- California regulators have approved a new approach toward addressing methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, requiring utilities to prioritize repairs on lines that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, even if the lines don't pose a physical threat.
- The new approach aims to reduce 40% of utility methane leaks by 2030. Environmentalists say California's gas pipelines emit more than 100,000 metric tons of methane every year.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a move in the opposite direction. The Trump administration started taking comments on the agency's plan to ease methane release restrictions for oil and gas drillers.
Even as the federal government continues to seek ways to loosen restrictions on oil and gas producers, California's new methane leakage strategy reflects a growing focus across the country on making energy systems cleaner.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the new approach to address pipeline leaks could reduce methane emissions from the utility sector by 40% within a dozen years, and called it "a significant step forward in California's quest to make its energy system carbon neutral."
The resolution adopted by regulators also calls for utilities to consider what levels of reduction can be achieved by 2020.
"This is a massive deal that will fundamentally change the way we think about gas leaks," EDF Senior Director Timothy O'Connor said in a statement. "California utilities are finally accountable for reducing the negative environmental impact that gas leakage can cause."
If a similar approach were rolled out nationwide, O'Connor said it could make the United States' pipelines cleaner and safer, "and put a significant dent in the oil and gas industry's carbon footprint."
Federally, however, a plan is under consideration to ease limits on emissions from oil and gas drilling sites. The proposed plan is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week, and the EPA will accept comments until mid-December.