Category Archives: Air Quality

High Methane Emissions in PA Reinforce Need for Strong Regulation

NatlGasFlares_142558250_Photos-RFNearly every month, for the past six months, a new scientific study has been released that provides new insights in to where methane, a highly potent, climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas, could be reduced across the entire natural gas system – the next six months will be no different. But this week, a new joint Purdue-Cornell study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed high emissions from drilling.

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Why America Needs Methane Policy

Methane policy

Source: Ron Dahlquist, Getty Images

Recently, the White House took a crucial stride to tackle methane pollution and natural gas waste. A key aspect of the strategy tasks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with enacting policy to reduce emissions from the oil and gas industry. Yesterday, EPA formally initiated its process, issuing five white papers focused on the biggest opportunities to cut the industry’s methane emissions. A final decision for action is expected later this year.

The Administration’s strategy to reduce methane emissions is an urgently needed development to slow the rate of climate change in our lifetimes. That’s because methane is an incredibly powerful and climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas. Whether you’re a concerned citizen who wants better protections from pollution, an individual compelled to see the U.S. do more to defend the people and places most vulnerable to global climate change, or an energy watchdog who wants to minimize needless waste—know that solutions are within our grasp.

Let’s look at a key piece of the process that the White House galvanized and that EPA has now started to carry forward. EPA’s white papers provide thorough, technical assessment of oil and gas methane emission sources and mitigation technologies, and they provide the factual basis to support policy action. The process requests feedback from the public and a range of expert stakeholders that will help EPA answer:  Is now the time to create a real methane policy for oil and gas? I am optimistic the answer will be a resounding “YES.”

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Also posted in Climate, Methane | Tagged | 1 Response

Leading States Tackling Fugitive Emissions Problem Head-On

statesYou see something once, and it might just be an anomaly. See it twice, maybe coincidence. But when you see it a third time – that’s a pattern. A trend.

With Ohio’s move last week to control “fugitive” emissions from oil and gas operations, that’s what we’re seeing – a rapid trend from leading states to control this major source of air and climate pollution. The Ohio rules come on heels of similar actions in Wyoming and Colorado. Together, these rules signal a fast-growing recognition that fugitive emissions are a problem that has to be dealt with, and that there are cost-effective ways we can slash these emissions today.

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Also posted in Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, Ohio, Wyoming | 1 Response, comments now closed

Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards: Double Dividends for Climate and Consumers

carbonelltomasThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a vital effort — accompanied by extensive outreach to states, power companies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders, including you — to establish the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

EPA was directed to take this critical step for public health and the environment in the President’s Climate Action Plan that was released last summer. Protective and well-designed Carbon Pollution Standards will provide important benefits for all Americans.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution, as well as significant amounts of mercury, acid gases, and pollutants that contribute to smog and particulates. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

A New Study Points to the Need for Improved Air Monitoring in Texas

Source: Dallas Observer

Source: Dallas Observer

A new study accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology takes a close look at the amount of certain air pollutants in the Barnett Shale, a booming oil and gas region in North Texas. Using public monitoring data from 2010-2011, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared air pollution levels measured at a monitor surrounded by oil and gas operations to the levels that would be expected based on available emission estimates. The result brings to light that the emissions inventory from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Barnett Shale does not add up to the observations.

There are numerous air pollutants that can be emitted by oil and natural gas development. Depending on the local composition of the produced gas, emissions can often include volatile organic compounds (VOC, such as propane, butane, pentane, etc.) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog), and toxic air pollutants like benzene and hexane that are directly hazardous to human health. Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas catching lots of attention these days, is another powerful pollutant associated with these operations. Unlike the pollutants listed above, methane directly affects the health of our climate rather than human health. Fortunately, available technologies designed to capture methane are also effective in reducing these other pollutants. However, methane controls alone may not ensure that local air quality concerns are addressed – these require special attention. Read More »

Also posted in Natural Gas, Texas | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Latest EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory May Not Reflect Full Scope of Oil and Gas Emissions

david-lyon-287x377The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its draft inventory of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Reporting 2012 data, the inventory estimates methane emissions coming from natural gas and petroleum systems at around 7.6 million metric tons – that’s enough natural gas to provide energy to over 7 million homes annually. This new estimate when compared with last year’s report, which estimates emissions for the 2011 calendar year, shows overall methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems are 1.2 percent lower. Although this seems like good news, the new data is no cause for complacency, as it’s important to understand the cause of the changes which requires closer examination.

The draft inventory introduces some new methodological changes that reduce estimated emissions from previous years. The primary change was driven by the way EPA estimates emissions from gas well completions and workovers, the steps that follow hydraulic fracturing and clear liquids and sand from the well before production begins. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, General, Methane, Natural Gas | 1 Response, comments now closed

Will Texas Step Up to the Plate on Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards?

Coal-Plant-225x3001A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about energy efficiency and the Clean Air Act section 111(d) provisions in anticipation of the SPEER Second Annual Summit, a gathering of top energy efficiency industry leaders from Texas and Oklahoma. At the Summit, I co-led a session on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) push to regulate power plant emissions. Session attendees agreed that Texas would be an unlikely leader in developing innovative ways to comply with carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

This is a missed opportunity on Texas’ part, as states will get the first crack at drafting plans to comply with new federal standards. This is an important opportunity because individual states are in the best position to craft frameworks that enable maximum flexibility and are appropriately tailored to local circumstances. So, this begs the question: is there an alternative, more constructive path that is most beneficial to Texas? Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Texas | Tagged , | Comments closed

Practical Air Pollution Controls Even the Oil and Gas Industry Can't Deny

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

methane_animation_still-1_0Everyone knows that if you want your kids to grow up strong and healthy, they need to eat their vegetables. But as any parent knows, it’s easier said than done. That’s why in my house, there is a rule: you can’t have any dessert until you eat your vegetables.

Now, of course, my kids like to argue with me and my wife about exactly how many vegetables they have to eat and whether they can reach into the fridge and select a different vegetable if they don’t like the one she or I cooked that night. That’s okay. We like to encourage creative problem solving. But there’s no getting around the rule. You must eat your vegetables.

As I see it, methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is a lot like kids and vegetables. Reducing it is good for them, but we have to have a rule that requires them to do it. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Final Order from NYPSC on Con Edison Rate Case Reveals Especially Encouraging Language on Climate Change Directives

By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney

Source: Iwan Baan

Source: Iwan Baan

In Tuesday’s blog post, we discussed the recently concluded Con Edison rate case, its context, and its significance in advancing clean energy and grid resilience in New York. Today, we take a closer look at the final Order posted last Friday by the New York State Public Service Commission (the Commission) to uncover some of the more encouraging outcomes buried in this 300+ page document:

  • Con Edison agreed to various measures that allow for more distributed generation, i.e. on-site power generation, such as combined heat and power, rather than relying solely on power generation and distribution from the traditional, centralized grid. For example, Con Edison agreed to pay for some fault current mitigation, which enables distributed generation to be connected to portions of Con Edison’s grid where it would otherwise be prohibited, and agreed to develop an implementation plan for a microgrid pilot. Additionally, Con Edison agreed to treat customer-sited projects, including distributed generation, as integral parts of its system by considering them in its 24-month planning horizon. Because some distributed generation can operate in an ‘islanded’ mode, or separate from the main grid, and can thus continue operating in a power outage, distributed generation can play a critical role in improving resilience. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Electric Vehicles, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Comments closed

Critical Decision Expected Tomorrow in Colorado on Clean Air Rule

Day 4 of the ongoing hearings on a groundbreaking proposal to reduce air and climate pollution from oil and gas operations in Colorado saw Team EDF pushing back on claims opposition groups have made to try to weaken the proposal.

Leading companies Noble, Anadarko, Encana and DCP also put on strong cases, using their own operational data to show the proposal is cost effective. They should be lauded for their leadership, as should local governments and conservation groups that brought strong analytics to the hearings.

If the proposal is adopted without being weakened, it will eliminate more than 90,000 tons of smog-forming VOCs annually (the same amount produced by all the cars and trucks in Colorado) and more than 100,000 tons of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

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Also posted in Climate, Colorado, General, Methane, Natural Gas | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed