Selected category: General

Stopping the self-deal: Preventing pipeline investors from offloading risk on ratepayers

A recent report published by Oil Change International highlights the failure of regulators to protect ratepayers against utility affiliate-backed contracts for new pipeline capacity -in other words, when a regulated utility acts as both the developer and customer for a new pipeline.  It’s a widespread and growing issue. Case in point: Con Ed’s investment in the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, hundreds of miles from Con Ed’s New York service territory.

Con Ed claims that signing up for transportation service on the pipeline will result in cost savings for customers. But the day Con Ed signed up as a pipeline customer, the company also formed a new “midstream” entity to invest in the pipeline. The new unregulated entity shares the same corporate parent as the regulated utility, but operates under significantly different rules and legal obligations. This transactional structure means that Con Ed’s ratepayers would be  on the hook for paying for the project, while Con Ed’s midstream arm will enjoy a return in excess of risk. From the company standpoint, it’s heads-I-win, tails-you-lose. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

In tackling methane, Exxon signals commitment to maximize opportunity for New Mexico

An announcement last week from one of the country’s largest natural gas producers may have a major positive impact on revenue and clean air in New Mexico. XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil that made a $6 billion investment in acreage in New Mexico’s Permian Basin earlier this year, has now announced a set of commitments to “continually reduce methane emissions” from its production and midstream operations nationwide.

In making the announcement, XTO CEO Sara Ortwein made special note of the methane actions’ impact in the Permian, stating, “In particular, we’re looking forward to applying this approach to our planned expansion in the Permian Basin in New Mexico and West Texas.”

The XTO methane mitigation commitment includes a plan to find and fix methane leaks through inspections using technologies at both existing and new facilities. Further, building on a successful technology pilot project in the nearby Midland Basin, XTO will also focus on emission prevention, moving toward the use of new, less polluting devices for tank batteries and other facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Here’s how Chevron’s next CEO can turn over a new leaf

Chevron, the nation’s second largest oil and gas producer, is in the news this week as reports surface that long-time CEO John Watson is expected to step down. It’s no secret that Mr. Watson has too often lagged on his response to climate change. As the board selects a new CEO, it has a chance to turn a new leaf and move Chevron toward the right side of history on climate change, better positioning the company to address investor and social demands for cleaner energy and climate risk management.

Here’s what their new CEO should bring to the table:

A vision for how the company adapts and leads in the low carbon transition

Chevron withheld support for the Paris climate accord even as peers like Exxon and Shell supported it. Opposing the vast majority of the rest of the world is not an economically sustainable posture for a global company –and it creates unnecessary risks for shareholders. The board should select a CEO with a vision to adapt and lead in the transition to a cleaner energy economy. Simply acknowledging the reality of climate change is no longer enough – a 21st century energy leader also develops a sound business plan to navigate that reality and help the global community address one of its costliest challenges. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Upstream methane reductions crucial to future of natural gas trucks

By Jason Mathers

Amid a sustained slump in sales for natural gas vehicles, a new study highlights significant challenges for these vehicles to deliver on their modest potential of climate emission reductions; the ultimate climate impact of these vehicles rests on the actions and practices of the upstream supply chain, or well-to-pump suppliers.

The central climate-related challenge of natural gas vehicles is unburned methane leaked from the natural gas supply chain, fueling stations, and vehicles. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas known to be 84 times more potent than carbon in its first 20 years within the atmosphere. A 2015 study in Environmental Science & Technology found commercial fleets converting from diesel to natural gas could lead to greater global warming over the next 50 to 90 years before providing benefits to the climate.

Heavy Truck Emissions Outpace Fuel Stations

The new study, Future Methane Emissions from the Heavy-Duty Natural Gas Transportation Sector for Stasis, High, Medium, and Low Scenarios in 2035, expands the research conducted around methane emissions from commercial fleet vehicles and refueling stations. Led by researchers at West Virginia University, the study used data from the first study published in January to evaluate emissions and explore ways to reduce emissions from the pump-to-wheels portion of the natural gas supply chain with best management practices. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged , | Comments are closed

Be prepared: Why the smart oil and gas producers are leaning in despite uncertainty

Be Prepared. It’s not just the Boy Scout motto, it’s also the way most smart businesses try to operate. Better to anticipate future compliance issues today and bake them into your forward planning, than to be caught flatfooted tomorrow.

That is a big part of the reason major multinational oil and gas producers like ExxonMobil and Shell have said they are already following methane pollution rules finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year. Despite EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s best efforts to delay implementation of these rules, the courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of their speedy and complete implementation.

Most recently the DC Circuit last week rejected the latest attempt to undermine methane pollution limits for sources in the oil and gas sector and put those standards into full force and effect. It’s a decision that shows the wisdom of ExxonMobil’s and Shell’s strategy to lean in on regulatory compliance (and highlights the danger for other oil and gas producers that seem to be content dragging their feet and exposing their investors to compliance risk). Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Goodbye, internal combustion! Electric vehicles are rolling in

By Rory Christian and Larissa Koehler

Electric vehicles (EVs) don’t make much noise on the road, but they’re generating a lot of buzz about the future of this technology and what it means for business and the environment.

Cars, buses, and trucks are the second biggest source of pollution in the U.S. after electricity production. They are responsible for over 26 percent of emissions that adversely affect the health and well-being of the population, and put communities located close to highways and other major thoroughfares at risk. These communities, typically low-income, are often plagued by elevated asthma rates and other pollution-induced health conditions.

When thinking about ways to reduce pollution, EVs can make a world of difference. And, when charged using renewable energy sources, they produce no emissions and can be much cheaper to operate than traditional, internal combustion vehicles. As such, let’s take a look at the global EV market and impacts in the U.S. on the electric grid in two environmentally progressive states ‒ New York and California. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, New York REV| Read 3 Responses
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