Category Archives: Natural Gas

Coloradans Overwhelmingly Voice Support for Proposed Air Regulations

Colorado is the quintessential swing state – with voters split about evenly between Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  That can make for some fractious politics at times, but our diversity is part of what makes us great.

What makes us even better is our unity – and that’s what we saw today when, by a margin of almost 10-to-1, Coloradans of all stripes called on the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt new rules that would slash air and climate pollution coming from oil and gas development activities.

The AQCC opened its hearings on the proposed rules with a full day of citizen input, with people traveling from around the state (one drove six hours) to make their voices heard.  Residents from rural communities, including many from the Western Slope, stood up, one after another, to tell the AQCC Commissioners that the proposed rules should apply statewide and that the handful of local officials opposing the rules are out of step with the citizens they’re supposed to serve.  In response to those local officials, one citizen from Ridgway implored the Commission to protect all Colorado families and not “turn the West Slope into an air quality sacrifice zone.”

EDF couldn’t agree more.  Air quality in western parts of Colorado is trending in a bad direction, teetering on the edge of violating federal health standards.  The state health department issued nine ozone advisories last winter for Western Slope counties where oil and gas development is prevalent, meaning the air wasn’t healthy for kids, the elderly, active adults and people with respiratory illness.

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Another Major Methane Study Shows Action is Needed Now to Reduce Emissions

Hamburg-228x300This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Voices Blog.

Mounting scientific evidence underscores the crucial importance of reducing methane emissions in the U.S. The latest study, published today in the journal Science, reviewed available data from the past 20 years and found that methane emissions from the U.S. natural gas supply chain are almost two times greater than current official estimates – flagging once again that methane emissions are a serious problem. However, the Stanford-led team also concluded that the current levels of methane leakage negates the climate benefit of switching to natural gas under some scenarios and not others, such as moving from coal-powered to natural gas electric generation.

As for what contributes to the higher than expected emissions, the study authors cited differing measurement techniques—including “bottom-up” direct measurement at the source, “top-down” readings from aircraft, and others—as well as the presence of “super-emitters” (a small number of sites or pieces of equipment producing a large share of emissions). Super-emitters are not easily sampled using most bottom-up direct measurement approaches. The team also spotlighted challenges associated with an increasingly ambiguous distinction between emissions from natural gas and oil production, both of which contribute methane to the atmosphere.

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Also posted in Climate, Methane | Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

In Wyoming, Neglected Orphan Wells May Soon Get Support

Jon-Goldstein-287x377Business is booming right now for the American oil and gas industry, which has fueled economic growth in major oil and gas producing states, including Wyoming. But what will happen when the music stops? When the boom cools – as booms inevitably do ­­­– will states be left holding the bag?

Too often, that has been the pattern. A problem acutely illustrated by the issue of “orphan wells.” When oil and gas companies walk away from wells that are no longer producing oil or gas at economic levels, states (meaning, taxpayers) are typically the ones left responsible for addressing risks from these wells. Until old oil and gas wells are properly plugged and surface sites remediated, they pose contamination risks to groundwater supplies, as well as safety risks to landowners and wildlife.

Plugging and remediating wells can be expensive business, and when the bottom falls out on commodity prices it has been too easy for operators to declare bankruptcy and walk away – sticking taxpayers with the tab for plugging and remediation. It is imperative that states ensure they have the financial resources to address orphan wells and the ability to hold producers financially accountable when problems occur. Read More »

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EDF Is Going to Court to Secure Healthier Air for Millions of Texans

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.

Source: Texas Tribune Haze over Dallas Area

Source: Texas Tribune
Haze over Dallas Area

Last week, EDF took one more step toward protecting Texans from harmful levels of ozone pollution that have afflicted the state for far too long.

Ozone pollution, better known as “smog,” is one of the most severe and persistent public health problems affecting Texans.  Smog causes a range of health issues — including aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function, increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory conditions — and it is associated with premature mortality in urban areas.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), Dallas-Fort Worth is the eighth most affected area in the country for smog.  ALA estimates the city is home to millions of people who are sensitive to ozone-related health problems — including 1.6 million people suffering cardiovascular disease; nearly 1.9 million children; nearly 650,000 elderly residents; and over 520,000 people with asthma.

EDF and its dedicated staff in Texas have long worked to protect Texans from unhealthy levels of smog by reducing the pollution that leads to harmful ozone levels.  Most recently, we have been litigating in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to secure important Clean Air Act protections in all areas that are contributing to the serious ozone problems in Dallas-Fort Worth.  Read More »

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What LEED Did for Buildings, This Could do for Shale Gas Production

Matt Watson PhotoThis commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) put out the Open For Business sign today – a key milestone in this innovative effort to up the game on environmental protection in shale gas development.  The question now is, will energy companies step up?

We hope so.

CSSD is an unprecedented collaboration – bringing together environmental groups, philanthropic organizations and energy companies to develop performance standards for reducing environmental impacts from shale gas production, and setting up a system so gas producers can have their operations audited and certified against those standards.

CSSD isn’t a substitute for effective regulation.  Strong rules and robust oversight is a nonnegotiable bottom line.  But we like the idea of upping the ante.  Why not have a program that recognizes companies for going beyond the regulatory minimums and doing more to protect communities and the environment?  These companies are tough competitors – so let’s make environmental performance part of what they compete on. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Pennsylvania | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

EDF and Allies Defend EPA Emission Standards for Oil and Gas Pollution

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

By: Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

A new year may be upon us, but – unfortunately – some members of the oil and gas industry would prefer we roll back the clock on common sense, long-overdue emission standards for oil and gas equipment.

Oil and natural gas production continues to expand rapidly in the United States – and with it the potential for emissions of climate-destabilizing pollutants (especially methane), smog-forming compounds and carcinogenic substances, such as benzene.  We urgently need rigorous national standards that comprehensively address the full suite of pollutants from oil and gas facilities, protect public health and the environment and conserve needless waste of our nation’s natural resources.

In August 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a promising first step by issuing emission standards for new natural gas wells and other oil and gas equipment, including the thousands of large storage tanks built near gas wells, pipelines and processing facilities each and every year.  These “New Source Performance Standards” (NSPS) were based on proven and highly-effective emission control technologies that leading companies have been using for years.  Many of these control technologies also directly benefit a company’s bottom line by reducing avoidable waste of natural gas from vents and leaks – saving money while protecting our climate and air.  Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Washington, DC | 1 Response, comments now closed

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reins in State Drilling Laws, Stands Up for Localities

Source: Pennlive

Source: Pennlive

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stood up for the traditional powers of local governments to decide where — and, to a significant extent, how — oil and gas development happens in their communities. In a 4-2 vote, the Court overturned Act 13, a 2012 state law that had stripped localities of some of their power to decide where the industry can operate. For example, Act 13 required that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed.

That provision and others were challenged in a lawsuit filed by seven Pennsylvania localities. The suit was supported by an amicus brief written by lawyers at Earthjustice and signed by EDF and other environmental groups. We congratulate the local governments on this important victory and thank Earthjustice for its leadership.

This is a big win for local governments because it preserves their right to make sensible land use decisions that can impact quality of life. Home to the gas-rich Marcellus shale basin, Pennsylvania has emerged as the nation’s fastest-growing producer of natural gas and now ranks third in the nation, behind only Texas and Louisiana. Pennsylvania accounts for more than 10 percent of the nation’s total natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Alongside this spike in production, however, serious concerns about air and water quality in the region have also emerged. Read More »

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New Study Underscores Urgent Need to Reduce Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Operations

Steve-Hamburg_D4B8294_287x377You may have seen news reports about a new methane emissions study conducted by climate researchers from Harvard and seven other institutions and just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  The new paper provides an improved estimate of the total methane budget of the US – in other words, how much methane is being released into the atmosphere each year from all sources, including livestock and oil-and-gas production.

Based on analysis of nearly 5,000 air samples collected in 2007 and 2008 from ten communications towers located around the country, as well as 7,700 samples taken in those years from an aircraft monitoring program, the study finds that total methane emissions due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater at that time than previously estimated.  Emissions from livestock were roughly twice as high as previous estimates.  Emissions from oil-and-gas operations in Oklahoma and Texas were 2.7 times higher than estimated.

We are glad to see the methane issue getting the attention it deserves.  While EDF's work to deepen our understanding of current emissions continues, there’s no question about the need for regulation to measure and reduce these emissions.  In August, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder published a long-awaited paper on methane leakage in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that reported an alarmingly high level of methane emissions in the Uintah Basin of Utah — 6.2 to 11.7 percent of total production for an area about 1,000 square miles.  Read More »

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Colorado’s Proposal Shows What it Takes to Make Progress on Climate

morberg /flickr

morberg /flickr

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices: People on the Planet blog.

At a time when partisan rancor is the order of the day, this week’s news out of Colorado is a tribute to the power of partnership. On Monday, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado proposed new regulations for oil and gas operations that, if adopted, will cut both conventional air pollution and climate pollution – by making Colorado the first state in the nation to tackle the problem of methane emissions. The big announcement showed that industry leaders, state officials and an environmental group like Environmental Defense Fund can sit down together to negotiate a plan to deliver cleaner, safer air. And just in time. As EDF’s Rocky Mountain Regional Director Dan Grossman told NPR this week, “the fundamental question [is] whether or not citizens will tolerate oil and gas development.”

On Election Day, four Colorado communities voted to ban hydraulic fracturing. State officials and industry leaders are getting the message: public trust has been badly damaged, and the only way to restore it is by putting in place strong rules to protect air, water, and communities. Not every community is going to ban oil and gas development, obviously, so we need to protect the many places where it is happening.

While the new Colorado proposal doesn’t address all the issues surrounding oil and gas development, the governor and the state’s regulators should be applauded for their efforts in bringing forward these commonsense air pollution measures, which were agreed to and supported by EDF, Anadarko Petroleum, Encana, and Noble Energy. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Newspapers from Los Angeles to Denver to New York wrote in support of the new rules. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera praised both the proposed legislation and Environmental Defense Fund’s collaborative approach in an op-ed published MondayRead More »

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Wyoming Raises the Bar on Air Quality for Oil & Gas

Source: Evolving ITSM

When it comes to willingness to show leadership in the critical field of air quality, Wyoming is once again first out of the gate with important new requirements to reduce harmful emissions from leaking oil and gas equipment — a major source of air pollution that can create serious air quality problems.

A Wyoming program finalized last week requires operators that are requesting permits for new and modified sources, such as wells or tanks, in the state’s most active oil and gas fields to find and fix leaking equipment under required Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs.  Companies are required to inspect their operations quarterly utilizing reliable, technologically-precise detection methods at those sites most likely to leak.

This sort of leadership is not new to the Cowboy State. Wyoming has a tradition of being a first mover on air pollution reduction requirements, including pioneering the so-called "green completion" rules to reduce emissions from new wells that have since become the federal standard.

Wyoming’s LDAR program is a smart step forward on sensible, effective air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry. Tightening systems so that leaks are plugged will both protect the air we breathe and reduce the waste of a precious natural resource. In fact, strong LDAR programs may be the best, most cost-effective way to fix leaks and minimize pollution.

EDF, the Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC) and Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development (CURED) offered their strong support for the state’s proposed LDAR program in joint comments, while also suggesting key improvements – chiefly, that the state  ensure these programs use readily-available, cost-effective technologies (like infrared cameras) to detect pollution.

We are pleased that this improvement was included in the final requirements and it shows the state’s willingness to work collaboratively in addressing Wyoming’s air issues.

Next up, the state should consider making these strong requirements apply to existing sources, such as previously drilled wells already in production, and on a statewide basis. But in the meantime, other states, including Colorado, should take note. On protecting the air we breathe, Wyoming just raised the bar.

 

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