- Dominion Energy said Tuesday it plans to reduce by 50% methane emissions from its gas infrastructure over the next decade, relative to 2010 levels. The company said its new initiative will prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane from being released.
- The plan calls for reducing or eliminating gas venting during maintenance and inspections, replacing older equipment, expanding leak detection and other steps across its system.
- Climate activists responded with skepticism, noting that Dominion is still developing plans to bring fracked natural gas from West Virginia into North Carolina. Though the project is delayed, Dominion hopes to restart construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in the third quarter, and begin initial service on the line in late 2020.
Dominion's methane leak reduction plan is the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road for a year or planting nearly 180 million new trees, according to the company, but fossil fuel opponents say the proposal misses the forest for all those hypothetical trees.
"Nice try," Chesapeake Climate Action Network's (CCAN) Virginia director Harrison Wallace said in a statement. "The best way for Dominion to reduce methane emissions is to abandon its plans to build its controversial and unnecessary $7.5 billion pipeline."
According to CCAN, the ACP will "far more than offset" the company's methane reduction plans.
"It's refreshing that Dominion acknowledges that methane is harmful to our planet. But, if Dominion wants to make real and significant progress towards a stable climate, they should stop building the ACP and killing ambitious clean energy measures in the General Assembly," Wallace said.
According to Dominion, the voluntary initiative will build on the "significant progress" the company has made in the last decade, which has prevented more than 180,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere. It also continues to grow the 50% reduction in carbon emissions the company says it has achieved across its electric fleet since 2000.
Among the advancements the company has made, Dominion points to replacing natural gas-powered pumps at gas producing wells with solar-powered electric pumps. The company said the improvements reduce methane emissions at these facilities by more than 90%.
"We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change," Diane Leopold, president and CEO of Dominion Energy's gas infrastructure group, said in a statement. "We've made significant progress, but we're determined to go much further."
Dominion has been working to develop the ACP but has been hit with significant delays and opposition. Construction on the 600-mile pipeline has been halted across the entire route, in part over a dispute regarding permits to cross the Appalachian Trail and national forests.