Southern California is now in month three of one of the country’s worst environmental disasters. In October 2015, a natural gas storage well operated by SoCal Gas sprung a massive leak hundreds of feet underground, releasing nearly 1,400 tons of gas into the air each day at its peak. Thousands of local residents impacted by noxious fumes and oily mist have been evacuated from the communities around the Aliso Canyon storage field. Because the leak is so large and technically complex, SoCal Gas has been working for months to fix it – so far without success.
In January, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency because of the ongoing leak. In addition to addressing the immediate disaster at Aliso Canyon, Gov. Brown ordered emergency regulations for the state’s natural gas storage industry and has directed several state agencies and commissions to prepare and submit reports and propose how to prevent similar leaks at similar sites across the state. Read More
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John Quigley, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environment Protection, joins Cindy Dunn, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at a Facebook town hall event Jan. 19 to announce plans to regulate methane emissions from the state's oil and gas industry.
Pennsylvania leaders have a duty to protect Keystone residents from oil and gas pollution. Fortunately, Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection took an important step in that direction this week when they released a blueprint for cutting methane pollution from the natural gas industry.
“The goal here is to cover not only new sources of methane and VOC emissions [from oil and gas facilities], but also existing sources over time,” DEP Secretary John Quigley told hundreds of viewers during a live Facebook town hall event yesterday. “We want to have a comprehensive emissions program that is nation-leading. I think it’s the strongest set of provisions in the country, and I think the number two natural gas producing state in the nation should have the best regulations. That’s what we’re going to have in Pennsylvania.”
That’s a bold and laudable commitment – one that deserves our support to help make sure the promise becomes reality. Read More
One of the country’s largest leaks ever of natural gas, which is primarily made up of the potent greenhouse gas methane, has been going on in California’s Aliso Canyon for over a month. The volume that’s been leaking has been staggering—and the impacts to local residents severe enough to warrant relocating hundreds of families.
Major disasters like the one unfolding in Aliso Canyon have a tendency to grab our attention because the impacts are so acute and can be immediately documented—from the volume of methane that’s leaked (latest climate impacts estimate: equivalent to driving 160,000 cars/year) to the documented health impacts (bloody noses, headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea).
The Aliso Canyon leak, however, also provides us a good reminder of what communities across the U.S. who are close to oil and gas facilities have been increasingly concerned about—the ongoing environmental impact of air pollution that is being released into their neighborhoods, and the safety of those operations. Most of the pollution is invisible to the naked eye, but infrared cameras are bringing the problem into sharper focus, and with that a louder call for action and oversight by federal officials. EPA estimates that today, methane leaks from onshore oil and gas development is contributing climate impacts equivalent to driving nearly 130 million cars annually. And their emissions are contributing to unhealthy air for residents living next door and downwind of this development. Read More
When operators pull oil out of the ground, it often comes up with copious amounts of natural gas. This “associated gas” can be captured and brought to market, creating an additional revenue source for operators. But if no gathering infrastructure or other methods of capture are deployed, operators either vent the gas to the atmosphere or burn it off with controlled flares. Venting results in the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Flaring results in troublesome emissions as well, including CO2 and hazardous air pollutants.
According to the Wyoming Oil and gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC), Wyoming’s oil and gas operators vented and flared more than five billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2014. Five billion cubic feet of gas that could be sold to generate taxes and royalties, heat homes and power machinery across the country, instead was wasted. Read More
In case you missed it, PBS NewsHour recently took a close look at an issue EDF has been deeply involved in: oil and gas methane emissions.
PBS captured what many across the country have experienced for years – frustration with a significant waste and pollution problem. U.S. oil and gas drillers emit millions of tons of methane into the air every year. This pollution increases global warming and deteriorates air quality. As impacted rancher Don Schreiber in Gobernador, New Mexico told the reporter, the problem is “sobering.” Read More
Wyoming has worked to build a reputation as a leader on strong, sensible requirements to limit air pollution from oil and gas development. The state was among the first to require measures to limit pollution from newly drilled oil and gas wells (so-called “green completions”) and has been diligent in recent years to create one of the nation’s best leak detection and repair programs in the Upper Green River Basin (UGRB), a portion of the state that had been plagued with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Historically, Wyoming hasn’t waited for federal regulations, it has helped blaze the trail and let others follow.
That is what makes the state’s proposal for new statewide oil and gas air quality requirements disappointing. Wyoming is now looking at ways to reduce oil and gas emissions statewide and the state’s Air Quality Advisory Board will consider new requirements at a hearing in Cheyenne tomorrow—but frequent inspections to find and fix leaks are completely absent from the proposal. This is a problem we hope the state will quickly solve. Read More
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