The west is rightly known for mountain views and desert vistas. Many of these landscapes are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on behalf of all Americans. But something else is a major part of the region as well – tens of thousands of oil and gas wells and their associated infrastructure.
More than 90 percent of oil and gas production on BLM lands comes from the Western U.S. The tax and royalty revenue generated by this production is used to fund local infrastructure needs –schools, roads and other improvements — in rural and tribal communities. But due to outdated policies (they have not been significantly revised in 30 years), too much of our natural gas has been going to waste. That means these communities, and American taxpayers in general, are losing out.
In fact, in 2013, oil and gas companies threw away $330 million worth of the public’s gas according to a recent report – shortchanging the communities that rely on the revenue from these resources most. Read More
Also posted in Natural Gas
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
The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program unveiled last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a perfect example of what can go wrong when the agency tries too hard to entice an unwilling industry to engage.
For years, EPA has offered voluntary “pollution prevention” programs to encourage companies to achieve environmental goals faster or cheaper than they might under regulations alone. Done right, voluntary programs stimulate innovation and reward true leaders. But weak efforts accomplish nothing, handing out laurels for token efforts that amount to business as usual – or less.
Also posted in Natural Gas
In an important step forward in curbing methane emissions from the nation’s oil and gas sector, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced a regulatory proposal aimed at wasteful practices that shortchange taxpayers, squander energy resources and threaten the Earth’s climate. The proposal, which will apply to both new and existing oil and gas facilities, begins to fill an important gap left by the EPA in August when that agency proposed to reduce emissions only from future facilities, ignoring the millions of oil and gas emissions sources already in operation.
Oil and gas companies that operate on our nation’s federal and tribal lands are exploiting a resource that belongs to the public and the Native American tribes. These operators should be held to the highest standards when it comes to avoiding the waste of the resource and minimizing the pollution from their activities.
Also posted in Natural Gas Tagged BLM, regulations
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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
The ongoing leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility owned by Southern California Gas has driven more than 2,000 families from their homes in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles and prompted Gov. Brown to declare a state of emergency. It’s dumped an estimated 83 thousand metric tons of methane into the atmosphere so far (see our leak counter here), with no clear end in sight.
But what are the next steps from here? What are the wider implications of this continuing disaster; and where else could something like this happen? What do we do to prevent another Aliso, and how will Southern California make up for the environmental damages once the leak stops?
The troubling fact is that Aliso Canyon is just the tip of a very big iceberg, reflecting both the industry’s widespread methane problem, and the potential local risks of over 400 other storage facilities nationwide. It spotlights a longstanding, largely invisible problem, promising to shift political dynamics around solutions. And the penalty phase, when it comes, will hopefully codify important principles that will also have a big effect on industry behavior. Read More