Energy Exchange

California’s move to cut utility gas leaks is a critical part of moving towards a low carbon future

As shown by the recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions from fossil fuel combustion in California and elsewhere present dire consequences for the planet. This means California, like the rest of the world, must take real steps now to shift toward a low carbon future.

Similar to many other developed economies, California has a vast oil and gas delivery infrastructure that is integrated into its modern way of life – a system that supports the combustion of fossil fuels in nearly every corner of society. As a result, making dramatic shifts toward a carbon neutral economy as envisioned in a recent executive order by Governor Brown will take a lot of investment. While this investment is underway, it’s appropriate to also make sure the system that delivers energy to homes and businesses is as environmentally benign as possible.

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Also posted in California, Gas to Clean, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

California sets new standards for natural gas storage sites

Data visualization shows the methane plume from the Aliso Canyon gas leak in red.

Three years ago, a blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility forced thousands of nearby families to evacuate their homes and leaked over 100,000 tons of methane and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. The facility’s operator, Southern California Gas, wasn’t prepared for the scope or scale of the disaster that unfolded over four months.

The disaster demonstrated the risks of under-regulated natural gas storage sites, as well as the importance of not being over-reliant on natural gas. Regulators in California and across the country realized the need for better oversight and management.

As a result, California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) recently finalized new rules for managing the risky, industrial enterprise of underground gas storage. These rules are a foray into an underdeveloped policy space, and are the product of collaboration with stakeholders including national laboratories, the environmental community, and the federal government.

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Also posted in California, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged | Comments are closed

Report: LA County oil and gas sites require stronger oversight

A new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) provides yet more evidence that greater oversight is needed to address health and safety concerns with the region’s oil and gas facilities.

Los Angeles sits directly on top of 68 active oil fields, meaning many of the city’s residents live in close proximity to harmful emissions associated with oil and gas development, including compounds that can cause cancer, respiratory diseases like asthma, severe headaches, neurological problems, and other health consequences.

LA DPH assessed the impact of urban drilling on communities in east and south LA and considered existing research to identify actions for regulators to reduce public health threats, including:

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Also posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Pollution monitors should be standard in LA’s oilfields

There are several reasons to be optimistic about environmental progress in Los Angeles. The city is making massive investments in electric vehicles, making clean energy more accessible to everyday people, and cutting pollution from the ports and freeways to name a few. But with over 60,000 Angelinos living less than 500 feet from an active oil well – LA could do more to protect our health and our environment.

Oil and gas wells emit toxic chemicals that can increase our risk of developing asthma, cancer and other health problems. Recent studies by the California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District have uncovered elevated levels of benzene, a cancer causing agent, and other toxic compounds coming from oil and gas equipment in Huntington Beach and Signal Hill. In Santa Fe Springs  a rupture at an oil site coated numerous homes with oil and generated noxious odors.  Then there are the communities in Culver City, South LA, Compton and elsewhere living mere feet from drill sites who experience odors and health ailments on a regular basis. Most notoriously, the Porter Ranch community next to the Aliso Canyon gas field still reports respiratory problems and other symptoms stemming from a major gas leak in 2015.

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Also posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Whether it’s safe or not, do we need Aliso Canyon?

In early 2016, southern California awoke to the harsh reality that reliable operation of the regional energy system might be tied to a single aging natural gas storage field called Aliso Canyon, where a catastrophic blowout that started the previous October was not closed until February. So while Southern California Gas Company got to work to repair the facility, several government and private institutions also went to work assessing whether the facility was actually needed in the first place.

Last week multiple state agencies issued a verdict that Aliso Canyon is now safe, and giving the green light to increase the gas stored in it on a limited basis. The decision caused an outcry from nearby residents, but it should also be a concern for utility customers throughout the region.

But what if we don’t need the facility at all? Why take the risk? The latest analysis strongly suggests we don’t have to. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

The secret sauce for preventing another Aliso Canyon-sized gas leak in California

More than a year and a half after the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility caused more than 100,000 tons of methane to leak into the atmosphere – amounting to be our nation’s largest-ever gas leak,  California regulators continue to labor away at improving the rules  that could prevent another gas storage disaster.

That leak was a wake up call to regulators around the country charged with protecting workers, people and the environment from gas storage facility accidents.   Read More »

Also posted in California, Natural Gas / Comments are closed