WASHINGTON, DC (August 18, 2015) – Leaders from the BlueGreen Alliance today applauded a newly announced Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce methane emissions for new facilities across the energy sector. The proposed standards are part of the larger vision by the Obama administration to reduce methane pollution economy-wide by up to 45 percent through 2025. The leaders said reducing unnecessary methane leaks is very cost-effective, prevents the waste of an energy resource, improves worker safety, and will help prevent air pollution and address climate change.
“The unionized workers who operate, monitor, repair and modernize our nation’s natural gas infrastructure will see immediate benefits from these bold investments,” United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard said. “These standards are vital to reduce methane leaks and releases that endanger the health and safety of workers, so President Obama and his administration deserve our gratitude.”
“These standards are a much needed and necessary step toward minimizing the oil and gas industry’s impact on our climate and communities,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “These rules pave the way for the administration to move swiftly to curb emissions from existing sources. Controlling methane, however, is not an end in itself. We must move swiftly to establish policies that grow truly clean energy like wind, solar and energy efficiency.”
In Colorado and California, methane reduction policies are already effectively working to prevent leaks and pollution. For example, legislation signed into law last year in California will improve response time for repairing leaks and speed up the modernization of aging gas distribution pipelines, aimed at improving safety for workers and communities while also combatting climate change. Current policies enacted in Colorado set a state limit on methane emissions, strengthen leak detection, repair practices, and speed deployment of modern pipelines and equipment that no longer vent methane into the air.
“Taking steps to reduce this invisible problem seizes on an important opportunity to create high-quality jobs and stimulate local economies by updating and repairing our aging system of pipelines that crisscross our nation.” said United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters General President Bill Hite. “Now more people have access to the tools to leverage innovation and investment while reducing a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions and protecting against the dangers of leaks and explosions.”
Making necessary repairs and upgrades in order to prevent methane emissions will also prevent waste and help to pass on the savings to consumers. Earlier this summer, the EPA introduced voluntary guidelines for distribution pipelines—the pipes carrying gas to customers at the city and community level—in their Natural Gas STAR Challenge to industry. The BlueGreen Alliance leaders said voluntary measures are not enough to fix the leaking pipes underneath our cities in a reasonable timeframe.
“The simple act of keeping natural gas in the system provides a significant opportunity to put American workers squarely at the forefront of developing, manufacturing, and implementing technologies needed to accomplish this, creating high-quality jobs and stimulating local economies,” said D. Michael Langford, President of the Utility Workers Union of America.
The U.S. consumes approximately 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually. Losses and leaks of this natural gas throughout the energy sector vary widely. The EPA guidelines take steps to set a limit on emissions, deploy technologies and practices to avert them, and hold industry accountable for making progress.
“Curbing the oil and gas industry’s rampant methane pollution problem is the next biggest thing the White House can do to fight climate change after addressing carbon pollution from power plants,” said Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Reducing emissions from new oil and gas operations is an important first step. The largest source of this pollution, however, is the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country. That must be addressed next. Meaningful progress in combating this potent climate pollutant will require an industrywide cleanup—from infrastructure new and old, nationwide. We are hopeful today’s announcement is just the beginning.”
“We appreciate the administration’s decisive action to reduce methane pollution,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas. “This is an important step forward as we work to achieve a comprehensive reduction in economy-wide methane emissions. Keeping natural gas in the system is good for the environment and a significant opportunity to put American workers squarely at the forefront of developing, manufacturing, and implementing technologies needed to accomplish this—providing high-quality jobs and stimulating local economies. We look forward to working with the EPA to achieve the goals of this proposal.”