A Handy Checklist for Regulators on Well Integrity

20141118_132328After several years of collaboration among regulatory experts from across the country, the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC), recently published a set of 136 “Regulatory Elements” intended to provide regulators with ideas to consider when improving oversight of the permitting, construction, operation and plugging of oil and gas wells.

This may sound dry, but regulations addressing these elements are what keep oil and gas wells from blowing up during drilling or later leaking methane, oil, saltwater, hydraulic fracturing fluid, and other contaminants into air or groundwater.

With over 15 million Americans living within a mile of a well, strong rules on well integrity covering the wide variety of topics addressed in these elements make a huge difference to human health and the environment. Read More »

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3 Reasons We Can Feel Good about Where Energy Efficiency is Headed

Buildings2“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.

As a child, that line from the classic Dr. Seuss book struck a chord in me, far beyond the giggle it caused when I thought of trees having tongues. The quote clearly imprinted the idea that – when a situation needs attention – those who can speak, should. For me, one of those situations is sharing the good news that energy-efficient buildings are cleaner and smarter than ever.

Buildings can be big polluters: 70 percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050, adding 40 percent to the current world building stock. As energy-efficient structures develop in growing countries, the U.S. can help stay competitive by retrofitting its existing buildings. Plus, improving building efficiency can contribute to reductions in global CO2 emissions from buildings by 83 percent below business-as-usual by 2050, reports the World Resources Institute.

I believe we are well on our way to creating a cleaner, smarter energy future. My optimism is fueled by efficiency trends in three important arenas: people, places, and partnerships.

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Post-Legislative Session, California is Closer to Important New Clean Energy Laws

ca-leg-buildingAfter a long and hard-fought legislative session, the dust is settling in California’s capitol. Many forward-looking clean energy bills sit on Gov. Brown’s desk, while others did not make it that far. It’s a time when legislative staff and advocates step back, breathe a sigh of relief, and take stock of what has been accomplished, what was lost along the way, and – most importantly – what remains to be done.

AB 1937 (Gomez) – a bill to avoid new natural gas plants in heavily burdened communities – and other key energy bills await the governor’s signature. Efforts to expand the entity that manages our electric grid, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), also continue. For the state to realize its vision of an economy powered by clean energy resources, it is crucial Gov. Brown sign these key energy bills and work closely with the legislature to expand CAISO.

Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, California, Demand Response, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

New Report: Competition Leads to Savings and Cleaner Energy

spring-sunset-pixabayBy: John Finnigan and Dick Munson

To compete, or not to compete – that is the question facing today’s electricity industry.

On one side of the debate are utilities with uneconomic power plants, which are unable to prosper in regional, competitive electricity markets. Faced with low natural gas prices and dramatically declining renewable energy costs, these utilities want bailouts for their aging coal fleets, or they want to relive their glory days as monopolies with guaranteed profits and no pesky corporate rivals. Ohio-based FirstEnergy – which has long waged war on clean energy and campaigned for a bailout – serves as the poster child of this camp.

On the other side are those that recognize the myriad benefits of competition. This includes power companies that didn’t double down on coal and do operate their plants efficiently. There are also nontraditional players – like cleantech entrepreneurs and renewable energy producers – who desire access to the market and a level playing field.

Fortunately, the pro-competition side just got a big endorsement from the nation’s largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection. PJM issued a newly-revised report that confirms bailouts and re-monopolization are not the solution, and competitive markets are the best path for lower-cost, cleaner energy. Read More »

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New Technologies Deliver Data That Can Make Gas Pipelines Safer

By Virginia Palacios and Holly Pearen

Plastic pipeline being placed in a trench

Plastic pipeline being placed in a trench.

The tragic 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion served as proof of how a small pipeline leak combined with human error can cause a devastating disaster.  This has led the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to propose new regulations for gas pipelines across the country in order to prevent another major pipeline catastrophe.

At the same time, utilities are beginning to adopt advanced technologies and methods that provide better data to experts —  helping to prevent accidents that threaten public health and safety.  If PHMSA requires operators to use these emerging leak detection technologies and quantification and analytical methods, we could see improved utility safety programs and a decline in incidents related to human error. Read More »

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Want to know the leading cause of oil & gas spills? So do we.

A crude oil spill on a wetland in Mountrail County, North Dakota. Photo source: US Fish and Wildlife Service

A crude oil spill on a wetland in Mountrail County, North Dakota.
Photo source: US Fish and Wildlife Service

When the oil and gas industry spills or leaks harmful fluids – whether toxic oil or chemical-laden wastewater – the damage to local ecosystems can last for decades.

Understanding the most common causes of accidental releases could help stakeholders take corrective measures to avoid them. Unfortunately, many regulators don’t collect and make transparent critical information about how many accidents are happening, and what causes them. Read More »

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