In response to the deadly natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to make pipelines safer. The regulations will go a long way toward safeguarding communities from the risks of natural gas explosions, but, if they’re done right, they could also protect the climate.
Natural gas is mostly methane – a potent climate pollutant, and reducing the amount of gas that leaks from pipelines also reduces emissions of methane. But there are aspects of the proposal that could result in an increase in methane emissions if proper action isn’t taken. The proposed safety measures require operators to conduct more testing to ensure that pipelines can handle high pressures of gas. Before this testing begins pipeline operators have to empty the pipes by blowing gas down the pipeline. Opponents to the rule say this would create a significant increase in methane emissions, but fortunately a recent study from a leading environmental consulting firm concluded otherwise. Read More »
New York City may not be the place that comes to mind when you think of clean air, but NYC has done tremendous work in improving air quality – and now our neighbors in upstate Westchester County are following suit.
Seeing the positive health impacts from the phase-out of highly polluting heating oil in NYC, the Westchester County Legislature yesterday approved a resolution to phase out No. 6 and No. 4 oil in their buildings over time – No. 6 heating oil by 2018, and No. 4 oil by 2020.
These oils emit fine particular matter (PM2.5) and harmful chemicals like sulfur dioxide. When burned, they can become lodged in the lungs and worsen respiratory and cardiovascular issues. There were only a few hundred such buildings in Westchester county – compared to thousands in NYC – but that was still too many for Westchester officials to rest on their laurels. The county legislature went to work cleaning their air, and that work is paying off. Read More »
What do economists and environmentalists have in common? When it comes to Texas’ energy future, more than you may think.
According to a new study from the Brattle Group, a reputable, national economics consulting firm with extensive experience in Texas’ electricity sector, market forces are leading to coal’s rapid decline in the Lone Star State. Moreover, rapidly-growing cleaner electricity sources like natural gas and renewable energy will be able to entirely meet Texas’ additional power needs – without increasing electric bills. We couldn’t agree more.
That said, we’re confident the impacts are going to be even more powerful in terms of Texas’ wind, solar, and energy efficiency. And the latest report from Texas’ main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), continues to support that expectation. Read More »
By: John Hall, Texas state director, clean energy, and Colin Leyden, senior manager, state regulatory & legislative affairs – natural gas
When it comes to clean air and clean energy, Texas cities – and their encompassing counties – know what’s good for them.
San Antonio’s Bexar County Commissioners, for example, recently approved a resolution supporting the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan.
Bexar County includes the City of San Antonio and adjoining areas. By endorsing the plan, the broader San Antonio community joins Texas’ largest cities Houston and Dallas, whose mayors are also supporting the sensible, cost-effective clean air measure. (In fact, Houston and Dallas filed an amicus brief together with a large coalition of cities to support the Clean Power Plan in court).
All of this comes in the face of staunch opposition from Texas state leaders, who have used taxpayers’ money to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over these safeguards. Meanwhile, Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff and commissioners passed the resolution unanimously, meaning members from both sides of the aisle put politics aside and voted for healthier air for our communities and families. Read More »
Drive by an oil or gas well pad, and it may not look like much — a couple of storage tanks, some pipes, maybe a see-sawing pump jack. But fly over one of these facilities with an infrared camera and you might see something different: methane pollution.
We did exactly that for a new study accepted today in Environmental Science and Technology. In the largest sample size of any methane emissions study to date, we hired one of the nation’s most experienced leak detection companies to fly a helicopter over 8,000 well pads in seven regions across the country using infrared technology to capture images of methane and other pollutants. The goal was to better characterize the prevalence of “super emitters” – the large, enigmatic sources responsible for a big portion of industry’s methane pollution – so we could figure out how to stop them.
Ongoing fallout from the catastrophic failure at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility is exposing a critical weakness in the state’s energy system. Overdependence on natural gas – and on one provider of that gas – means we don’t have the flexibility we need to cope if things go wrong. And now that they have gone wrong, because of SoCalGas’ mismanagement of the Aliso Canyon storage facility, a group of state agencies says the region could be facing power shortages this summer as a result.
A new report released today by the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) describes the problem. While a separate report released by CEC, CPUC, CAISO and LADWP, begins to lay out the short-term response plan. (Some of the efforts already under way are documented here, here, and here). Read More »