Just over a week ago the BlueGreen Alliance—a coalition of 15 of America’s largest labor unions and national environmental groups representing more than 15 million members and supporters—sent a letter to President Obama supporting national standards to reduce methane emissions. EDF’s Natural Gas Director of Communications, Lauren Whittenberg, recently talked with Rob McCulloch, Director of Infrastructure Programs at BlueGreen Alliance to learn more about their interest in this issue.
Lauren: Hi Rob. Can you tell us a little about BlueGreen Alliance, and the work you’re doing?
Rob: BlueGreen alliance is a national partnership working to find common ground among labor unions and environmental groups and advance policies that help build a cleaner, fairer, and more competitive American economy.
Our partners agree: Our nation’s response to today’s environmental challenges will determine our future economy. It is important that our response includes the creation of good, family-sustaining jobs for future generations.
Part of this transition is represented by new manufacturing and operations jobs that will make the energy that powers our economy more efficient and less polluting. According to a new report, industries tackling methane reduction represent a significant opportunity to create those good, family-sustaining jobs we need for a clean economy here at home. America should be leading the world in creating, manufacturing, and deploying these technologies.
Lauren: What are the environmental benefits of reducing methane?
Rob: Atmospheric methane created by human activities are the next biggest contributor to climate change behind carbon dioxide—if we’re serious about fighting climate change, reducing methane needs to be part of the equation. Whether it’s via repairing and replacing our leak-prone natural gas distribution pipes, or continuing to develop and deploy technologies that prevent the escape of methane to the atmosphere, we can be doing a lot to reduce emissions right here, right now. We believe doing it in these ways helps strengthen—not disrupt—our economy.
Also, the technologies being deployed to reduce methane often have the co-benefit of reducing other pollution.
Lauren: What’s the economic opportunity to reduce methane emissions?
Rob: It’s estimated we can eliminate as much as half of all climate-warming methane emissions across our oil and gas sector in the next five years using proven, low-cost technologies—we’re not talking about reinventing the wheel here. And as the report I mentioned suggests, we have a lot to gain. American companies are rightfully at the forefront of emission-reduction technology, creating and supporting good jobs and stimulating local economies.
Keeping methane out of the atmosphere will help companies cut waste in addition to reducing the climate change impact of these emissions. A recent report by ICF International estimates methane emissions could be reduced by 40 percent below projected 2018 levels at an average annual cost of less than one cent per thousand cubic feet of produced natural gas
Lauren: Thanks. Do you have anything else to add?
Rob: Moving forward on a national methane standard benefits not only the environment but American workers. In some cases, the private sector is already implementing methane pollution reduction measures on their own accord. And, while some states have taken action to reduce methane emissions, no national standards are in place to effectively reduce methane leakage – which would protect our communities and economy.
Our partnership will continue to support strong efforts to reduce carbon emissions—including the Clean Power Plan rule that’s moving from paper to reality. But, to effectively fight climate change, we need to reduce methane emissions as well.
We’re already seeing the impacts of extreme weather events that climate change only intensifies, like floods and droughts. The upcoming anniversary of Hurricane Sandy reminds us all there is no time to wait. The clock is ticking, and Americans are ready to go to work.