On methane regs, Canada must stand tall against industry

By Drew Nelson

In a sign of growing recognition of the global methane opportunity, the Government of Canada today proposed new regulations that aim to curb methane emissions across the Canadian oil and gas industry. This marks the first regulatory package to be introduced by the Trudeau administration for Canada to meet its overall climate goals. Now that the proposal is out, the draft federal methane rules will be open for public comment before they are finalized later this year. The new rules, if passed, will reduce waste, save money, create jobs, pollute less, and have Canada keep pace with jurisdictions across the globe that are addressing methane.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. A common byproduct of oil production, methane is also used widely in the form of natural gas. This means that there is an incentive for oil and gas companies to control these emissions and stop needless energy waste.

During the lead up to the release of the Canadian methane rules, however, the inverse proved true. The Canadian oil and gas lobby worked to weaken and delay implementation of the proposed regulations. Because of concessions that have already been made to appease industry, Canada now has ground to make up to retain its ability to deliver on its climate goals.

Here are four opportunities for Canada to do just that:

  1. Reset the Timeline

The most significant watering down of the regulations was the delayed implementation timetable by as much as three years. These delays will allow an estimated 55 million tons of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Trudeau needs to reset the timetable so the regulations begin in 2019 (not 2020) and full implementation occurs by 2022 (not 2023).

  1. Require Quarterly Leak Inspections

Leaks are one of the largest sources of methane emissions in Canada. A recent study from the David Suzuki Foundation found significantly more emissions were escaping from Canadian oil and gas operations, suggesting that there are actually more leaks than what is being reported. However, operators are not currently required to look for, let alone fix these leaks at most oil and gas facilities. This doesn’t pass the common sense test. After all, how can industry reduce these leaks if they don’t even have to look for them?

Methane is invisible and odorless, and many leaks are intermittent. So, if you’re not looking for leaks, you won’t find them. The scientific literature is clear that with more frequent monitoring, the more likely you are to catch and fix leaks. This is a central reason why quarterly leak detection and repair is required in some capacity by both federal and state regulations across the U.S.  Canada’s federal proposal calls for inspections only three times a year, but this should be improved by following best practices that have been proven in other jurisdictions.

  1. Tighten the “Potential to Emit” Threshold

“Potential-to-emit” (PTE) is a measurement of how much methane a facility could, in theory, emit. A recent study by Environmental Defence shows that oil facilities have higher methane emissions than gas facilities. This is problematic because many of these high-emitting oil facilities fall below the PTE threshold in the draft regulation. This is a serious gap; you don’t let a driver with a history of speeding have a higher speed limit, so why would you let the leakiest sites avoid having to reduce their emissions? As currently proposed, the regulations would apply to facilities with a PTE greater than 60,000 cubic meters per year, but lowering this threshold and requiring systematic would ensure that the leakiest sites are included.

  1. Demand Real Equivalency

Many provinces are expected to develop their own oil and gas methane regulations and petition the federal government to drop federal requirements in exchange for the provincial requirements.  They will maintain that these provincial regulations will achieve equivalent reductions to the federal proposal. Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna needs to ensure that what the provinces do are in fact equivalent in terms of reductions, and not just politically expedient. If they let provinces get by with weaker regulations than the federal proposal, then the federal government is explicitly allowing provinces to stymie Canada’s efforts to reach its climate goals.

Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry reduces waste, creates jobs, pollutes less, and ensures Canada keeps pace with the rest of the world. Additionally, these reductions are one of the most effective and affordable ways for Canada to deliver on its climate commitments. For these promising regulations to make a meaningful impact, Canada’s leaders will have to resist the oil and gas lobby, and strengthen the rules before they’re adopted. EDF looks forward to working with the government and other concerned stakeholders to ensure this happens.

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After the March Against Monsanto—What’s Next?

On Saturday, May 20, activists took to the streets, all over the world, for the sixth annual March Against Monsanto protests.

As in years past, the Organic Consumers Association wholeheartedly supported this year’s march. We promoted it through our website, newsletter and social media networks. We mailed out about 400 packets of anti-GMO and anti-pesticide banners, bumperstickers and leaflets, to March Against Monsanto organizers.

We have always actively participated in the global March against Monsanto, and we will continue. But we also recognize that anti-Monsanto protests alone have not forced enough change, fast enough.

As Occupy activist Micah White said in a recent interview with National Public Radio, protest alone does not give us political power. How true—if we learned anything from our years of work trying to pass GMO labeling laws, it was this: As long as corporations own our politicians, no amount of public support, no amount of protesting a corporation, without also addressing our broken political system, will move us in the direction we want to go.

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Lawmakers take note: Pennsylvania’s methane emissions are way up

By Andrew Williams

The one fact that Pennsylvania lawmakers needed to hear today is this: Natural gas waste is up 28%.

And yet, the state senate held a hearing yesterday to discuss the impacts of natural gas development in the state, and not one environmental expert was on tap to speak. Consequently, senate leaders don’t have the full picture.

Here’s what state legislators need to know.

Industry-reported data made available this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection indicate that in the year ended 2015, emissions of methane – the main component of natural gas – were up over 28% although production grew by only 12%.

The amount of methane waste is even higher than what was found via a preliminary analysis of the data earlier this month. The simple truth is that while some companies are working to do the right thing and reduce emissions, the bulk of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania has a significant methane pollution problem.

Methane is the same product that these companies are aiming to sell. That means there is usable energy, and real dollars, literally going up into thin air. With emissions increasing nearly 30% without a congruent rise in production, it’s clear the industry isn’t doing an adequate job of controlling emissions and conserving Pennsylvania’s natural resources.

This is not only a problem for industry’s bottom line, it’s a problem that impacts millions of Pennsylvanians.

More than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within half a mile of an oil or gas facility, and methane isn’t the only emission that’s concerning. These facilities also emit other harmful pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks, increase smog, and exacerbate health problems.

The good news is that Pennsylvanians don’t have to choose between their environment and their economy. With the right policies in place, both can thrive. But that’s only possible if the state moves forward to address industry’s methane emissions.

Fortunately, technologies that can reduce nearly half of these emissions are some of the most affordable pollution controls in the energy industry. And many of the service and manufacturing companies that develop these technologies are headquartered in Pennsylvania, meaning there’s a huge opportunity for companies to affordably reduce their pollution as they grow good-paying jobs.

With emissions on a rapid rise, it’s clear that the state should step in and require pollution controls to be implemented statewide.

In January 2016, Governor Tom Wolf proposed a blueprint to reduce industry’s emissions. A year and a half later, there has been little action.

That’s due in no small part to a bill championed by many of the same senators in yesterday’s hearing that aims to prevent Pennsylvania from taking any action on methane that goes beyond federal efforts. That’s hugely problematic, and here’s why.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a 90-day stay on existing protections that would have cut methane pollution from new oil and gas facilities, and there is a possibility that the agency will rescind these protections altogether. This means that if Pennsylvania defers to the federal government for protections, well, they won’t be there. Tying Pennsylvania policies to whatever is happening in D.C. hardly serves the interest of Pennsylvania citizens and communities – instead, it’s a bouquet to industry.

Other major energy producing states, including: Colorado, Wyoming and Ohio, have been successful at crafting policies that require companies to use affordable and readily available technology to reduce emissions. And industry growth hasn’t been impacted – seven out of 10 gas companies surveyed in Colorado confirm that.

Since promising to reduce methane emissions, Pennsylvania has green-lighted nearly 2000 new drilling projects, yet zero new protections have been implemented.

With emissions increasing at an alarming rate, that has to change. We have to have a better balance. Pennsylvania’s elected leaders must be willing to put measures in place that can support Pennsylvania’s economy while protecting the health of our citizens and communities. The record clearly shows that both are possible.

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Finding a common trail to help working horses on tribal lands in Arizona

In the past year, the village of Supai in Arizona has drawn attention for the wrong reason: the abuse and neglect of horses used by villagers to carry visitors’ luggage and other goods. Photo by Carrie Allan/The HSUS

The Havasupai Reservation village of Supai, Arizona, located just outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park but sharing the extraordinary beauty of the region, is in its own right a popular and scenic tourist destination. Its waterfalls and swimming opportunities draw tourists and motivate them to descend a lengthy and tortuous eight-mile trail to . . . 

The post Finding a common trail to help working horses on tribal lands in Arizona appeared first on A Humane Nation.

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California carbon auction sells out after auctions upheld by appeals court, allowances sell above the floor

By Erica Morehouse

Tower Bridge in Sacramento. Photo: public domain via pixabay.

Auction results from the May California-Quebec carbon auction showed increased demand after a California Court of Appeal upheld the legality of California’s auction design last month.

These auction results should send a clear message to legislators that California has a strong carbon market design that can weather legal challenges and the inevitable bumps of the political process.

They also indicate it’s high time to extend, adapt, and strengthen the cap-and-trade program as the backbone of California’s effort to meet its ambitious 2030 target – something the California legislature has an opportunity to do by June 15 in concert with the governor’s budget.

Results from the May 16 auction

  • The auction offered more than 75 million current vintage allowances (available for 2017 or later compliance) and all of them sold at a price of $13.80, 23 cents above the minimum floor price. This is the first time the auction has cleared above the floor since November of 2015.
  • Allowances held by the utilities, Quebec, and ARB sold with over $500 million expected for California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF).
  • Almost 10 million future allowances were offered that will not be available for use until 2020 or later; a little over 2 million of those allowances sold. This is significantly higher than the 600,000 that sold in February but future allowances tend to have the most variability in demand.

Demand increased significantly from February, but why?

1. The market has clearly reacted positively by increasing demand in the wake of the Court of Appeals ruling. The appeal to the California Supreme Court and uncertainty about cap-and-trade’s future after 2020 may still be impacting market behavior, however.

2. Regulated businesses need a certain number of allowances to cover their emissions. Demand for allowances is in part driven by this simple reality, and since businesses have been laying low the last few auctions, it makes sense they would need to buy allowances this quarter. Economist Chris Busch describes why these “market fundamentals” led him to predict that at least 50-65 million allowances would be sold in this auction.

3. The stabilizing forces built into California’s program prevent big price swings when the market reacts to new developments. We can see this through California’s private secondary market, which shows daily allowance prices, and acts as a kind of barometer for how and whether the market is reacting to particular events. For example, after the California Court of Appeal on April 6 upheld the legality of California’s auction design, prices on the secondary market went up by 54 cents. When the California state senate on May 1 introduced SB 775, which would have overhauled the current cap-and-trade program and eliminated the auction allowances after 2020, the market dipped by roughly 20 cents – but recovered May 10 after the bill did not come up for a vote as anticipated. This means price shifts have been very small – mostly less than one dollar.

What will happen in the auctions if the legislature extends the cap-and-trade program?

An extension of the cap-and-trade program would lead to more robust demand for allowances — leading to a rising allowance price that better reflects the cost of a ton of carbon pollution reductions, taking into account the 2030 target that was put into law last year. With the price likely rising above the floor, we would expect to see future auctions being fully subscribed — translating into significantly more revenue for the GGRF to invest in projects that reduce carbon pollution.

Some observers have painted a dire picture of allowance prices spiking overnight. But that’s not how we’ve seen carbon markets behave in the past — and there’s no reason to think it will happen now. Instead, we’d expect a gradual strengthening of the allowance price over time, as compliance entities weighed the current price of allowances against the anticipated cost of reducing emissions in the future as the cap becomes more ambitious.

What’s more, the system already has a number of design features in place to protect against such a surge in prices, including offsets, the ability to draw on allowances “banked” from previous years, and a reserve pool of allowances (the “allowance price containment reserve”) that would be released into the market if prices rise high enough.

The governor is pushing hard for a deal on cap and trade by the budget deadline of June 15, so I’m hopeful the next auction will give us much to celebrate.

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