Selected category: Natural Gas

Study Shows Utilities And Regulators Making Progress On Methane Leaks, But A Major Emissions Problem Remains

Thpipelinemethaneemissionse most important takeaway from a study released today by Washington State University (WSU) is that despite improvements, large amounts of methane continue to leak from the nation's local natural gas systems. Because methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, these yearly emissions are comparable to the CO2 from as many as 19 coal-fired power plants.

The estimated value of the gas escaping each year, by the way, is up to $195 million.

Although these figures represent a major ongoing challenge for gas utilities, they do reflect substantial improvement over the past two decades, thanks to a combination of effort and investment by utilities, along with a series of both state and federal policy changes enacted since 1992.

The new findings reinforce the fact that when regulators and companies both set their minds to fixing a problem, they can get some pretty good results. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a particularly powerful climate warmer – 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released to the atmosphere.

While they remain a serious problem, the ongoing utility emissions also represent an important opportunity for companies and regulators to make a big dent in greenhouse pollution. EDF believes the study underscores three major areas where improvement is necessary: Read More »

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Why The Oil And Gas Charm Offensive Fails To Win Public Hearts

playground and wellOil and gas companies spend a lot of time and money reminding us just how much good they’re doing in the world. But according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday, when it comes to fracking, the American people aren’t convinced.

Production is booming and prices are the lowest in decades, due in large measure to fracking and a suite of other technological innovations that have led a revolution in production from ‘unconventional’ sources of oil and gas in the U.S. In particular, the rapid increase in natural gas production is providing a boon to consumers and helping to reduce our dependence on coal, which in turn has helped reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution.

And yet the new poll shows that just 60 percent of Americans surveyed are either opposed or undecided about fracking.

Why? Read More »

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Reducing Carbon Pollution From The Power Sector Without Building Thousands Of Miles Of New Pipelines

rp_pipeline-Source-Maureen-flickr-300x225.jpgWith the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants nearing finalization, all sides are looking closely at the capacity of our existing infrastructure to deliver emission reductions from the power sector — including the natural gas infrastructure that could help reduce the need for aging, carbon-intensive coal-fired generation.

Some opponents of the Clean Power Plan say we need to invest billions of dollars in thousands of miles of new pipelines, while environmentalists, clean energy advocates and others are concerned that investments in new pipelines serves to reinforce fossil fuel dependence.

What policymakers and regulators need to know is this: Right now, 46 percent of the pipeline capacity that already exists isn’t being used, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Yes, 46 percent.

Figures like this mean everybody needs to rethink the whole infrastructure equation, and how to balance it most effectively. Read More »

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Ozone Pollution in the West: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Clint_Eastwood1Long familiar in major urban areas, smog – what we experts call “ground-level ozone” pollution – is quickly becoming a serious problem in the rural mountain west, thanks to rapid expansion in oil and gas development. Smog serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, and even premature death. In areas like the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, smog levels have sometimes rivaled those in Los Angeles.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency and several western states are putting the pieces in place to fix this problem: EPA through proposed revisions to  the health-based ozone standard that will better protect people from pollution, and states like Wyoming and Colorado through strong policies that are helping to reduce the sources of ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.

In official public comments filed this week with EPA, EDF and a broad coalition of western environmental and conservation groups supported a more protective ozone standard and pointed out the importance of this issue to the intermountain west–where most of the country’s oil and gas production from federal lands occurs.

Read More »

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A Little-Known Federal Rule Brings Invisible Pollution Into Focus

Cropped rig houseLegal fellow Jess Portmess also contributed to this post.

Unlike an oil spill, most greenhouse gas emissions are invisible to the naked eye. Though we can’t see them, this pollution represents a daily threat to our environment and communities, and it is important to understand the extent of this pollution and where it comes from.

This is why in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule requiring facilities in the oil and gas industry to report yearly emissions from their operations.

The Rule is part of a larger greenhouse gas measurement, reporting, and disclosure program called for by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. By coincidence, the rule is known as Subpart W.

The emissions data required by the Rule helps communities near oil and natural gas development better understand pollution sources, and gives companies better ways to identify opportunities to reduce emissions.

As these policies have gotten stronger under the Obama administration, industry has continued to fight them in federal court. Read More »

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The UT Methane Studies: Critique and Response

452548129Science is a process of asserting a hypothesis, collecting data, presenting results, and then having those data and results tested by other researchers. Peer-reviewed journals routinely allow for comments on papers and responses by the authors precisely in order to ensure that knowledge evolves and the dialogue is part of the public scientific record.

People paying close attention to the growing body of research on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry may note of a recent exchange in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) between Mr. Touché Howard and a team of scientists lead by Dr. David Allen of the University of Texas. The studies by Allen et al. are among of a group of 16 studies on methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain being coordinated by Environmental Defense Fund. Read More »

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