Recent numbers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that methane (CH4) is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in contributing to climate change over the first 20 years after it is released. Short-lived climate pollutants, like methane, are a large factor in determining how fast our climate will change over the next few decades.
These figures are particularly relevant in California where natural gas (which is about 99.9% methane) is used throughout the economy. For example, natural gas generates much of the state’s electricity through gas-fired power plants, is extensively used for home heating and cooking, and is increasingly being deployed as an alternative fuel for the state’s cars and trucks.
Yet, while California continues to operate and further build out a natural gas backbone in its energy economy, venting and leakage of uncombusted natural gas from pipes and machines can have an environmental impact. In fact, research shows that keeping methane leakage down to a minimum level is the only way to guarantee that the use of natural gas will provide immediate climate benefits, when switching from petroleum products. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
Everyone 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
By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney
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
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.
Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Colorado, General, Natural Gas
Tagged Climate, climate change, Colorado, environment, fracking, Methane, Natural Gas
Industry trade groups – the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) – came out swinging against methane regulation in the third day of hearings on a groundbreaking proposal to reduce air and climate pollution coming from oil and gas operations.
And some wild swinging it was!
They acknowledged that we need to reduce methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. But they said studies are showing different results about how much methane is being leaked and vented and that we shouldn't regulate methane until we know exactly how much is escaping.
Yesterday, we covered the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) taking public testimony from citizens who traveled from around the state to speak in support of a groundbreaking proposal that would slash emissions of smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases coming from oil and gas activities.
Formal proceedings kicked off today – and will likely run through the weekend – with various parties presenting their opening cases. EDF went early in the day, providing strong evidence that the proposed rule is cost-effective and urgently needed to combat local air quality problems and climate change. We also highlighted some glaring flaws in the methodology industry opponents cooked up to show inflated costs for the rules.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) and the DGS group are throwing everything they can at the rule to try to gut it. But they’re in a shrinking minority on the wrong side of history.
Colorado is the quintessential swing state – with voters split about evenly between Republicans, Democrats and Independents. That can make for some fractious politics at times, but our diversity is part of what makes us great.
What makes us even better is our unity – and that’s what we saw today when, by a margin of almost 10-to-1, Coloradans of all stripes called on the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt new rules that would slash air and climate pollution coming from oil and gas development activities.
The AQCC opened its hearings on the proposed rules with a full day of citizen input, with people traveling from around the state (one drove six hours) to make their voices heard. Residents from rural communities, including many from the Western Slope, stood up, one after another, to tell the AQCC Commissioners that the proposed rules should apply statewide and that the handful of local officials opposing the rules are out of step with the citizens they’re supposed to serve. In response to those local officials, one citizen from Ridgway implored the Commission to protect all Colorado families and not “turn the West Slope into an air quality sacrifice zone.”
EDF couldn’t agree more. Air quality in western parts of Colorado is trending in a bad direction, teetering on the edge of violating federal health standards. The state health department issued nine ozone advisories last winter for Western Slope counties where oil and gas development is prevalent, meaning the air wasn’t healthy for kids, the elderly, active adults and people with respiratory illness.
This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Voices Blog.
Mounting scientific evidence underscores the crucial importance of reducing methane emissions in the U.S. The latest study, published today in the journal Science, reviewed available data from the past 20 years and found that methane emissions from the U.S. natural gas supply chain are almost two times greater than current official estimates – flagging once again that methane emissions are a serious problem. However, the Stanford-led team also concluded that the current levels of methane leakage negates the climate benefit of switching to natural gas under some scenarios and not others, such as moving from coal-powered to natural gas electric generation.
As for what contributes to the higher than expected emissions, the study authors cited differing measurement techniques—including “bottom-up” direct measurement at the source, “top-down” readings from aircraft, and others—as well as the presence of “super-emitters” (a small number of sites or pieces of equipment producing a large share of emissions). Super-emitters are not easily sampled using most bottom-up direct measurement approaches. The team also spotlighted challenges associated with an increasingly ambiguous distinction between emissions from natural gas and oil production, both of which contribute methane to the atmosphere.
You may have seen news reports about a new methane emissions study conducted by climate researchers from Harvard and seven other institutions and just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The new paper provides an improved estimate of the total methane budget of the US – in other words, how much methane is being released into the atmosphere each year from all sources, including livestock and oil-and-gas production.
Based on analysis of nearly 5,000 air samples collected in 2007 and 2008 from ten communications towers located around the country, as well as 7,700 samples taken in those years from an aircraft monitoring program, the study finds that total methane emissions due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater at that time than previously estimated. Emissions from livestock were roughly twice as high as previous estimates. Emissions from oil-and-gas operations in Oklahoma and Texas were 2.7 times higher than estimated.
We are glad to see the methane issue getting the attention it deserves. While EDF's work to deepen our understanding of current emissions continues, there’s no question about the need for regulation to measure and reduce these emissions. In August, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder published a long-awaited paper on methane leakage in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that reported an alarmingly high level of methane emissions in the Uintah Basin of Utah — 6.2 to 11.7 percent of total production for an area about 1,000 square miles. Read More
Source: Scott Dalton for The New York Times
When it comes to healthy air, what you can’t see can hurt you.
Leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and methane, the primary components in natural gas, may be invisible – but that doesn’t mean they are harmless. These leaks – called “fugitive” emissions – can create serious air quality problems when VOC's are involved. Meanwhile, methane leaks mean less product available for sale and a wasted resource.
But, while you can’t always see leaks with the naked eye, you can use modern technology to help you detect and fix them. Cameras that use infrared technology to “see” leaking hydrocarbons and inexpensive hand held sensors that measure leaks are commonly used to help operators find and fix leaking equipment. Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs that require operators to check for leaks frequently using these modern technologies, and expeditiously repair them, can produce huge air quality benefits. Such programs are currently required in permits for a number of operators in Wyoming’s Jonah Pinedale Anticline Development Area. Read More