Friday, April 19, 2024

New Methane Safeguards Protect Virginia Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported 12% of methane emissions stem from leaks in natural gas systems. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — New methane safeguards can protect communities in Virginia and the U.S.

new rule targets leaks from wells and pipelines, which can emit at least 2.6 million tons of methane per year. Lowering emissions can provide numerous economic and health benefits for state residents.

However, Virginia utility companies are only building up their gas infrastructure; a common trend in Southern states.

Greg Buppert, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, described why it is happening.

“It is a model that utility companies are very familiar with,” Buppert explained. “They’ve, for years, operated coal-fired power plants. A gas fired power plant uses the same business model. And so, in some sense utility companies like to do what they know how to do.”

He added gas is no longer a bridge fuel to renewables, noting further climate change research revealed its harms. Virginia enacted legislation in 2020 requiring utilities to use 100% renewable electricity by 2050. Yet, work is underway by Dominion Energy to develop a gas-fired power plant near the James River.

A natural gas pipeline extension recently received federal approval to go through a Virginia city already affected by the fossil fuel industry. Residents and state environmentalists voiced their opposition. Buppert pointed out the new rules can help residents deal with the effects the pipeline will have.

“The rule will help protect communities from the worst impacts of some of that new infrastructure,” Buppert noted. “The administration has in the works additional rules related specifically to power plants. And these are indeed important and critical steps.”

Leaking methane can cause asthma, other respiratory problems and even cancer. Methane emissions have taken center stage at COP28, the international climate summit. Though more than 150 nations promised to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030, they’re still uncertain how to attain this.

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