Monthly Archives: April 2013

Clean Air Report Card: CO, WY Counties Get F’s Due To Oil And Gas Pollution

Source: Washington Business Journal

As a parent, I would not be pleased if my kids brought home F’s on their report cards.  Stern talks with my children, frantic phone calls and scheduled meetings with teachers and administrators would ensue.  Plans of action would be crafted.  It would be an urgent wake-up call.

This week, several counties in Colorado and Wyoming brought home poor grades on their clean air report cards.  The American Lung Association examined the levels of damaging ozone pollution in counties in these two western states and several of them are simply not making the grade.

High ozone levels are not new to Colorado.  Like many large metropolitan areas, Denver has struggled with ozone pollution (commonly known as smog) for many years. But historically, such problems have been limited to the summertime and to the Denver metropolitan area. Now unhealthy levels of ozone are becoming a common occurrence year-round and are emerging in rural parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

The culprit?  Air pollution from oil and gas development, which is just one of the environmental risks associated with a booming natural gas industry. Read More »

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The Oil And Gas Industry’s Assault On Renewable Energy

This commentary was originally posted on our EDF Voices blog.

Source: ali_pk/flickr

Renewable energy enjoyed a record year in 2012 – the U.S. wind industry surpassed 50,000 megawatts of electrical power generation capacity and solar proved once again to be the fastest growing energy source in the United States. That’s a milestone worth celebrating, since greater use of clean, homegrown energy resources creates jobs, cuts foreign oil imports, stabilizes prices, makes our system more resilient and reduces harmful pollution. The list of benefits is vast. So who could possibly be upset?

Well, some utilities that own old and often dirty fossil fuel power plants are upset that renewables are making it harder for their older, polluting units to stay in business. Then there are oil and gas industry association leaders like American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard, who often talk about wanting a “level playing field” – implying that policies promoting renewable energy are unfair to fossil fuels.

Don’t be fooled. Renewable investments pale in comparison to the amount of money poured into fossil fuel companies since 1918 to fatten their bottom lines and crowd out competition. Fossil fuels have received around 75 times more subsidies than clean energy. Up to 2011 (adjusted for inflation), the oil and gas industry received $446.96 billion in cumulative energy subsidies from 1994 to 2009, whereas renewable energy sources received just $5.93 billion. An industry that has been enjoying federal tax subsidies for over a century has no standing to argue for a level playing field.

Heavily subsidized fossil fuels may have made sense 100 years ago, when we were racing to build the energy infrastructure of the last century. But today we’re racing to build the clean energy infrastructure of the new century — and we need to support a new set of industries. And we’re making real progress.

So it is no surprise that we are seeing a well-funded, industry-backed effort to roll back the policies that have been so successful in developing and deploying renewables. Take, for example, the latest assault on a series of state laws around the country that have increased the amount of clean, renewable energy these states produce.

Front Groups do the Dirty Work for Oil and Gas Industry

So far, 29 states have implemented Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) programs that require increased production of energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. They’ve been adopted in red states and blue – from California to Texas to Maine – through democratic processes and with popular support. RPS programs have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating American jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting our carbon footprint.

A Bloomberg article released last week details how the oil and gas industry, through some self-described free market organizations that they fund, are trying to engineer a legislative massacre of these policies in more than a dozen states.

The groups may sound familiar: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is currently pushing legislation around the country that would mandate the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems, and The Heartland Institute, which ran a billboard campaign last year comparing global warming “admitters” to Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson. Both have long opposed sensible energy policies. And their funders will sound familiar, too: the oil, gas and coal industries and their owners like the Koch Brothers.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy / Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Why The Texas Railroad Commission Must Get Well Integrity Right

On February 28, 2013, something went very wrong on a well site in Hemphill County, Texas:

According to Railroad Commission investigators, there was “one injury from well head being blown off when casing parted.”

According to the investigators, it took almost two weeks before this “frac water” stopped flowing out of the wellbore, and another week for the well to be plugged. The investigation did not determine the underlying cause of this accident.

Getting the rules right on well integrity is about preventing pollution, protecting the environment, securing property and, most importantly, saving lives. There were no fatalities in this accident, but sadly, that is not always the case (learn more about risks EDF’s natural gas work addresses).

The Railroad Commission is close to finalizing a historic well integrity rulemaking, the most significant overhaul of these practices in several decades. It is, on the whole, an excellent effort, bringing Texas back to the forefront on well construction, operation and maintenance practices. The proposals are progressive and will lead to real environmental benefit.

One particular provision of the proposal, however, falls short of the standard set by the rest of the rulemaking. It has to do with the amount of space surrounding casings, the steel pipes that go underground. This “annular space” (or “annular gap”) is supposed to be filled with cement as necessary to isolate groundwater from pollution, protect the casing from corrosion, and prevent gas from migrating to places it does not belong.

The width of the annular gap matters. In order for a cement job to be effective, the gap must be neither too wide nor too narrow.

Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, Texas / Comments are closed

Nest Labs: Proof Life Exists In The Smart Grid Ecosystem

This commentary was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog.

There are many conceptions of the smart grid; what it is and what it should do for us – the “ratepayers” – who will finance the necessary upgrades to California’s electrical system. I find the concept of a “smart grid ecosystem” — with smart customers, smart utilities and smart markets — to be a helpful guidepost as we seek to evaluate what should be accomplished by the utilities trusted to deploy our smart grid.

Ecosystems achieve resiliency through diversity. We want a variety of clean energy resources on the supply side – hydropower, wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal – spread across a variety of locations (but never too far from customers). Similarly, on the demand – or customer – side, Californians, buildings, appliances and electric vehicles create an intricate, synergetic web that can be made more efficient and flexible with customer education and empowerment, customer-focused energy pricing policies, and demand response (which allows customers to voluntarily reduce peak electricity use and receive a payment for doing so in response to a signal from their electric utilities).

There are other ways to contemplate diversity in the energy context: Unlike some other states, most Californians can’t choose their power providers, though they can choose among rate “plans” (which are payment schemes, not plans to help manage energy use and costs). EDF recognizes that a smart energy marketplace will thrive with a greater variety of competitors, products and services, and would like to see “3rd party energy service providers” able to participate (that catch-all term includes organizations that deliver energy services and products to customers at a variety of levels throughout the smart grid ecosystem).

Yesterday’s announcement by Nest Labs (Nest) is more proof that the smart grid ecosystem is alive and well. With utility partnerships in California and Texas, among other places, Nest uses their intelligent, WiFi-connected thermostat to help customers smartly and painlessly trim energy use by learning, and mimicking, their temperature preferences automatically. For example, the Nest’s Seasonal Savings services will alert your thermostat when new rates apply with a change of season and the device will begin slight adjustments to presets to adapt to predictable weather trends. Read More »

Posted in General / Comments are closed

Looking For User-Friendly Data On The Real Benefits Of Energy Efficiency? Try REED

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Regional Energy Efficiency Database (REED), a user-friendly tool to engage policymakers, customers and industry on the real benefits of energy efficiency. With the support of the DOE, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) created the regional database to create consistent protocols for energy efficiency in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, with Delaware and the District of Columbia to be added later this year. NEEP’s Regional Evaluation Measurement and Verification Forum (EM&V Forum) will then use these protocols to evaluate and measure the results of each participating states’ energy efficiency programs.  

Back in 2010, the EM&V Forum adopted standard guidelines for reporting, and as a result, has been able to develop this database that not only allows users to visually see the benefits of energy efficiency within a state, but also compare them in a meaningful way against other states in the region.  Think of it as a little energy efficiency competition amongst neighbors.

The Northeast region has a robust energy efficiency partnership and network, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which caps power plants emissions and higher electricity costs than most other regions in the country, all of which incentivizes energy efficiency. By accurate monitoring and verifying energy usage using the EM&V Forum, policymakers can determine which programs are the most impactful, from both and economic and environmental perspective, which ensures consumers that their tax dollars are providing tangible benefits.

Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Washington, DC / Comments are closed

California Leading The Way To Clean Energy Innovation While A Few Lag Behind Investing In Litigation, Obstructionism

This commentary by Erica Morehouse, EDF Staff Attorney was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog.

Climate pollution threatens the health of California’s families and the prosperity of our economy. Last November, California began a vitally important program that reduces climate pollution, rewards clean energy innovation, and helps ensure that the biggest emitters are responsible for their own pollution.

The program places a firm limit on overall climate pollution from the largest industrial emitters in California, allows flexible solutions to achieve that limit across sources, and requires major industrial emitters to bear a small portion of their pollution costs by requiring them to obtain carbon emissions allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, under which allowances may be obtained in public auctions or trades on the open market.

Fast forward five months, Californians are already realizing critical health and economic benefits from this groundbreaking environmental policy. And, the Golden State continues to lead the way in clean energy and transportation jobs due in large part to AB 32, which has opened the door for greater investment in the clean energy economy. More good news: Yesterday, the state fulfilled a requirement of 2012 AB 32 Legislation by releasing its blueprint for how to expand these benefits by investing proceeds from auctions to strengthen our economy, our health, and the environment.

California’s plan focuses on making key greenhouse gas reductions in three sectors: transportation, energy, and natural resources. The goal is to create multiplier effects that allow Californians to draw benefits from these opportunities that far outweigh the investment. And every day new research shows just how widely the benefits of clean economy investments can ripple. EPA recently released a study showing that if energy costs accounted for the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, they would increase by between $361 and $886.5 billion annually. When California invests in clean energy those hidden health benefits accrue for years to come – and they protect our families and our children.

Read More »

Posted in California, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy / Comments are closed