Study Says SoCal Is Filled With Methane Leaks

Methane is the primary ingredient in natural gas. It's also naturally occurring in the Southern California landscape. Now, an environmental group says Southern California is peppered with methane leaks that could affect the environment. The Environmental Defense Fund says they've discovered some 250 leaks from a mapping project using special equipment mounted to a Google car.

Tim O'Connor with EDF says this is an important issue because methane traps more air in our atmosphere than CO2 and may be making our drought worse.

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Says O'Connor, "We found about 1 leak per every 4 or 5 miles in LA. Leaks like these rarely pose an immediate safety threat, but the leaking natural gas – which is mostly methane – has a powerful effect on the climate, packing 84 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Also, methane emissions represent waste of natural gas, a valuable energy resource. According to California Air Resource Board data, oil and gas operations of all kinds in the state emitted 136,489 metric tons of methane in 2012, enough to power almost 160,000 homes."

EDF shared it's maps with Southern California Gas Co. which told us they too are concerned about non-hazardous gas leaks.

Deanna Haines, with SoCal Gas says, "we are funded to go after our safety leaks. The ones that are not safety related we make sure they don't become safety issues."

Southern California Gas took additional field equipment and followed the same mapping and did it's own search. They used a specially equipped vehicle too. Denise King, also with Southern California Gas Co. told us, "What we found out was that in about 40 to 50% of the time using our car mounted sensors and our boots on the ground there wasn't a correlation between what we found and what environmental defense fund found."

O'Connor wants to see faster action. And, So Cal Gas has asked CPUC for more funding to accelerate their repair program. Meantime, O'Connor says, "Aging pipes are a growing challenge for utilities in many parts of the country. Nearly 40% of So Cal Gas's pipes are 50 years old or more – and the utility is requesting millions of dollars to replace huge portions. This tool, and the ability to measure the size of each leak, can help utilities prioritize where the put their investments first – going after the biggest leaks first."

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