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 »
What do Farmington, NM, Oklahoma City, Lakewood, CO and Dickinson, ND have in common? These cities are in the heart of oil and gas country, and – most importantly – were locations in which the BLM heard overwhelming support for strong efforts to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaks from the oil and gas industry at a series of public meetings in recent weeks.
Methane is a potent climate pollutant and the main constituent of natural gas, so when oil and gas companies on public land allow methane to be leaked, burned or vented to the atmosphere, it not only impacts air quality and our climate, it also represents an economic loss to taxpayers.
Individually at each hearing, and collectively across all four, voices supporting strong BLM methane waste and pollution rules far outweighed the opposition. In the final tally, supportive statements outnumbered negative ones by more than three-to-one. This fits with recent polling that found that a bipartisan majority (fully 80 percent) of Westerners support commonsense rules to cut oil and gas waste on BLM managed lands. Read More »