California’s Landmark Methane Legislation

Governor Brown giving remarks before the bill-signing in Long Beach, California. Photo credit: Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol.

On 19 September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation enacting new emission limits on short-lived climate pollutants, particularly methane, in the state of California. This historic legislation is globally relevant as it limits methane emissions from the most populous U.S. state and one of the largest economies in the world. California emits roughly 40 MMTCO2e each year, of which 21% comes from landfills and more than half comes from its impressive agriculture sector (source: California Air Resources Board).


Breakdown of 2014 methane emissions in the state of California, by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board (CARB)

The new law calls for a statewide reduction of methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. In addition to the statewide reduction of total emissions, the legislation further specifies a steep reduction in organic waste disposal in state landfills (up to a 75% reduction below 2014 disposal levels by 2025) and 40% reduction from 2013 levels of methane emissions from the state’s dairy and livestock sectors by 2030.

The rules lay out strategies to limit emissions, including a suite of new methane capture and re-use programs tied to more than $90 million in funding. Most of that funding – $50 million from the state’s pre-existing Cap-and-Trade program – is to be directed to help the dairy industry offset the cost of new digester equipment that will be used to control methane emissions.

In addition to direct funding, the new laws include strategies to “identify and address technical, market, regulatory, and other challenges and barriers” to biomethane projects. This includes helping to develop five new pilot projects, establishing new energy infrastructure development and procurement policies (including a biomethane pipeline system), and a pilot financial mechanism “to reduce the economic uncertainty associated with the value of environmental credits.”

The law also calls for a 50% increase in composting in the next four years in order to support the new organic waste stream reductions, and lays out a provisional mechanism to provide financial incentives for the deployment of technology to reduce enteric methane emissions – that is, those from gaseous bovine expulsions – should that technology become both cost-effective and “scientifically proven.”

Methane Gains Traction While New Study Provokes Debate

It’s been quite a busy week for methane – in the past few days the U.S. EPA’s new methane regulations were discussed in the U.S. Congress and the Governor of California signed new legislation to dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, in his state.

We’ll have more on the California legislation for you next week! In the meantime, with all that as a back-drop, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences just published a new study which argues that fugitive emissions from fossil fuel activities may be driving recent increases in atmospheric methane concentrations. Previous studies, however, have pointed that finger at agriculture and landfills.

For the full scoop, check out this great Scientific American article.

June News Round-Up

June was a somewhat quiet month in methane-related news, so let’s start with some shameless promotion of friends:

First, Scientific American profiled how a Chinese company, TOVEN, creatively turned the city of Xiangyang’s sewage sludge problem into an opportunity. (See our re-blog and trip dispatch too).

Second, our friend, and a supporter of the Global Methane Forum in March, GHGSat, launched its satellite technology designed to measure the carbon dioxide and methane emissions leaking from Alberta’s sprawling tar sands operations, and eventually fossil fuel operations anywhere. We look forward to following GHGSat’s results!

Perhaps the biggest news of the month came from our friends Canada and Mexico which held the ‘Three Amigos’ summit along with the United States in Ottawa, Canada. These three GMI Partner Countries committed to an ambitious goal of North America generating at least 50 percent of its energy from “clean” sources by 2025. As part of the new partnership, Mexico also will agree to join Canada and the United States in decreasing methane emissions.

In other news, researchers from Oxford University pointed out the flaws of measuring the effects of methane in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, and suggested a new way to measure methane that highlights the considerable differences in how each gas contributes to warming.

Finally, a new study names several American oil & gas companies as the largest methane emissions culprits, citing their aggregate emissions to be the equivalent of running seven coal-fired power plants for a year. Relatedly, NASA released images taken from space of the massive Aliso Canyon methane leak.

See you at the end of July!


June Methane News Round-Up


January News Round-Up

January’s news coverage on methane was dominated by California’s massive methane leak. Let’s skip that for now and begin with some good news: it turns out that methane emissions from Australian cows were drastically overestimated. In lieu of cheers, let’s just say a collective MOO to that.

In other news, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a new draft rule that would require oil and gas companies to capture leaked methane rather than flare it. Perhaps another MOO is in order?

Now for the bigger and more depressing news: methane is still spewing out of the Aliso Canyon, California, storage site. Even though the leak is slowing, it is unfortunately very difficult to fix and likely won’t be fixed until at least March. In response to the leak, some have questioned whether better technology could be developed to detect/prevent leaks? Hopefully March will bring better news on this topic. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out Carbon Visual’s interactive animation on the leak to help visualize and bring insight to the rate at which methane is being released.


January Methane News Round-Up


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December News Round-Up and Hello 2016!

The final month of 2015 marked both an extreme peak and extreme trough in terms of methane news. Let’s start with the peak:


The COP21 negotiations in Paris concluded just one day late on December 12 to produce a comprehensive global deal. You can find the key points from the deal here. Government representatives and GMI partner the Climate and Clean Air Coalition discussed commitments on methane reductions in the early days of COP21. Additionally, the New York Times created a sensible list on how individuals can approach tackling climate change.

The Paris climate deal is certainly an excellent way to end the year on a high, but unfortunately, it’s accompanied by a low in the United States: the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site near Porter Ranch, California, ruptured in October due to aging infrastructure and has been spewing methane into the atmosphere ever since. Called “the largest environmental disaster in the U.S. since the BP oil spill,’’ 1,700 homes have been evacuated so far, and California’s methane emissions have risen by 25% due to the leak. Unfortunately, the leak is technically difficult to fix, so it is likely to continue for several weeks. You can check out an infrared video of the leak here.

A couple other pieces of not-so-great news in December: first, scientists believe that methane emissions from melting Arctic permafrost could be underestimated. Second, a new study finds that methane emissions due to oil and gas production in the Barnett Shale formation in the United States may be nearly twice current estimates. So, it is even more urgent to begin implementation of the Paris climate deal.

Finally, to conclude 2015 on a lighter note: scientists created a “belch backpack” for cows and captured a time lapse series to showcase methane emitted from enteric fermentation.


Happy New Year to our friends around the world!


December Methane News Round-Up


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