California’s ARB finalises Aliso Canyon mitigation plan, rebuffs SoCalGas disapproval

Published 22:17 on April 4, 2016  /  Last updated at 23:01 on April 4, 2016  /  Americas, Canada, US, Voluntary Market  /  No Comments

California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) on Friday published its final report on how SoCalGas should mitigate the methane leaked at its Aliso Canyon facility, with the regulator reiterating its draft recommendations despite disapproval from the natural gas provider.

California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) on Friday published its final report on how SoCalGas should mitigate the methane leaked at its Aliso Canyon facility, with the regulator reiterating its draft recommendations despite disapproval from the natural gas provider.

ARB sent the proposal to California Governor Jerry Brown, who had ordered the agency to draw up the programme after SoCalGas pledged to voluntarily mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions leaked over the four-month period from Oct. 2015.

ARB reiterated its recommendation that SoCalGas offset around 8 million tonnes of CO2e, which it calculated based on estimates of 100,000 tonnes of methane entering the atmosphere and a 20-year global warming potential (GWP) value for the gas of 84.

“This singular, forward-looking mitigation program, focused on [short-lived climate pollutant] reductions, presents distinct issues and considerations that make a 20-year GWP more appropriate.”

In a Mar. 24 letter to ARB Chair Mary Nichols, SoCalGas had claimed that using such a value was “inappropriate as well as contrary to California and federal law,” and that methane’s 100-year GWP value of 20 should be employed instead.

He argued that using allowances and offsets from California’s carbon market should be allowed, but the idea was again rejected by ARB over concerns it could tighten supply and raise participants’ cost of compliance.

“The contrary views expressed by SoCalGas in its comment regarding this element of the mitigation program reflect both a misunderstanding of the cap-and-trade program and a misapprehension of what full mitigation entails,” ARB wrote in its report.

PROJECTS

The agency repeated recommendations that the mitigation programme should target methane emissions from the agriculture sector, including the dairy industry, and from the waste sector, including landfill and wastewater.

It said efforts could also promote renewables and energy efficiency or decrease reliance on fossil fuels, for example through initiatives to incentivise the replacement of old appliances or subsidies for low- or zero-emission vehicles.

Additionally, SoCalGas could target methane “hot spots” not presently targeted under federal, state or local laws, it added, such as abandoned oil and gas wells.

As well, ARB said the GHG cuts should be achieved within 5-10 years in order to ensure prompt action is taken to implement the programme, facilitate the monitoring of its progress, reduce administrative costs, and “avoid the contingencies that may complicate or frustrate distant emissions reductions”.

According to the programme, any cuts must be real, verifiable, permanent and additional, must occur within the state, and should be made by projects developed in Southern California, and more specifically in the areas affected by the Aliso Canyon leak.

ARB is among the plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit against SoCalGas, which includes claims that could impose a mandatory mitigation obligation on the company should they win.

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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