A Successful Cleanup at Aliso Canyon Requires a Principled Approach

aliso pic 2The leak in Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon Facility released a massive amount of methane – a powerful climate change pollutant. Like other catastrophes, now that the pollution release is stemmed, the focus shifts towards cleanup and mitigation (as well as establishing causation, preventing recurrence, and pursuing legal actions).

Last week California took a major step on the cleanup front with the release of the final Aliso Canyon mitigation plan, a plan to cut pollution equal to about 100,000 metric tons of methane. Its aims to achieve these reductions by focusing on the agriculture and waste sectors, increasing energy efficiency and decreasing use of fossil fuels, and reducing methane “hot spots.”

While the portfolio of strategies laid out within the finalized plan is strong, this is only the beginning of a lengthy process, and one in which pushback from SoCalGas is already palpable. As the critical details of the mitigation plan are put into action, adherence to core principles is necessary to ensure mitigation from the Aliso Canyon disaster is a success story for the climate and people of California. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Will AEP Subsidize Its Past or Modernize the Grid?

power lines unsplash

AEP Ohio has been busy. On the one hand, it has been trying to keep its outdated, uneconomic coal plants afloat at a hefty cost to Ohioans. And as of last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved AEP’s requested subsidies to continue spewing pollution from dirty generators. This bailout is bad news for business, customers, and the environment – and the PUCO should have rejected it. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will continue to object to the income-guarantees at the state and federal level.

On the other hand, and in a separate regulatory case, AEP has been working with multiple parties – including EDF – to build a cleaner, smarter grid. Its recent grid modernization agreement is a step toward more efficient, reliable electricity that will help people reduce their energy usage, lower their electric bills, and breathe cleaner air.

These two concurrent cases show AEP needs to decide whether it will change for the future, or stay stuck in the past. And while EDF has been clear in our opposition to the subsidies, today we want to acknowledge AEP’s innovative, forward-looking grid modernization efforts. Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, Ohio, Voltage Optimization| Comments are closed

Why Texas Leaders Should Maintain Clean Energy Tools

wind turbines unsplashIn terms of clean energy, Texas is incredibly resource-rich. And as our wind progress shows, we have begun to maximize that potential: The Lone Star State currently produces nearly three times as much wind energy as the next highest state.

How did Texas arrive at the forefront of the wind energy economy? One factor that undoubtedly played a vital role: the creation of an ahead-of-its-time policy tool that required the identification of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), as well as the construction of transmission lines to move energy from the CREZ to electric customers.

Since West Texas has plentiful wind but not as many people, this initiative aimed to transport that wind energy to populous cities throughout the state. The rules allow the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to designate an area with abundant renewable energy as a CREZ, and then approve new transmission lines or improvements to existing ones. In 2008, the PUCT exercised this authority and the resulting power lines – completed in 2014 – stretch nearly 3,600 miles, moving clean, renewable energy across the state while improving the overall reliability of the electric grid.

However, despite these successes, the PUCT recently proposed to dismantle the rules related to CREZ and the approval of new transmission lines, which would be a significant affront to the state’s thriving wind industry – including the revenue and jobs that come with it. Right now, there are no proposals to expand the designation of CREZ and develop additional power lines to those zones. But with the rapidly changing energy landscape, it makes more sense for state leaders to maintain CREZ capabilities in their toolkit, rather than undoing a successful energy development policy. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Texas| Comments are closed

Largest Methane Study to Date Confirms We Need to Do a Better Job Checking for Methane Leaks

By Matt Watson and David Lyon

Drive by an oil or gas well pad, and it may not look like much — a couple of storage tanks, some pipes, maybe a see-sawing pump jack. But fly over one of these facilities with an infrared camera and you might see something different: methane pollution.

We did exactly that for a new study accepted today in Environmental Science and Technology. In the largest sample size of any methane emissions study to date, we hired one of the nation’s most experienced leak detection companies to fly a helicopter over 8,000 well pads in seven regions across the country using infrared technology to capture images of methane and other pollutants. The goal was to better characterize the prevalence of “super emitters” – the large, enigmatic sources responsible for a big portion of industry’s methane pollution – so we could figure out how to stop them.

Read More »

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To Keep Lights on in LA, State’s Aliso Canyon Action Plan Must Fix Energy Markets, Maximize Smart Energy Solutions

By Tim O’Connor and Lauren Navarro

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Ongoing fallout from the catastrophic failure at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility is exposing a critical weakness in the state’s energy system. Overdependence on natural gas – and on one provider of that gas – means we don’t have the flexibility we need to cope if things go wrong. And now that they have gone wrong, because of SoCalGas’ mismanagement of the Aliso Canyon storage facility, a group of state agencies says the region could be facing power shortages this summer as a result.

A new report released today by the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) describes the problem. While a separate report released by CEC, CPUC, CAISO and LADWP, begins to lay out the short-term response plan. (Some of the efforts already under way are documented here, here, and here). Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Read 1 Response

Pipeline Safety Bill Puts New Focus on Aging Gas Infrastructure

9496055390_6ce041c81b_oLast 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 »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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