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California Undaunted in Addressing Methane Emissions Despite Federal Pullback

California energy officials said Wednesday they intend to resist the rollback of climate-directed regulations by the Trump administration as they approved continued research and development projects aimed at curbing methane emissions.

As the new president moves to undo Obama administration rules aimed at curbing methane, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved four new projects representing another $5 million in research and development to identify and counteract greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

It was part of the five-member CEC's approval of $17 million in research grants aimed at the natural gas, energy efficiency, agricultural and industrial sectors in a state where current legislative proposals include one to mandate a 100% use of renewable resource-based power by 2045.

The more than $5 million in natural gas-related research grants are aimed as what a CEC spokesperson called reducing "environmental impacts from natural gas systems." They include:

  • $1.1 million to consultants Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. to prepare a strategic assessment of long-term technology pathways for gas systems to achieve energy and GHG emission reduction goals;
  • $2.6 million to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for separate projects aimed at indoor air pollutants tied to natural gas and drought-related damage to gas infrastructure;
  • $597,433 to the University of California, Davis campus, to survey methane leakage from abandoned and plugged gas wells, including the contribution of the drought to leakage patterns; and
  • $1.4 million to the Electric Power Research Institute Inc. to address fugitive GHG leaks by measuring methane and nitrous oxide at industrial facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley's two projects include $1 million for the study of indoor air pollutants from natural gas appliances in the state's zero-net energy homes, and another $1.6 million for research on new 3-D technology to accurately characterize areas with high risk of potential gas infrastructure damage due to drought-induced subsidence and to identify remedial actions.

After five years of drought there is a concern that subsidence's impact on the state's extensive gas pipeline system could be contributing to worsening methane emissions.

Among the $17 million in new CEC grants, $9 million were distributed to multiple projects aimed an emerging energy efficiency technologies, and another $3 million address energy-saving projects in the agriculture and industrial sectors.

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