Why utilities have little incentive to plug leaking natural gas

The Conversation, Academic rigor, Journalistic flair

By Catherine Hausman

August 9, 2016

The Aliso Canyon leak in California earlier this year focused public attention on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it is a potent contributor to climate change. In less than a year, the Aliso Canyon facility leaked methane equal to about four million metric tons of CO2, the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving over 800,000 cars in a year.

But the problem of methane leakage was hardly news to environmentalists and regulators, who have been following the problem for years. Indeed, the EPA this year introduced regulations to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas wells – and more initiatives are expected to be coming down the, er, pipeline.

Methane leaks occur throughout the natural gas supply chain – from the time it’s collected, stored and transported until its use in a power plant, factory, home or business. The leaks can be from aging pipelines, but also from poorly fitted components and from intentional venting – a common practice in which gas is released directly into the atmosphere during maintenance.

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Pollution may shorten lung cancer patients' lives, research shows

The Guardian

By Denis Campbell
August 4, 2016

Air pollution may shorten the life of people who are suffering from lung cancer, researchers have found.

The findings, which add to growing evidence about the health impact of airborne toxins, show that those diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer are most at risk of an early death. That applies in particular to people with adenocarcinoma, the commonest form on non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 80% of cases of the disease.

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Opinion: Voluntary compliance doesn't work with frackers

Pocono Record

By Richard B. Kuprewicz

Jul. 31, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency runs a program called Natural Gas STAR, which challenges oil and gas companies to make voluntary commitments to reduce methane emissions from their operations.

My company, Accufacts, took a deep dive into this program and found that it does not go nearly far enough to limit methane releases including leaks from the industrial natural gas sector. Although it is an admirable program, voluntary measures, like the STAR program and the EPA’s recently introduced Methane Challenge Program, do not work. Thankfully, in addition to adopting the first nationwide standard for methane pollution from new oil and gas industry sources, the EPA is currently collecting information to develop methane pollution standards for existing sources. Here in Pennsylvania, the Wolf Administration is working on standards of its own.

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This New NASA Project Tracks Greenhouse Gases From a Plane


By Kastalia Medrano

July 22, 2016

This summer, NASA kicked off the first stage of a large-scale, airborne greenhouse gas study. The Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America project focuses on the movement of two specific greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane. By tracking and studying how exactly those two gases cycle through our atmosphere, scientists hope to better understand how they contribute to climate change. This is all being done from the air, which is pretty cool.

The project is currently in the first of five campaigns covering four seasons (summer will be repeated, since it seems the most likely to be more biologically active). Each campaign will visit each of three regions in the eastern United States; about five weeks remain in this first campaign. Since the team needs time to analyze the data after each season, the campaigns won’t be sequential from a seasonal perspective — meaning the next time they fly will be this winter. The whole thing is spread out over two and a half years.

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Compressor Stations Open Up New Front in Fracking Debate

The Allegheny Front

By Joanna Richards

July 15, 2016


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Fracking may worsen asthma for nearby residents, study says

Jul. 18, 2016 

CHICAGO (AP) — Fracking may worsen asthma in children and adults who live near sites where the oil and gas drilling method is used, according to an 8-year study in Pennsylvania.

The study found that asthma treatments were as much as four times more common in patients living closer to areas with more or bigger active wells than those living far away.

But the study did not establish that fracking directly caused or worsened asthma. There's also no way to tell from the study whether asthma patients exposed to fracking fare worse than those exposed to more traditional gas drilling methods or to other industrial activities.

Fracking refers to hydraulic fracturing, a technique for extracting oil and gas by injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack rock. Environmental effects include exhaust, dust and noise from heavy truck traffic transporting water and other materials, and from drilling rigs and compressors. Fracking and improved drilling methods led to a boom in production of oil and gas in several U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

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Fire From New Mexico Fracking Site Explosion Keeps Burning Three Days Later

Think Progress

By Alejandro Davila Fragoso

July 14, 2016

A massive fire at a fracking site in rural New Mexico that scorched 36 oil storage tanks and prompted the evacuation of 55 residents is dwindling but still burning Thursday, some three days after the first explosion was reported.

The fire that started Monday night is mostly out, WPX Energy, the Oklahoma-based company that owns the site, reported Wednesday. However, “small fires” remained at four of the 36 tanks, the company said. No injuries have been reported and according to the company no drilling was taking place at the site prior to the storage tanks catching fire.

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How air pollution affects your health

The Guardian

July 5, 2016

Paul Tinker and Tom Levitt

Exposure to air pollutants has been linked to suppressed lung growth, asthma, heart disease, foetal brain growth damage and the onset of diabetes

Air pollution from traffic and industry is leading to the premature death of more than three million people a year. Globally, that’s more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined.

Pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter from road traffic and sulphur dioxide, from the burning of fossil fuels, have been linked to suppressed lung growth in children, asthma, heart disease and the onset of type 2 diabetes. The exposure of pregnant women to air pollution has also been found to affect to foetal brain growth.

It is an avoidable and unequal health burden. In London, for example, more than 400 schools are located in areas that exceed limits for nitrogen dioxide pollution, but four-fifths of those are in deprived areas.

Even in countries with a long history of tackling air pollution, the problem has not gone away. The UK, which passed its first anti-air pollution legislation 60 years ago today, is currently involved in a long-running legal battle over its failure to cut pollution to legal levels.

Click here to see an infographic that explains more and here to send a letter to Governor Wolf and your local representatives encouraging methane regulations. 

The Hunt For Methane Leaks Goes High-Tech

The Allegheny front

Reid Frazier

July 8, 2016

Up a bumpy road in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, a team of researchers park their van, turn on a half-million dollars of equipment, and start another round of trying to solve a climate riddle.

They are in rural Susquehanna County looking for methane—the powerful greenhouse gas and the main component of natural gas.

Lead researcher Naomi Zimmerman, a post-doctoral research associate at Carnegie Mellon University, turns on a gas monitor to see how much methane is in the air. The monitor starts to pick up a reading of 1.2 parts per million. That’s about 12 times what they would expect to see from a gas well. Judging by the wind direction, Zimmerman and fellow Carnegie Mellon scientists Mark Omara and Aja Ellis think the gas is coming from a nearby pipeline.

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Once a leader on clean energy and green jobs, Pa.'s progress has been slowed to a halt


June 30, 2016

by Matt Bevilacqua

Leanne Krueger-Braneky knew that Harrisburg would be tough, but she didn’t know just how tough. When the newly elected state representative was sworn in last August, the budget was already two months late. It wouldn’t pass until the following March.“I’ve had colleagues from both sides of the aisle pull me aside and tell me that this is truly the worst they’ve ever seen it,” says Krueger-Braneky,  a Democrat who represents Delaware County’s 161st District in the state House. “So I came in during a particularly intensive period in modern history in the Legislature.”

Soon, she’d learn that the same kind of governmental morass extends to other issues, including a major part of her platform: the environment. For eight years, Krueger-Braneky served as executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, which supports environmentally friendly businesses and business practices in the region. She hoped that by heading to the Republican-controlled General Assembly as a green-leaning Democrat, she could use her office to promote a message of sustainability statewide.

Then she came up against a web of opposition so deep-seated and far-reaching that it exceeded even her expectations.

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