was actually needed in the first place.

Last week multiple state agencies issued a verdict that Aliso Canyon is now safe, and giving the green light to increase the gas stored in it on a limited basis. The decision caused an outcry from nearby residents, but it should also be a concern for utility customers throughout the region.

But what if we don’t need the facility at all? Why take the risk? The latest analysis strongly suggests we don’t have to. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

States to Trump: We’re not backing down on climate, clean air

Last week the California Air Resources Board unanimously voted to finalize new regulations to reduce oil and gas methane emissions. This is the first major environmental regulation that has been issued since the new Administration took office, and sends a clear message that states aren’t going to take the new administrations attacks on the environment lying down.

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 »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Five Far Reaching Opportunities to Modernize California Natural Gas Policy

top5As 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 »

Posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Gas to Clean, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Aliso Canyon Decisions Must Be About More Than Just Near-Term Safety

openclosedAfter 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 »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed
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