Tag Archives: energy

William Lochstet Comments on Methane Emissions, August 2016

On August 4, 2016, PA IPL member William Lochstet delivered the following testimony on the topic of methane emissions to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.

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The EPA has found that the current and projected concentrations of the six greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations through climate change.

Our climate is a common good we share with our neighbors. Many religious traditions address the question of who is my neighbor. Christianity suggests that even persons normally rejected by society are actually neighbors. The Pope recently wrote of the earth as our common home. Native American tradition suggests that neighbors extend seven generations into the future. We are all brothers and sisters together now, in the past and into the future. What we put into the atmosphere today will have effects years and centuries into the future.

We had hoped to reduce global warming by replacing coal with natural gas since it results in less carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of energy produced, when burned. But, we find that so much methane is released along the way, that the overall climate change effect is greater.

The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane and CO2 need to be understood in relation to time. When CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it stays there for a long time, and produces a steady warming effect. Methane in air undergoes chemical reactions on a time scale of about 12 years, which ultimately produces CO2 and water vapor. A methane release has a huge warming effect in the beginning, but is equal to CO2 after several decades. The Global Warming Potential for methane is between 84 and 87 over 20 years, according to EPA. This can have a huge effect on the weather events that you and I will experience in the next 10 or 20 years. This is important for immediate disaster preparedness. It is important to present global warming projections in both 100-year and 20-year time frames.

We need to reduce methane emissions by half very quickly. The Natural Gas STAR Program is voluntary, and therefore will not succeed. California is considering a 45% reduction in greenhouse gases emissions, below 2012 levels by 2025.

Lastly, the United Church of Christ at its National meeting last June adopted a resolution calling for the complete transition to renewable energy by 2040.

William Lochstet Comments on Environmental Impact of the Atlantic Sunrise Project, June 2016

In June 2016, PA IPL board member William A. Lochstet submitted the following comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in regards to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Sunrise Project:

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement, FERC/EIS-0269D, for the Atlantic Sunrise Project, Docket No. CP15-138-000, (Ref. 1). This report (Page 4-196) states that:

The EPA found that the current and projected concentrations of the six GHGs in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations through climate change.

However, this report concludes (Ref. 1, Page 4-289) that the net change in GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions from operation of this project would be less than 0.1 percent of the year 2005 Pennsylvania total of 313 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. The impacts of Marcellus Shale wells and gathering systems are ignored in this conclusion even though these are specifically highlighted (Ref. 1, Page 4-259). This report (Ref. 1, Page 4-288) also states:

Although climate change is a global concern, for this cumulative analysis, we will focus on the potential cumulative impacts of climate change in the Atlantic Sunrise Project area.

Such a choice ignores most of the earth where many more impacts will occur. How narrow a focus is appropriate for personal responsibility? Consider that person A drives person B to a bank to rob it. Person B is held for bank robbery. But person A only provided transportation to his/her friend who wanted to go to the bank. The law considers person A to be an “accessory,” which is also a crime. This is a broader focus which considers more of the whole.

Many religious traditions address the question of who is my neighbor. Christianity suggests that even persons normally rejected by society are actually neighbors. Native American tradition suggests that neighbors extend seven generations into the future. We are all brothers and sisters together now, in the past and into the future. How narrow a focus would our legal system allow?

Our environmental laws also take a broader view as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended. In fact, this position has been upheld by the court in Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. USAEC, 449 F. 2nd 1109 (D.C. Cir., 1971) which states:

We conclude, then, that Section 102 of NEPA mandates a particular sort of careful and informed decision-making process and creates judicially enforceable duties……But if the decision was reached procedurally without individualized consideration and balancing of environmental factors–conducted fully and in good faith—it is the responsibility of the courts to reverse.

Therefore, we will consider a full Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for this entire system.

This pipeline does not exist as a whole, without connecting to a source of natural gas and a customer who has an intent to utilize its energy for a useful purpose. The Project would move 1.65 billion cubic feet per day (Ref. 1, Page 1-2) of natural gas. Using the good approximation that this is pure methane, there are 12 million metric tons of methane transported per year. If this methane is burned by the customers, it yields 33 million metric tons of CO2, and some water. Methane escapes into the air at the well site, during storage, processing, and delivery to customers. The total leak rate is estimated to be in the range of 3.6% to 7.9% of production, with a mean value of 5.8% of production (Ref 2). Taking production to be 12 million metric tons of methane, which is an underestimation, the total leaked in a year is 0.71 million metric tons of methane. Methane has an enormous Global Warming Potential (GWP) in the first few decades after release, before it undergoes chemical reactions and is no longer methane. This prompt surge in global temperature rise could trigger any of several tipping points. For instance, a large sudden rise in temperature for a few decades could melt the polar ice cap, so that it absorbs summer sunlight, rather than reflecting it as snow and ice do. Thus, the short term is important to consider here. Using the GWP of methane for the first 20 years of 86 (Ref. 3), the 0.71 million metric tons of methane is equivalent to 61 million metric tons of CO2. The total warming effect due to operation of this entire system for one year is the sum of the methane burned or leaked. This sum is 94 million metric tons CO2e over the first 20 years.

This EIS reports that, in 2005, Pennsylvania emitted 313 million metric tons CO2e of GHG (Ref.1, Page 4-289). There is no indication if this is for a 20 year or 100 year period, or what the separate quantities of the GHGs were in 2005. The report goes on to compare this value with its estimate of CO2e emissions from operation of the project. Nevertheless, 94 million metric tons is about 30% of 313 million metric tons. This pipeline does not operate, or exist without these other emissions.

It might be argued that 94 million metric tons CO2e is too small to be considered. Taken alone, it might not do much harm, but consider raindrops. One raindrop is not a problem, but put enough of them together and there is a flood. Every little bit counts! We are like the alcoholic who says that one little drink will not matter. Every ton of fossil carbon that is added to the atmosphere is a threat to our present and future, as was quoted in the EIS and repeated at the beginning of these comments.

Normal Methane Releases

In the normal routine of operation of this pipeline, there are activities which will release natural gas to the atmosphere. Some of these are ordinary operating and maintenance activities at compressor stations, meter stations, regulator stations and mainline valve sites. It would be helpful, and produce a more complete picture if the final EIS would present numerical values for these expected releases. It is unsatisfactory to merely state that they are not significant. Let the public see the numbers, and then let them decide.

Miscellaneous Comments

Section 4.9.8 discusses environmental justice issues (Ref. 1, Page 4-177). It presents population data by county, only. In order to conclude that no population group is disproportionately burdened by the project, it would be necessary to survey the pipeline path, rather than the whole counties. The data presented does not support the conclusion presented of no disproportionate burden.

Section 4.11.1.1 has a portion headed “Greenhouse Gases” ( Ref. 1, Page 4-196). This states that methane has a GWP of 25 over a 100-year time period which is from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report of 2007. The correct value as of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report of 2013 (Ref. 3) is 34 over 100 years, and 86 over 20 years. It would be helpful to compare GHG impacts over both the 100 year time period and the 20year time period, Please use up to date information.

Sections 4.11.1.3 and 4.13.8.10 describe the operation of compressor stations 605 and 610 which are to be powered by electric motors, with a natural gas-fired emergency generator (Ref. 1, Pages 4-208, 4-210, 4-289). The text seems to assume that the electricity has no GHG emissions. Since Pennsylvania is an electric choice state, the GHG burden for this electricity would depend on which supplier is chosen, and is not presently indicated. The GHG burden of the source of the electricity should be included.

Section 4.13.8.10 also states: “Methane (CH4), which is a product of natural-gas fuel combustion…” (Ref. 1, Page 4-289). Combustion of natural gas results in CO2 and water. Please correct this simple typo.

Section 4.13.8.10 also states : “Natural gas is a lower CO2 emitting fuel when compared to other fuel sources (e.g., fuel oil or coal),” and “This would result in a potential reduction is regional GHG emissions” (Ref. 1, Page 4-289). It is true that burning natural gas in a boiler produces less CO2, at the boiler, than burning coal. However, as described at the beginning of these comments, there are many places where methane escapes into the air, and so much escapes that the result is the GHG effect of burning natural gas exceeds the GHG effect of using either coal or oil (Ref. 2). Using natural gas is worse than coal for climate change. This is the life cycle analysis.

Conclusions

It is not only necessary to evaluate the environmental impact of this project to the region within 10 or 20 miles of the pipeline, but also to consider the impact to the entire country, and perhaps even also the rest of the world. Many faith traditions tell us that we are all brothers and sisters together on this planet. Operation of this pipeline for one year will be accompanied by the release of 94 million metric tons CO2e when evaluated over the first 20 years. This impact is greater than would be realized from using coal, which is far too polluting. And, this impact is also about 30% of the emissions for the entire state of Pennsylvania in 2005. The EPA recognizes that the current and projected concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere threaten public health and welfare of current and future generations. This pipeline is thus a threat to public health and welfare, now and in the future. As a threat, this pipeline cannot be a public convenience or necessity.

References

  1. U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 2016, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Atlantic Sunrise Project, Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, FERC/EIS-0269D, Docket No. CP15-138-000, Accessed May 2016.
  1. Howarth, R.W., 2014, A bridge to nowhere: Methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas, Energy Science and Engineering ; 2(2): 47-60 DOI: 10.1002/ese3.35
  1. IPCC. 2013. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1, Accessed July 2014

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Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light is a community of congregations, faith-based organizations, and individuals of faith responding to climate change as a moral issue, through advocacy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of clean, renewable energy.

Rachel Mark Comments to IRRC on Oil & Gas Site Standards

On April 21, 2016, PA IPL member Rachel Mark offered the following statement at a public meeting on the subject of Regulation #7-484: Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites

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I am speaking today as a member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, a faith-based organization responding to climate change, and because as a concerned person, I worry every day about the future of the youngest members of my family.

I share the position of Interfaith Power & Light that the use of fossil fuels, including natural gas, is primarily a moral issue. We take seriously the accumulation of evidence by the scientific community that the continued use of fossil fuels is leading to a dangerous and uncertain future, with a very real possibility that our children will inherit a climate and a world that is out of their control. If a climate out of control is hard to conceptualize, we have only to think of the extreme weather conditions that are happening already, the sea level rise occurring in Miami, the current deluge of flooding in Houston, insect-borne diseases, and wild fires which are documented to be hotter than fires in past history.

The benefits of natural gas are usually argued in terms of cost benefit analysis, and lower carbon emissions when compared to coal. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are already creating havoc around the world.

In view of the scientific warnings about the urgency of climate change and about the dangers of continued use of fossil fuels, PA Interfaith Power and Light recently approved a resolution favoring a moratorium on new gas drilling leases and new drilling infrastructure. However, recognizing that we are not yet positioned for an immediate or fast transition to renewable energy, it is more than obvious that informed and appropriate regulations are first and basic steps essential to protect our air and water, and consequently the health and well-being of people and ecosystems.

Of course, we should be protecting our homes and schools. At the same time, we should be thinking long-term rather than short-term, and considering consequences in the world around us. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. We need to stop. If we are unable to stop now, we need to regulate as if our future depends upon it.

Invite everyone, but don’t wait, Part 2.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.

Today’s post shows how a small group can act meaningfully within a congregation before the whole congregation is fully and enthusiastically engaged, and how that engaged action can grow the “choir”.  It is a story that originates in my parents’ Friends Meeting (Quaker) in Western Massachusetts.  The idea is spreading quickly among New England Quakers, is being used by a Unitarians congregation in Virginia, and there is active interest from some groups here in Pennsylvania.   Want to try?

2. Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness

mt_toby_climatewitness

A few of the original members of Mt. Toby’s Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group.

Since we are a multi-faith group here at PA IPL, before I turn this over to the Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group of Mt. Toby Meeting,  I’ll note that Quakers often use the word witness to indicate that they are making a choice to live out their faith.  It’s a way of saying “This isn’t just a thing I am doing.  It is a thing I am doing because of my Quakerism.”  Similar ideas are called “carbon tithes” in some circles.

The basic idea is this:

  1. A group of interested people agrees to “tax” themselves a percentage of their spending on fossil fuels for their vehicles, their electricity (if applicable), their home heating, and their air travel.  Each makes their own commitment.  Names, but not amounts are publicized.
  2. They send their fees in to a dedicated sub account at their congregation.
  3. They decide quarterly where to gift those fees, giving to climate-related causes (emissions reduction projects, climate justice, adaptation projects, response efforts and more).
  4. They share their results with their congregation and beyond.

Members of this group have spoken about how meaningful it is to join together for this witness,  how heartening it is to see the amounts donated grow as the group grows— and sometimes shrink as people are able to reduce the amount of  fossil fuel they are using.

They encourage everyone to start at a low amount of voluntary tax, and then to revisit the amount and consider raising it.   The group has grown steadily in size, and conversation around climate justice and climate action at fellowship time occur more often and draw in more people.   Participants also talk about how much more aware they are of their fuel use now, but how that awareness is accompanied by a sense of empowerment and hope, rather than a sense of paralyzing guilt.

Check out their very helpful Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness page, with sample forms, a list of where they have made their quarterly donations.

Listen to Alan Eccleston of Mt. Toby describe the program, in context, in under 5 minutes, at the meeting of New England Yearly Meeting.

 

Fred Kraybill Comments on the Clean Power Plan

In November 2015, PA IPL member Fred Kraybill submitted the following comments in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule on the Clean Power Plan.

Comments on the EPA Clean Power Plan

My name is Fred Kraybill and I live in Pittsburgh. I am part owner and manager of Thomas Blvd Group which owns and operates an apartment building. Thomas Blvd Group is a solar powered business. We have solar panels on the roof, geothermal heating for the building and we have an electric car for transportation. We support clean energy.

 

Point Breeze where we are located recently ran a Solarize campaign to educate the community about solar energy and we were able to increase the solar installations in Point Breeze from 9 to 18 homes. The interesting thing is what the solar homeowners are saying about their reasons for going solar such as “to help the planet,” “to not contribute other peoples’ poor health,” to reduce our carbon footprint, and to fight climate change. Increasingly the end user of electricity is demanding clean energy and a livable climate and I view the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as a response by the government to meet this pressing need.

 

Our neighboring state, West Virginia, has been dominated by the coal industry for many years. West Virginia not only produces a lot of coal but also uses a lot of coal for electrical generation. Coal has been on the decline in recent years. Pittsburghers can understand what it’s like to be dominated by one industry. At one time steel was king in Pittsburgh and we lost this major industry in the 70’s and 80’s without anything to replace it. But West Virginia has a major opportunity to develop wind power in its numerous windswept ridges. Replacing aging, polluting power plants with clean energy would truly be an environmental victory that would grow the economy and create jobs! Coal mines deplete and eventually shut down but the wind keeps blowing!

 

Worldwide there is a clean energy race going on. Mercom Capital predicts 57 Gigawatts of solar will be installed this year and another consultant predicts 59 Gigawatts of wind power will be installed this year. Both of these numbers are record breaking. The clean energy race is a race the America should win. But we can’t win it if we’re not in it. The Clean Power Plan puts us in the clean energy race.

 

We have a major wind power corridor developing right here in the tri state area. From the Johnstown area in Blair and Cambria Counties there are several wind farms. Heading south to Somerset County there are about 9 wind farms. Crossing the border into Western Md there are several wind farms in the Deep Creek Lake area. Then crossing the border into West Virginia is one of the largest wind farms east of the Mississippi in the town of Mt. Storm. We should continue this build out. Pennsylvania can build more wind power and also import wind power from areas such as West Virginia.

 

What about natural gas? We should avoid natural gas. It may burn cleaner than coal but it still emits CO2. Gas wells deplete rapidly, they can pollute the surrounding water supplies and worst of all methane that leaks from the pipeline infrastructure is a more potent green house gas than CO2.

 

What about the need for storage with renewable energy? This claim is sometimes over blown. Balancing the intermittency of wind and solar is not even necessary until about the 25% mark because there are already dispatchable resources on the grid that can balance the variable nature of renewable energy. After 25% renewable energy we can use storage. We have dams to store water for irrigation, for flood control, and to generate electricity. We even have dams that pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper dam at night when electricity prices are low and then use that water to generate electricity during the day when electricity prices are high.

 

This type of electricity storage is called pumped hydro. Solutions such as this and others can get renewable energy to high levels of penetration on the grid. We make huge concessions to the nuclear industry such as the federal government insuring nuclear power in the event of a catastrophic meltdown so we most certainly can assist renewable energy by building more storage. We must transition off fossil fuels for a cleaner, healthier, and safer planet. Remember the solution to pollution is renewable, it’s doable!

James Schmidt Testimony on Clean Power Plan, September 2015

On September 30, 2015, PA IPL member James A. Schmidt testified at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Clean Power Plan Listening Session and offered the following comments.

Secretary Quigley and Other Representatives of the Department:

I am James A. Schmid. I am a 40-year resident of Marple Township, Delaware County. I am a consulting ecologist by profession. I provide these comments on my own behalf. I am especially concerned about air quality because I suffer from asthma. When visiting my young granddaughter in Vermont this past weekend, I was impressed by the number of solar panels I observed in New England. Pennsylvania is lagging far behind.

For me cleaning up our air is important, and I am very sad to see that it is taking more than half a century to begin to regulate many kinds of emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act. I personally have put insulation and storm windows on my old tenant farmhouse; I use energy- efficient light bulbs and Energy Star appliances; I try to minimize my trips; I drive hybrid and all-electric vehicles; and I hope to double the installed solar panels at my home and office this year. Meanwhile, I pay extra for 100% renewable-source electricity for what I do not generate onsite. As a scientist I take most seriously the real and imminent threat global warming poses to the people, animals, and plants of this entire earth, both its lands and seas. I am encouraged to note that USEPA has made recent efforts to press the States to work for a minimum of cleaner air on behalf of my children and grandchildren.

I commend the Department for gathering public input. A strong plan to implement clean power in Pennsylvania is essential. Our Commonwealth is an enormous emitter of air pollutants, and we have a great opportunity to make constructive change. Pennsylvania can and should act to surpass the minimal requirements laid out by USEPA for clean power.

PADEP must promote the efficient use of energy by preventing its waste. It must encourage the increased use of wind and solar energy. Achieving stringent carbon emission goals is possible and will create many needed jobs for Pennsylvanians. Workers from the obsolete fossil fuel industries should be retrained as their jobs disappear. PADEP should work quickly and submit an effective plan SOON–ahead of the deadline–to curb the mass of emissions from all existing and new fossil fueled power plants, and NOT reward polluters for damaging the air which we all must breathe (especially in environmental justice communities). Generous incentives should be included to increase generation by wind and solar; existing huge coal, oil, and gas subsidies should be terminated to minimize fossil fuel use. An effective Clean Power Plan in Pennsylvania can save us taxpayers money on our taxes* and our electricity bills, as well as create jobs and increase everyone’s health. As individuals we each can do our part, but PADEP must perform its duties at the level of State government.


*In my allocated 5 minutes, I could not address the hundreds of millions of dollars of direct net loss to the Pennsylvania State Budget every year, as a result of coal mined by ever fewer Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania budget currently is in crisis. See McIlmoil, Rory, E. Hansen, M. Betcher, A. Hereford, and J. Clingerman. 2012. The impact of coal on the Pennsylvania State budget. Prepared for Center for Coalfield Justice. Downstream Strategies. Morgantown WV. 78 p. Similar losses are suffered by the State governments of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The Department also may find useful information in Van Nostrand, James, E. Hansen, B. Argetsinger, and J. James. 2015. The Clean Power Plan and West Virginia: compliance options and new economic opportunities. West Virginia University College of Law and Downstream Strategies. Morgantown WV. 77 p. The cited documents are available online.