Ongoing fallout from the catastrophic failure at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility is exposing a critical weakness in the state’s energy system. Overdependence on natural gas – and on one provider of that gas – means we don’t have the flexibility we need to cope if things go wrong. And now that they have gone wrong, because of SoCalGas’ mismanagement of the Aliso Canyon storage facility, a group of state agencies says the region could be facing power shortages this summer as a result.
A new report released today by the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) describes the problem. While a separate report released by CEC, CPUC, CAISO and LADWP, begins to lay out the short-term response plan. (Some of the efforts already under way are documented here, here, and here). Read More »
Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the SAFE PIPES Act, reauthorizing the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Tucked inside the bipartisan bill are important new measures intended to advance the ways in which regulators facilitate the repair and replacement of old, increasingly leaky pipeline systems.
The bill also creates a multi-agency task force looking into the health, safety, environmental and economic impacts of the four-month disaster at the 70-year-old Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility – and what should be done to prevent another one like it.
Aging pipeline systems are a huge challenge. Besides safety concerns, the cost of lost gas is a needless burden on ratepayers. And regulators are also growing increasingly concerned about the climate impact of leaking methane, the main ingredient in natural gas. Read More »
In new footage captured just weeks ago, an ominous cloud of what looks like black smoke seeps from a pump jack deep in the heart of a Texas oil field. But there are no fire trucks rushing to the scene. No first responders in hazmat suits scrambling to uncover the source of this relentless dark cloud. This is because that black smoke depicted is actually methane, an invisible but dangerous climate pollutant.
If this scene looks familiar, it’s because not long ago, footage of a major methane gas leak in Southern California also made international headlines. That leak has since been plugged, but as the new infrared footage released today reveals, every single day methane continues to leak in massive quantities from oil and gas facilities across the country and here in Texas. Read More »
Methane leaking from pipes before natural gas is delivered to customers can have a large, harmful impact on the climate. This idea was first brought to light in a major scientific paper published in 2012, and supported by numerous papers since. For California, a climate leader, and a state that consumes 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas supply – this leakage epiphany was and continues to be a very big deal.
Last week, after years of science, politics, and policy deliberations, the state took one of its boldest steps yet in the quest to cut methane escaping from its vast network of aging pipes underneath city streets – a move that should result in a new direction for California, and likely for utilities across the nation.
That move, taking the form of a 28-page report and staff recommendations from California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as part of the implementation of a 2014 law (SB 1371), proposes to require utilities in California to use specific best practices to find, fix, and prevent leaks from the natural gas distribution system. Read More »
When the White House confirmed plans to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas sector — not just from new or heavily modified facilities, but thousands of existing wells, pipelines and other facilities that are currently emitting at least 9.3 million metric tons of the invisible heat-trapping gas each year — industry responded with the usual complaints about back-breaking costs.
Unlike recent years, those objections come with a twist: The widespread (and very real) challenges in an oil and gas sector struggling with a global supply glut and sharply lower prices, both enabled by the same unconventional production technologies that fueled the boom in the first place. We simply shouldn’t impose new regulations in a down market, the industry says.
To be clear: There’s no disputing these are tough times for oil and gas. Hard working Americans have lost good jobs by the tens of thousands. Communities are suffering. It’s a cycle familiar to anyone who’s been around the industry, even if that doesn't make it any easier on people living through it now. Read More »
Last week, the industry-sponsored Energy In Depth (EID) launched a critique of an analysis by ICF International showing that oil and gas companies can achieve major reductions in their methane emissions at relatively modest cost relative to the price of the natural gas they’re selling. In particular, EID emphasizes that natural gas prices have fallen substantially since the study was done, undercutting the result.
It’s true that natural gas prices have dropped, but the basic conclusion of the study still stands. While commodity prices fluctuate, the fundamental rationale for action hasn’t changed. In fact, over the same timeframe, EPA and other estimates of industry emissions have increased dramatically.
The bottom line is that reducing oil and gas methane emissions remains one of the biggest, most cost-effective opportunities we have for addressing climate change. Read More »