| March 23
March 23 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
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 board.
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
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
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.
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
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)