Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and EDF Chief Scientist Steve Hamburg check out the methane-sniffing Google Street View car
*UPDATE: Days after this data was released, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued draft permits that will help reduce methane emissions from select oil and gas facilities across the state – making Pennsylvania the latest state to take commonsense action on methane .*
EDF and Google have released new interactive maps that show Pittsburgh residents just how much methane may be escaping from city pipelines.
Methane is the main component of natural gas. Millions of families across Pennsylvania and the country depend on it to heat homes and prepare their dinners. But when leaked into the atmosphere, it can wreak havoc on our climate, represent millions of dollars’ worth of wasted American energy, and pose serious risks to public health and safety.
That’s why we spent the past year working with Peoples Gas in Pittsburgh to use Google Street View mapping cars specially equipped with state-of-the-art methane sensors to determine how many pipeline leaks there are, how much methane is leaking, and where these leaks are located. Read More
A new report reveals that harmful emissions from oil and gas development are increasing. This is bad news for Pennsylvania families who have been repeatedly told by industry trade groups that pollution is under control.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, in 2014 oil and gas companies emitted nearly 110,000 tons of methane – a powerful climate pollutant that’s rapidly accelerating global warming. That represents an increase over the previous year. With 2016 on pace to be the warmest year ever recorded, we should be reducing methane emissions, not increasing them. Read More
Each month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.
Top clean energy conferences featuring EDF experts in July:
July 26-28: NY Rev Summit (New York, NY)
Speaker: Rory Christian, Director, New York Clean Energy
- Building on New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, Infocast’s second REVolution summit will focus on how utilities are planning for the future, and how they will explore both the promise and the practical development of microgrids, renewable energy, and emerging opportunities for third party providers. The summit will also consider various state efforts to finance and encourage clean energy markets sufficiently to ensure a robust, sustainable power delivery system. Read More
If you like clean water, we’ve got good news. This week the EPA finalized an important Clean Water Act rule that cements commonsense protections for water resources. EPA’s new technology-based categorical pretreatment standard prevents unconventional oil and gas operators from delivering salty, toxic wastewater to publicly owned water treatment facilities — also known as POTWs. These facilities are designed to handle residential sewage, not industrial waste, and often are unable to treat the types of pollutants common in unconventional oil and gas wastewater.
Since 1979, the Clean Water Act has prohibited onshore oil and gas operators in the eastern U.S. from directly discharging oil and gas wastewater to surface waters, like streams and lakes. But until now, there were no rules that applied to the wastewater that is disposed of at separate treatment facilities, or “indirect discharges.”
The final POTW pretreatment rule is consistent with current industry practice, but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to 2011, oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania delivered wastewater to POTWs for treatment and disposal with terrible results. These POTWs struggled to treat unconventional oil and gas wastewater due to elevated levels of halides, heavy metals, organic compounds, radionuclides and salts. High and fluctuating TDS (salt) levels in wastewater interfered with the biological treatment processes reducing treatment efficiency. Bromides that went through POTW disinfection processes were transformed into toxic disinfection by-products and released into receiving waters. Read More
Across the country, signs of a cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable U.S. energy system are emerging. But we can’t reach the clean energy future without updating the way utilities make money. Today, utilities earn revenue based on how much electricity they deliver. Companies earn less when they sell less electricity, so they have little incentive to provide energy efficiency programs for their customers.
To address this issue, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission is considering changing how utilities are paid for the electricity they sell. The goal – determining whether new rate plans could eliminate the barriers to energy efficiency programs – is an admirable step toward the clean energy future. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a number of ideas on how to design a more efficient grid, which we filed in comments today:
- Performance-based regulation – Utilities have few incentives to help people adopt solar panels or energy efficiency, so the Commission should implement performance-based regulation plans. Rather than encouraging the sale of more electricity, a performance-based framework would reward utilities for meeting goals that benefit customers and the environment, like encouraging the use of rooftop solar or increasing the use of energy efficiency programs.
Imagine a utility receives $57 million from the Department of Energy and a matching amount from its customers, then uses that money to demonstrate how new technologies could save millions more. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Not if you’re FirstEnergy, whose business model doesn’t call for saving money.
FirstEnergy – serving several states in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Ohio where the power company is currently requesting a $4 billion bailout of its uneconomical power plants – recently filed a long-term infrastructure-improvement plan in Pennsylvania, setting out its strategy for modernizing the grid. And despite having seen the benefits firsthand, the utility didn’t include voltage optimization – or using technology to “right-size” the amount of voltage customers receive – in its plan.
Since utilities likely won’t modernize the grid on their own, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) often intervenes before state public utility commissions. And in this case, EDF recommends the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should not approve FirstEnergy’s grid modernization plan unless it includes voltage optimization. Read More