Bi-Partisan Vote Approves Legislation to Find and Fix Natural Gas Leaks in California

A new bill passed by the California State Legislature will require utilities to reduce environmental and public health impacts of methane gas emissions.

August 27, 2014

Law will require utilities to reduce environmental and public health impacts of methane gas emissions 

(SACRAMENTO, California – August 27, 2014) Today, the California State Legislature passed groundbreaking legislation to reduce methane pollution caused by leaks in the state’s aging natural gas pipelines. Methane is the primary ingredient in natural gas and is a potent climate-destabilizing pollutant. SB 1371, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), will now head to the Governor’s desk.

“In order to protect public health and the environment, we must keep natural gas in the pipes where it belongs as opposed to letting it leak into the air,” said Sen. Mark Leno, the author of the legislation. “SB 1371 serves this dual purpose by ensuring that leaking gas pipes are repaired quickly and in a cost-efficient manner for consumers.”

California is the nation’s second largest consumer of natural gas, with over 100,000 miles of pipes and other equipment delivering natural gas to customers across the state. Given the documented widespread nature of leaks within the vast system, today’s vote reinforces California’s leadership in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change, with the added benefit of eliminating waste of a critical energy resource. So-called “fugitive” emissions equate to millions of dollars of lost gas that Californians end up paying for in their monthly utility bills.

SB 1371 specifically directs the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop and implement a comprehensive natural gas pipelines leak reduction strategy that ensures the quick and efficient repair of leaks.

“Repairing and preventing leaks in our natural gas pipelines will create family-sustaining jobs and local infrastructure investment while reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. “SB 1371 will benefit workers and the state as a whole,” said JB Tengco, California Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor and environmental organizations.

If the bill becomes law, California would join other state and federal efforts to mitigate methane emissions. Colorado and Wyoming have already begun to develop and adopt regulations requiring leak reductions, while earlier this year the White House released a national methane reduction strategy. The EPA is on track to make a decision within the next year on regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and the California Air Resources Board is also considering new methane regulations for oil and gas development.

According to Tim O’Connor, Director of EDF’s California Climate Initiative, “Today’s vote is a huge step towards the build-out of comprehensive strategy in California to reduce methane pollution. Implementing policies to curb the loss of a valuable resource is good for both California’s environment and our economy.”