As a massive natural gas leak in California’s Aliso Canyon continues to pump methane into the air above Los Angeles, environmental activists are warning about a bigger and more widespread crisis: leaks throughout the nation’s natural gas supply chain, according to a recent article by NBC in Los Angeles.
“A series of studies spearheaded by the Environmental Defense Fund beginning in 2012 found problems across the country at every point of the natural gas supply chain, from thousands of wellheads to miles of utility lines underneath city streets,” the article states.
“Together the leaks add up to more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane emissions a year, dwarfing what is happening at Aliso Canyon – and producing the same effect on the climate over 20 years as 160 coal-fired power plants,” the article states, citing the Environmental Defense Fund. “Earlier research of methane in the atmosphere indicated emissions were 50 percent greater than estimated by the EPA.”
Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, the article notes, adding. “Pound for pound, its effect on climate change is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.”
The leak above the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch has sickened residents and released more than 87,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere – the equivalent of 827 million gallons of gasoline burned, the article states. Gov. Jerry Brown was forced to declare a state of emergency at the beginning of the month.
Aliso Canyon is used as a storage field by the Southern California Gas Co., whose crews discovered the leak at one of the wells on Oct. 23. The gas company says it could take until the end of February to cap it, according to NBC.
“The leak has driven thousands of people from their homes in Porter Ranch, many with complaints of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea,” the article states. Residents have filed a class-action lawsuit and are demanding that the storage field be closed permanently. “I think it's poisoning our family,” one resident, Christine Katz, told NBC Los Angeles.
“There are 400 other natural gas storage facilities across the country, with their potential for leaks. But it is the generally much smaller leaks occurring throughout the system that are more of a problem,” the article states.
A study, conducted by researchers from Stanford University and elsewhere, found that methane leaks had negated the climate-change benefits of using natural gas over diesel fuel for transportation. (Diesel and heating oil are similar fuels.)
To read the NBC Los Angeles article, click here.
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