In response to the deadly natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to make pipelines safer. The regulations will go a long way toward safeguarding communities from the risks of natural gas explosions, but, if they’re done right, they could also protect the climate.
Natural gas is mostly methane – a potent climate pollutant, and reducing the amount of gas that leaks from pipelines also reduces emissions of methane. But there are aspects of the proposal that could result in an increase in methane emissions if proper action isn’t taken. The proposed safety measures require operators to conduct more testing to ensure that pipelines can handle high pressures of gas. Before this testing begins pipeline operators have to empty the pipes by blowing gas down the pipeline. Opponents to the rule say this would create a significant increase in methane emissions, but fortunately a recent study from a leading environmental consulting firm concluded otherwise. Read More
Austin, my home for the past 35 years, is typically a pretty sunny place year-round. But summer is when I am reminded of the sun’s unwavering presence and strength.
Fortunately, Texas is beginning to put those rays to work, as evidenced by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) newest U.S. Solar Market Insight. Along with projected scenarios from the state’s main grid operator and a recent poll of Texas voters, the report confirms the Lone Star State’s solar power is on an unstoppable course. And the more we can take advantage of the sun’s energy, the less we have to rely on outdated, polluting coal plants – a good thing for our health and water.
Here are three reasons Texas solar is on the rise:
- Texas solar is growing very quickly: The new Solar Market Insight report declares Texas to be the fastest growing utility-scale solar market in the country. In fact, by the end of 2016, SEIA predicts the state’s total installed solar capacity will more than double. And within the next five years, Texas’ solar market will be second only to California’s (although, considering California has one-fourthof the solar power potential of Texas, we could eclipse the Golden State in coming years).
On June 20 and 21, temperatures across the Southwest hit record triple digits. It was a scorching way to start the summer. For Southern Californians, early arrival of extreme heat tested the region’s already compromised electricity system: Residents braced for rolling blackouts as the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility (one of the primary sources of power generation in the region) was offline after a disastrous methane leak last winter. Aliso will remain offline until Southern California Gas Company can assure regulators, legislators, and the community that it can be operated safely and efficiently.
The heatwave was further complicated by devastating wildfires to the north and southwest, but the region was ultimately able to emerge from the threat relatively unscathed. Although thousands of residents dealt with short-term outages, rolling blackouts – reminders of California’s dramatic energy crisis of the early 2000s – never came and the region was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
During the heatwave, focus was rightly on keeping the system running. But now it’s time to look at how we were able to meet historic electricity demand without the system crashing, and how this will inform power providers in the months ahead.
My head feels whipsawed by the wildly changing proposals to bail out FirstEnergy’s uneconomic and dirty power plants. The latest development in this ongoing saga occurred June 29, when the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff recommended a new subsidy solution for the utility behemoth: $131 million per year over three years.
While this proposal is, blessedly, 90 percent less than FirstEnergy’s original $4 billion bailout proposal, it’s still an unnecessary subsidy that Ohio taxpayers should not be forced to shoulder. Hearings on whether the PUCO commissioners should approve the deal begin today.
UPDATE: Since the March 2016 publication of this original blog post, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) last week issued an order officially approving a settlement agreement Environmental Defense Fund, along with several other stakeholders, helped negotiate for Duke Energy’s grid modernization plan. The IURC’s order approved the settlement (details of which are outlined in the post below) without change. Now Duke Energy can proceed with the $1.4 billion plan, which will bring many clean energy benefits to Duke’s 800,000 customers.
Help is on the way to reduce harmful pollution in Indiana, which has the seventh highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joined a settlement filed this week for Duke Energy’s grid modernization plan. The settlement calls for Duke – the largest utility in the country, which serves over 800,000 Indiana households – to invest $1.4 billion over the next seven years to improve its electric grid. Doing so will deliver major benefits for Duke’s customers. Read More
A ruptured natural gas pipeline in the quiet community of San Bruno, California ignited on the evening of September 9, 2010. The resulting fire destroyed 38 homes, killed eight people, and injured many others. It was one of the biggest pipeline explosions in recent history, and it very likely could have been prevented.
Now, almost six years later, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to prevent serious incidents, like what happened in San Bruno, from happening again. Read More