Our Letter of the President - April 2016 (methane and energy storage)
April 15, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
As mayors committed to leading the fight against climate change, we believe the recent Aliso Canyon gas leak has pointed out the challenges facing communities where similar oil and gas infrastructure is found. Each of our cities shares concerns about these facilities, including health and safety, as well as the methane released from natural gas and oil production, consumption, storage, and transport.
We have come together through the Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda (MNCAA) to support action on climate change. Given that methane is a potent, short lived climate pollutant–84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short-term—we write to you today.
First, thank you for your March 10 commitment to ensuring that the U.S. EPA moves forward expeditiously on rules to limit methane emissions from new sources, per your commitment last summer, and critically, from existing sources of oil and gas production infrastructure. This action is vitally important as we need rules that address methane leaks throughout the entire life-cycle of oil and gas, including both production and consumption.
Such rules would not only have a climate benefit, but they would reduce the costly waste of energy resources. These rules would also serve to cut the toxic soup of air contaminants that are released alongside methane not just from oil and gas production, but from their transportation and storage as well. This is a risk that threatens every city.
However, the climate benefits from these rules can be undermined by lack of oversight elsewhere in the value chain, and lagging advancement of renewable energy and alternative forms of storage of energy. Therefore, we are asking for your leadership in rapidly addressing these issues in two additional ways:
1. Direct the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to add regulation of oil and gas storage facilities along with interstate pipelines.
To date, storage facilities and interstate transportation infrastructure have been overlooked. The risk of such a gap in oversight has been highlighted most recently by the disaster at Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles where a gaswell leaked more methane than ever experienced in the United States and led to the emergency relocation of over 5,000 residents in the neighboring communities. Most leaks aren’t as big as Aliso Canyon, but they add up to a much larger problem in aggregate.
2. Research energy storage technologies to pair with renewables.
We ask that you enlist the expertise of the Department of Energy to study alternatives for existing natural gas storage facilities. Namely, we propose a redoubled emphasis on energy storage technologies, including battery storage, pumped hydro storage, and compressed air storage among other methods, which can make intermittent renewable energy production technologies more viable throughout the day. This technology would allow for the continued use of existing infrastructure, but serve as a much safer and cleaner strategy for addressing peak energy demand in comparison to natural gas-fired generation. Financing should also be made available to cities to help them move buildings and homes toward clean technologies such as battery storage paired with grid-tied solar installations.
Thankfully, in the wake of the leak at Aliso Canyon, U.S. Secretary of Energy Moniz announced on April 1 the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety. We ask for your support in ensuring the task force addresses both these matters, and other related issues they identify. Please know we stand ready to help support and contribute to the work of the task force if and as possible.
We understand that our economy will continue to rely on fossil fuels for the near future. However, the oil and gas industry must not imperil our air quality, our public health, and our climate through leaks and venting. The public relies on all of us to make decisions that protect their health and welfare.
Mayor Eric Garcetti
City of Los Angeles
Mayor Steve Skadron
City of Aspen
Mayor Steve Adler
City of Austin
Mayor Tom Bates
City of Berkeley
Mayor Suzanne Jones
City of Boulder
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Mayor of Chicago
Mayor Michael Hancock
City of Denver
Mayor Muriel Bowser
District of Columbia
Mayor Sly James
City of Kansas City
Mayor Bill de Blasio
City of New York
Mayor Libby Shaaf
City of Oakland
Mayor Charlie Hales
City of Portland
cc: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Anthony Foxx, Secretary of U.S. Department of Transportation
Ernest Moniz, Secretary of U.S. Department of Energy
Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation