We don't need another natural gas mega leak. Will you help?

Mark Brownstein\

The massive natural gas leak at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California has now continued unabated into its fourth month. The company says the leak is still weeks from being stopped.

It’s forced 2,000 families to evacuate their homes and the California governor has declared a state of emergency as hazardous air pollution and emissions of methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas, take a rising toll.

Infrared video footage of the leak has gone viral and a growing number of Americans across the country are wondering: Could this happen in my hometown?

Methane leaks: A national problem

Here’s what we know today:

  • There are more than 400 underground natural gas storage facilities such as Aliso Canyon in 31 states, many of them 40-plus years old.
  • There have been similar accidents in the past in Kansas and Texas, among other states.
  • Government officials and companies only tend to act to correct deficiencies in operation and maintenance practices after a tragedy occurs. Case in point: Aliso Canyon.
  • Studies have shown thousands of smaller methane leaks happening right now all around the country.
  • In total, the oil and gas industry emits more than 7 million metric tons of methane every year, with a near-term impact on the climate equal to the pollution from 160 coal plants. Methane is more than 80 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe.

The Aliso Canyon incident is an extreme case, in other words, but it’s not unique.

Voluntary actions aren’t enough

While a handful of oil and gas operators have partnered with state regulators to support strong standards, and others are pioneering new leak detection technologies, the good efforts of these few leaders are not enough. 

More than 99 percent of this industry has declined to participate in voluntary programs to cut their emissions, and as our recent report shows, companies are doing virtually nothing to set reduction targets or disclose their methane problem to the public.

Given all this pollution and inaction, it’s not surprising that a recent poll found trust in the oil and gas industry to be low.

But change is under way.

We need your help

The United States Environmental Protection Agency took an important step last year when it proposed the first-ever rules to rein in methane emissions from future oil and gas facilities. These rules must be strengthened.

Incidents such as Aliso Canyon show why we need rules that cover all emissions sources – those that exist now as well as those that will be built in the future. It proves that we can no longer stand by while our natural gas facilities, large and small, continue to leak.

The EPA must take action to control methane pollution from existing sources now, and we need your help to make it happen.