Energy Exchange

Rogue methane leaks from idle wells carry four big takeaways for policymakers

An ongoing methane leak involving several long-term idle wells in Southern California is raising safety concerns for nearby residents and highlights an important climate issue. Southern California has some of the worst air quality in the country, and leaks like these compound the negative impacts on some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Both in California and across the country, many hundreds of thousands of end-of-life oil and gas wells are idle. That means that they are just sitting around awaiting proper site closure, which involves plugging the wells with cement to prevent gases or liquids from escaping and threatening the environment and public health.

Several such wells were recently found to be leaking methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that often escapes from oil and gas facilities alongside other toxic pollutants — in the Morningstar section of Bakersfield, CA. Local residents are concerned about the possibility of subsurface methane migration to homes and other structures in the vicinity.

While CalGEM and other agencies work to investigate and remediate the situation, four takeaways are already emerging:

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Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Language: / Comments are closed

Big bright spot in a disappointing season for shareholder climate resolutions

By Andrew Howell, CFA

It’s annual general meeting season in the U.S. — when shareholders hold companies to account and press management to do better.

A record 71 climate-related resolutions will be presented this year at public companies, more than double the number last year. But with a more ambitious suite of resolutions, fewer are being approved: just 21% of climate resolutions have passed so far this year, compared with 33% last year.

So it is big news that yesterday brought the passage of the first two climate resolutions in the oil and gas sector at ExxonMobil and Chevron. And while the successful Exxon resolution, requiring reporting on the financial impacts of a net zero by 2050 world, received more attention, the Chevron resolution is equally noteworthy. Chevron’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution filed by Mercy Investment Services pushing the company to improve its reporting on methane emissions.

Methane is a critically important issue to mitigate climate emissions and improve energy security. Having reliable, quality data is the key to rapidly address both imperatives now.

The Chevron methane resolution was backed by a whopping 98% of shareholders and was supported by the company’s board — likely the first time a climate resolution has achieved this status.

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Posted in Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Language: / Comments are closed

Differentiated gas: Nothing but hot air without these five criteria

By Dan Grossman and Maureen Lackner

Getting a comprehensive and accurate picture of the extent of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is hard.

Our scientists have spent much of the last decade detailing deficiencies and inaccuracies in the way companies — and even regulators — estimate emissions, which result in dangerous understatements of the methane problem.

And that is precisely why efforts by oil and gas companies and their consultants to differentiate some natural gas as “responsibly sourced” or “low emission” is problematic.

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Posted in Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Language: / Comments are closed

The New York Utility Commission institutes a climate planning framework

The New York Public Service Commission is taking decisive action to orient the state’s utilities towards a clean energy future, consistent with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. In two new orders, the commission established a collaborative long-term planning process for gas utilities, put in place a framework for greenhouse gas emissions reporting for all New York utilities and directed a statewide study to assess the impacts of transitioning away from the use of natural gas.

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Posted in Natural Gas, New York / Language: / Comments are closed

Methane gas leaks present environmental justice concerns

By Erin Murphy and Joe von Fischer

New peer-reviewed research reveals neighborhoods with more people of color and lower household income tended to have more gas leaks. Because natural gas is composed primarily of methane, leaks are a source of climate pollution as well as a health and safety hazard and nuisance to nearby communities. The findings demonstrate why regulators and gas utilities should be open with the public about gas leak information and ensure that leaks in disadvantaged communities are addressed equitably.

What the research tells us

Researchers analyzed gas leak location data in nine U.S. metro areas and found leak densities increased along with the percentage of people of color and with decreasing median household income. Thus, communities of color and low-income populations generally experienced more gas leaks. The study found that average leak density increases by 37% for these populations compared to predominantly white neighborhoods. Leak density — the number of leaks per mile of pipeline — also increased slightly in neighborhoods with older housing infrastructure.

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Posted in General / Language: / Comments are closed

The time has come for NYPSC to focus on charging infrastructure for trucks and buses

New York is at a crossroads. Our flagship climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, requires significant emissions reductions statewide. This puts every sector of our economy on the hook to deliver and position New York on a path to climate safety. To achieve the CLCPA’s goals, government agencies, communities and the private sector must work together to establish systems and solutions that reduce climate pollution, improve air quality and equity, and spark economic growth throughout the state.

The CLCPA’s vision cannot be achieved without tackling emissions from the transportation sector, the state’s second largest source of climate pollution and a significant contributor to local air pollution. New York policymakers have recognized this reality, but a transition to new types of vehicles can only be as successful as the infrastructure that powers them. And there, the New York Public Service Commission holds the key to success. That is why EDF, together with parties, has just filed a petition requesting that the Commission take steps to address the charging infrastructure needs of electric trucks and buses in the state.

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Posted in Electric Vehicles, NESCAUM, New York / Language: / Comments are closed