California regulator to vote on United
States' strictest methane rule
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[March 23, 2017]
By Tom James
(Reuters) - California's air pollution
regulator is due to hold a vote on Thursday on methane emission
regulations that it says would be the strictest in the United States in
controlling the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
The new standards, proposed by the California Air Resources Board, would
tighten efficiency requirements in the production and transportation of
natural gas, and also for some oil-handling equipment, and would mandate
prompt repair of discovered leaks, said Dave Clegern, a spokesman for
The regulations are expected to pass Thursday's vote by the board,
people familiar with the process told Reuters.
In October 2015, the massive Aliso Canyon natural gas leak forced
thousands to evacuate in Los Angeles' Porter Ranch area. It took nearly
four months to plug and has been estimated to have had a larger climate
impact than the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Methane, the main component of commercially distributed natural gas, is
produced at dedicated wells and during the extraction of oil. Pound for
pound, it traps significantly more heat in the atmosphere than carbon
dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.
Thursday's vote comes shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump proposed
major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget and as the
U.S. Senate prepares to vote on repealing a rule limiting methane
venting and leaking on federal and tribal lands.
Clegern said the timing of the vote was unintentional and that it
followed years of active work on the measure.
“If the federal government won’t protect the people and the environment
from oil and gas pollution, it has to be up to the states,” said Tim
O’Connor, a director at the Environmental Defense Fund, which worked
with the agency on the rule.
[to top of second column]
Joni Spiers wears a gas mask while rallying for the permanent shut
down of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near the
Porter Ranch neighborhood in Los Angeles, California February 19,
2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Since methane is relatively cheap, economic incentives for producers
to fix leaks are small, said Steve Weissman, a lecturer at the
Golden School of Public Policy at the University of California at
Berkeley who specializes in energy law and policy.
Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for the California Natural Gas
Producers Association, expressed reservations about the proposal on
Wednesday, and said industry concerns have centered on requirements
for continued inspections even for facilities with strong
maintenance records, and the cost of inspection.
If approved, California’s regulations would be the most stringent in
the country. Colorado, Wyoming and Ohio have their own regulations
to tackle methane, and fracking powerhouse Pennsylvania is in the
process of crafting its own rules.
(Reporting by Tom James in Seattle; Additional reporting by Valerie
Volcovici; Editing by Patrick Enright and Bill Rigby)
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