Good energy policy ideas can come from all corners, and Wall Street is no exception.
Goldman Sachs recently served up a powerful case for action on methane in a stroke of market logic grounded in data. In a recent report, the investment bank argues that environmental regulation is more than a necessary evil when it comes to oil and gas development – it’s a vital enabler for economic growth.
There’s power in diverse groups coming together.
Goldman’s insight for the U.S. oil and gas industry – that the current environmental policy vacuum is a major cause of investor queasiness – suggests that markets can help drive environmental progress. Read More
Also posted in General, Methane
Photo credit: G. Thomas at en.wikipedia
Wyoming is a national energy leader, producing more BTU’s from federal lands than every other state combined. It also has a long history of leading the nation on smart, sensible oil and gas air pollution regulations. The Cowboy State was among the first to require reduced emission completions (RECs or “green” completions) to control emissions from newly drilled oil and gas wells. It has also implemented some of the country’s best requirements to find and fix leaky oil and gas equipment.
The state now has an opportunity to continue this tradition by tightening controls on existing oil and gas pollution sources in the Upper Green River Basin. Draft rules recently released by the state show promise, and with key improvements–including expanded leak inspections and extending emission controls to compressor stations–these new requirements could again emphasize the state’s role as a national leader on oil and gas regulation. Read More
Everyone agrees that burning off as much as a third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is a terrible waste of an important natural resource. The flaring problem arises out of the fact that energy companies are primarily drilling for oil in North Dakota. A lot of natural gas comes out of those very same wells, though; and since the infrastructure isn’t in place to take that gas to market, companies end up flaring gas as a “waste” byproduct of oil production.
This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight. Building the gathering systems, processing capacity and transmission pipelines to get this gas to market requires major planning and investment. But we also have to recognize that in a capital-constrained world, the incentive is for companies to put their next dollar toward the next oil well – not toward lower-return (but still lucrative) investments in gas infrastructure. If a company’s bottom line was all that mattered, that might be fine. But we have other issues at play here.
Flaring natural gas undermines national energy security, has negative impacts on the region’s air quality, results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and represents millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state, local governments, schools and mineral estate owners. In fact, in 2012 alone, flaring resulted in the waste of around $1 billion in fuel – or enough gas to heat more than a million homes.
By: Sean Wright, Senior Analyst, Corporate Partnerships
Source: Ash Waechter
Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.
Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.
These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.
Courtesy RF, iStock
This week, during a special hearing by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, legislators gathered a cross-section of industry, policy, and environmental leaders to testify about the economic impacts of increased natural gas development. I was one of the witnesses, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, arguing that natural gas can only be a net winner for the economy if government acts fast to limit the impacts of new hydrocarbon development on air, water, and the global climate.
There is no question that unconventional gas development is lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, and supporting more domestic manufacturing. But it also poses real and substantial risks to public health and the environment – as well as a growing threat to the industry’s social license to operate. Continued expansion of U.S. gas development must be balanced with a strong commitment to protect against these impacts.
The congressional committee of both senators and representatives exhibited sharply differing perspectives on expanding natural gas regulation. The core question before all levels of government is whether the appropriate steps are being taken to implement and enforce the regulations necessary to minimize the risks. The answer: not yet.
By: EDF Associate Vice President for Clean Energy, Cheryl Roberto, with EDF Senior Director of Clean Energy Collaboration Diane Munns and legal fellow Peter Heisler
Source: Chris J Dixon via Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Power Plan will empower states to design customized, cost-effective programs to reduce climate-destabilizing pollution while ensuring continued electric system reliability.
States will be able to deploy flexible compliance mechanisms such as:
- renewable energy
- demand-side energy efficiency
- shifts in utilization away from higher-emitting and towards lower-emitting generation sources
- measures at specific plants to secure reductions in carbon pollution
And states will be able to do all of this while designing their compliance plans to make sure that generation resources are fully sufficient to ensure reliability. Read More
By Jukka Isokoski via Wikimedia Commons
The recent Energy Strong settlement between New Jersey regulators and Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), the state’s largest utility, should help reinforce vulnerable energy infrastructure ahead of future severe storms. Last month, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) agreed that customers could fund $1.2 billion in PSE&G improvements to New Jersey’s electric grid to make it more resilient and efficient. As a participant in the case, EDF was encouraged that PSE&G agreed to necessary changes to its grid to protect against more extreme weather events.
PSE&G, which had originally asked for $2.6 billion in storm-related hardening funds, submitted its Energy Strong proposal to regulators in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity for a third of homes and businesses in the state for weeks.
The BPU denied EDF and other environmental organizations full intervener status, preventing us from mounting a full case that would have included expert witnesses on proven climate science and the increased likelihood of future superstorms, the pressing need to take aggressive action to make our existing electric and gas distribution grids more resilient, and the need to transition to a smarter, more decentralized energy system. Although our status in the case was limited by the BPU’s decision, we managed to argue for and win some positives for the environment: Read More
America is in the midst of two booms: one in sensor technology and another in natural gas. Recent innovations—specifically advancements in drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies—have dramatically increased the nation’s access to reserves of natural gas. While this influx of new technology has altered the energy industry, the resulting large-scale development has brought with it some real environmental and climate risks. Now is the time for the same ingenuity that transformed America’s energy landscape to help identify solutions to reduce the impacts caused by increasing supplies of natural gas.
Just this last month, two innovator programs were announced – one led by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and another from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – both are focused on developing new technologies capable of minimizing methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain. The programs are different but complementary and together signal there is momentum building to engage the best and brightest innovators to help address a consequential component of the climate issue. Read More
This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow
Last Thursday, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hosted a public forum in Washington, D.C. on venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas operations occurring on federal lands. This was the third in a series in which BLM received public comments on various options aimed at addressing the extensive and unnecessary loss of gas from onshore federal oil and gas leases. EDF is encouraged to see BLM taking on this vital issue, and we delivered testimony urging BLM to take strong and timely action to uphold its responsibility to minimize waste of our nation’s natural resources and ensure oil and gas development minimizes impacts to our climate and public health.
Reducing waste of natural gas on federal lands is a core element of the President’s strategy to reduce methane emissions, and for good reason. BLM is tasked with managing 700 million acres of federal lands – making it the largest single land management agency in the federal government – and it has broad responsibilities for the significant oil and gas resources located on those lands. Almost 40 million acres of BLM lands have already been leased for oil and gas production, accounting for approximately 14 percent of all onshore natural gas production and 8.5 percent of all onshore oil production in the United States.
Despite the scale of oil and gas production on federal lands, BLM’s policies covering venting, flaring, and other losses of natural gas are over three decades old. These obsolete regulations allow producers to waste significant amounts of natural gas that could be cost-effectively captured using today’s technology. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in 2010 that between 4.2 and 5 percent of all natural gas produced onshore on federal lands was vented, flared, or lost in fugitive emissions — enough gas to heat about 1.7 million homes each year. A more recent study by the Western Values Project found that vented and flared methane could cost taxpayers nearly $800 million in coming years.
It has happened again. Another scientific study finds methane emissions from oil and gas production are higher than previously thought, reinforcing the urgent need to reduce emissions of this powerful climate pollutant. The latest study, accepted today to be published in American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, measured methane concentrations in the air over Colorado’s largest oil and gas producing region on two days during early 2012 and adds to our understanding of the environmental impact of oil and gas development.
The study—led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at UC-Boulder—suggests between 2.6 and 5.6 percent of gas produced in the Denver Julesburg basin escapes into the air. That’s nearly three times the amount estimated using data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The study also found emissions of smog-forming VOC emissions to be twice as high as estimated based on state data and emissions of benzene, a known carcinogen, to be seven times higher than current state estimates.