May 2016, Vol. 243, No. 5


Gas Utilities Launch New EPA Program to Reduce Emissions

Special to Pipeline & Gas Journal 

In their latest effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 37 AGA-member natural gas utilities launched the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program on March 30, whereby oil and gas companies can make and track commitments to reduce emissions and showcase efforts to improve air quality and capture and monetize the energy resource.

The companies, which represent 66% of the natural gas customers served in the nation, are founding partners of the program and joined EPA’s acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe at an event during the Global Methane Forum held in Washington, D.C. to kick off the program.

AGA Chairman Ralph LaRossa, president and COO of Public Service Electric & Gas Co. in New Jersey, spoke at the event saying, “For more than two decades, natural gas utilities have worked productively with EPA to share best practices, helping to improve distribution operations and reduce emissions. EPA has recognized the success of our voluntary efforts by continuing to address emissions from distribution through voluntary actions rather than regulatory mandates. We look forward to working with EPA and our members on this ambitious voluntary program.”

The American Gas Association and many of its members were founders of the original Natural Gas STAR program in 1993. According to the EPA, the 50 AGA member companies participating in the Natural Gas STAR program reduced emissions by 0.8 Bcf in 2013 and a total of 46.2 Bcf since 1993.

In 2014, the AGA Board of Directors approved a set of voluntary guidelines for reducing natural gas emissions. The report serves as a resource for AGA members to assist in evaluating potential options for distribution systems. Many of these guidelines now appear in EPA’s Methane Challenge list of “Best Management Practices.”

A concerted effort by natural gas utilities to upgrade the nation’s pipeline network in order to enhance safety has also contributed significantly to a declining trend in emissions from the natural gas distribution system. A report published last year led by a team from Washington State University and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund found that as little as 0.1% of the natural gas delivered nationwide is emitted from local distribution systems.

Companies can join the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program at any time and several said they plan to join in the coming months. The companies joining the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program as Founding Partners include:

Ameren Illinois, Atmos Energy Corp., AVANGRID Inc., Avista Corp., CenterPoint Energy, CMS Energy Corp., Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Dominion (Dominion Transmission, Inc., Dominion East Ohio, Dominion Hope), DTE Energy, Duke Energy Corp., Eversource Energy, Exelon Utilities (BGE, PECO and Delmarva Power), Knoxville Utilities Board, The Laclede Group, MidAmerican Energy Co., MDU Resources Group, Inc. (Cascade Natural Gas Co., Intermountain Gas Co., Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., Great Plains Natural Gas Co., National Grid, NiSource Inc., NW Natural, ONE Gas Inc., Orange & Rockland Utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Peoples Gas (Chicago), Peoples Gas (Pittsburgh), Piedmont Gas Natural, Public Service Electric & Gas Co., Puget Sound Energy, Questar Gas Co., Sempra Energy Utilities (San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas), Southwest Gas Corp., South Jersey Gas Co., TransCanada Corp., UGI Utilities,Vectren Corp., Vermont Gas Systems, Washington Gas, and Xcel Energy.

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