The U.S. Bureau of Land Management should do more to protect taxpayers from unnecessary waste of their natural gas resources. That’s the main takeaway from a new report from the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office. Its findings again underline the urgent need for BLM to finalize strong new standards to reduce methane waste.
Methane is both the primary component of natural gas and a very potent climate pollutant. In fact, pound for pound, methane is more than 80 times worse for our climate than carbon dioxide in the short term. This means that unnecessary methane waste and pollution like the GAO found in this new report is a double whammy – depriving taxpayers of revenue due to us for the development of our natural gas resources and dangerously accelerating climate change.
The GAO finds that BLM needs more consistent policies in place to better limit methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas production it oversees on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal and tribal lands. It’s a big problem. Read More
The climate change discussion is percolating even in surprising places. The latest sign: the American Petroleum Institute’s recent formation of an internal task force on climate change. Reportedly the new task force’s mandate is to revisit API’s approach to this crucial issue, going into an election year and with ever greater scrutiny on fossil fuels.
It is too soon to know whether the task force will rubber stamp a business-as-usual approach defined by glossing over climate concerns and attacking policy measures, or chart a new path instead.
But if the task force is serious about a fresh look at the issue, here are three keys for the task force to consider as it ponders the future of API on climate. Read More
As a major producer and consumer of oil and gas, California can set the bar for reducing methane leaks. And today, the Golden State showed it’s up to the challenge, making a critical change in proposed rules aimed at cutting methane pollution from oil and gas wells, pipelines and equipment of the like – now putting California firmly on the path to adopt the nation’s strongest methane controls anywhere.
This matters because methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a common byproduct of oil production, is a damaging greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
A big lesson-learned from the months-long, mega-gas leak at Aliso Canyon, and the similarly tragic eight month gas leak in Arvin, CA in 2014, is that oil and gas infrastructure can fail. While leaks the size of Aliso Canyon are rare, it’s an example of the risk we face daily as this infrastructure ages, and a sobering reminder of how important it is to have protections that ensure methane stays in the pipelines—and not in our air. Read More
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
On June 20 and 21, temperatures across the Southwest hit record triple digits. It was a scorching way to start the summer. For Southern Californians, early arrival of extreme heat tested the region’s already compromised electricity system: Residents braced for rolling blackouts as the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility (one of the primary sources of power generation in the region) was offline after a disastrous methane leak last winter. Aliso will remain offline until Southern California Gas Company can assure regulators, legislators, and the community that it can be operated safely and efficiently.
The heatwave was further complicated by devastating wildfires to the north and southwest, but the region was ultimately able to emerge from the threat relatively unscathed. Although thousands of residents dealt with short-term outages, rolling blackouts – reminders of California’s dramatic energy crisis of the early 2000s – never came and the region was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
During the heatwave, focus was rightly on keeping the system running. But now it’s time to look at how we were able to meet historic electricity demand without the system crashing, and how this will inform power providers in the months ahead.
A ruptured natural gas pipeline in the quiet community of San Bruno, California ignited on the evening of September 9, 2010. The resulting fire destroyed 38 homes, killed eight people, and injured many others. It was one of the biggest pipeline explosions in recent history, and it very likely could have been prevented.
Now, almost six years later, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to prevent serious incidents, like what happened in San Bruno, from happening again. Read More