New York’s Methane Reduction Plan: A Model for Other States

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

On Wednesday May 17, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a new Methane Reduction Plan, designed to advance the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. To date, state efforts have primarily focused on lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. The state has, however, recognized the need to also address methane emissions. Although methane is emitted in smaller quantities than carbon dioxide, it is much more potent, trapping up to 84 times more heat in the earth’s atmosphere in the first 20 years after it is released (on a per ton basis). Thus, according to the Governor’s office, “methane reduction is a key piece of New York’s policies to address the risks from climate change.”

The Methane Reduction Plan targets the three major sources of methane emissions: (1) the oil and gas sector, (2) agricultural producers, and (3) landfills. It identifies 25 actions to be taken across the three areas by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”), Department of Public Service (“DPS”), Energy Research and Development Authority, and Department of Agriculture. Interestingly, of those 25 actions, almost half are aimed at controlling emissions from the oil and gas sector. Those controls go significantly further than existing regulations at the federal level and may provide a model for other states looking to more tightly regulate oil and gas operations.

2016 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award Winner: Marathon Petroleum Corporation — Illinois Refining Division

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Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) has extensive refining, marketing, and transportation operations concentrated primarily in the Midwest, Northeast, East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Southeast regions of the United States. MPC is the third-largest refiner in the U.S. and the largest in the Midwest. The Robinson refinery, also known as the Illinois Refining Division (IRD), is located in Robinson, Illinois, has a crude oil refining capacity of approximately 231,000 barrels per calendar day and encompasses approximately 920 acres.

MPC improved the environmental impact of their operations by:

  • reducing solid waste by 2,038 tons;
  • conserving 3,000,000 gallons of water;
  • diverting 393 tons household hazardous waste from landfills;
  • eliminating 18,972 metric tons of carbon dioxide; and
  • restoring 247 acres of certified wildlife habitat.

EPA Walks Back Methane Rule for Oil and Gas Industry

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Wednesday that it will reconsider a Barack Obama-era rule to curb emissions of methane, volatile organic compounds, and other toxic air pollutants from the oil and gas industry. The rule, which was finalized in June of 2016 and would have gone into effect in June of this year, was expected to prevent more than 500,000 tons of methane emissions by 2025—an amount equivalent to 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But as soon as it was passed, the rule faced immediate legal challenges from oil and gas companies and several state attorneys general.

Potentially Explosive Methane Gas Mobile in Groundwater, Poses Safety Risk: Study

Read the full story from the University of Guelph.

Potentially explosive methane gas leaking from energy wells may travel extensively through groundwater and pose a safety risk, according to a new study by University of Guelph researchers.

Methane Regulation Under Trump: New Administration Looks to Remove Obama-Era Controls

Read the full story at the Climate Law Blog.

Around this time of year, back in 1859, the first oil well was drilled by Edwin Drake in north-west Pennsylvania. After a slow start – drilling initially progressed at a rate of just three feet per day – Drake struck it lucky and hit oil at a depth of 69.5 feet. The oil was brought to
the surface with a primitive hand pump and collected in a bathtub while the associated natural gas escaped into the atmosphere.

A lot has changed in the subsequent 150 years. The oil and gas industry has developed into one of the country’s most technologically advanced, able to drill deeper and access reserves that Drake never would have foreseen. Despite these advances, however, some things have remained the same. To this day, oil drillers still often allow natural gas to escape into the atmosphere, rather than capturing it. Releases also occur during gas production due to accidental leaks, intentional venting, and incomplete flaring at well sites, storage facilities, and transport systems. The Obama Administration had tried to change that, adopting various regulations to reduce gas leaks, venting, and flaring. These regulations are unlikely to survive under President Trump, however. That’s bad news for anyone concerned about climate change. Or the environment and public health more generally.

Study of fracking in four states uncovers over 6,600 spills

Read the full interview at ResearchGate.

A new study investigating spills from hydraulically fractured oil and gas uncovered 6,648 spills in just four states over a ten-year period. Part of the SNAP Partnership, the study examined data from Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Significant differences in reporting requirements across states made this analysis difficult. Lauren Patterson, a water policy specialist at Duke University, and her coauthors say making this kind of state-level data more uniform and transparent would help regulators and industry reduce the number of incidents. We spoke with her to learn more.

Fracking Presents Big Problems That Towns Have Little Authority to Fix

Read the full story in Governing.

Hydraulic fracturing generates a lot of low-cost energy, but as has been widely reported, it carries with it troubling liabilities. Most of those involve an environmental price paid by the areas where the drilling takes place and oil or natural gas is transported. Localities have limited ability to do anything about them.