California’s Landmark Methane Legislation

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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).

 

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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.”

May News Round-Up

A mish-mash of methane news this May!

First, a little self-promotion: our own Felicia Ruiz and Raymond C. Pilcher (Raven Ridge) penned a piece on coal bed methane and coal mine methane development in Mongolia for World Coal. Check it out!

There was a lot of attention on cows this month – specifically on their belches, flatulence, and manure that are key sources of methane emissions. We here at GMI advocate capturing the methane from cow manure through anaerobic digestion to use as biogas, but an entrepreneurial Italian took our advice a step further – to use the remaining de-methanated concoction as a raw material to make plaster, bricks and other objects known as merdacotta, or literally, ‘baked poop.’. Meanwhile, scientists in other parts of the world are attempting to tackle methane emissions that result from enteric fermentation, from feeding the cows hops or a compound called 3-nitrooxypropanol to reduce methane emissions from digestion. Indians are taking a different approach by studying miniature Vechur cows for their dairy production needs that release only 10% the level of methane emissions of a normal-sized cow.

The United States made a big announcement: new regulations that will target emissions from new or modified oil and gas wells. The New Republic and Washington Post followed up with analytical think pieces on the importance of methane mitigation and why the impact of methane emissions can be confusing. Vox published an explainer that describes the new U.S. regulations within the larger context of U.S. climate pledges.

Finally, two methane mentions this month outside our usual spectrum: 1) Swedish researchers are developing clothes that would be able to absorb methane from the ambient atmosphere, and 2) Rwanda inaugurated a power plant that uses a natural methane emissions source found in its Lake Kivu.

…Until June!

P.S. If you didn’t see it, the Climate Lab Book created a compellingspiral2016-2 infographic that shows global temperature change since 1850. Worth keeping!

 

May 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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