California requires utilities to reduce climate pollution from pipelines

Joint Statement from the Environmental Defense Fund and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

June 15, 2017
Kelsey Robinson, (512) 691-3404,

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.  – June 15, 2017) After over two years of development, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a series of new standards today that require natural gas utilities to implement 26 separate best practices to find, fix and prevent natural gas pipeline leaks and venting. The groundbreaking rule covering gas utilities is the most comprehensive in the nation and a companion to a March 2017 rule adopted by the California Air Resources Board that requires reduction of leaks from oil and gas extraction. 

Natural gas leaks contain primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The rule, which requires utilities to develop plans to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas infrastructure by 40% from present day levels by the year 2030, will save enough natural gas to meet the annual needs of more than 72,000 homes and save nearly $8 million worth of gas from being wasted each year.

Statement from Tim O’Connor, Director of California Oil and Gas, Environmental Defense Fund

“California’s new methane rule is a game changer for the way gas utilities find, fix and prevent leaks from natural gas infrastructure statewide. It is another example of how states are stepping up even as the federal government pulls back on important environmental protections. When combined with action the state took earlier this year to reduce pollution from oil and gas wells, the rule makes it clear California is not going to turn a blind eye to the climate impacts of gas leaks.”

Statement from Tom Dalzell, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 1245

“We are pleased that the Commission will now require the utilities to find and fix all gas leaks. Utility employees are proud to do their part to help reduce emission of greenhouse gases.”


According to recent data, in 2015 California utilities emitted 6.6 billion cubic feet of methane due to gas leaks – exceeding the amount of gas released during last year’s Aliso Canyon gas leak disaster, and over twice the total loss from all of the state’s oil and gas wells. 

Utilities are required by law to fix gas leaks that posed a threat to public safety, but until now, there were no mandates requiring utilities to address leaks that cause climate pollution.

The first-of-its-kind decision is part of Senate Bill 1371 – a state bill passed in 2014 that directs the commission to implement solutions for managing gas leaks. The decision requires utilities to implement 26 best practices to improve transparency and reduce methane emissions, including:

  • Retain all data relevant to gas leaks, and publicly display leak maps by zip code
  • Enhance mobile leak detection technologies
  • Use stationary methane detectors at compressor stations, terminals, gas storage facilities, city gates and M&R stations
  • Conduct system surveys every three years and above ground leak surveys annually
  • Repair leaks as soon as reasonably possible (and not allow leaks to persist longer than three years)
  • Mitigate emissions from blowdowns

These actions will reduce leaks and also greatly increase transparency of utility leak management – providing California residents with the ability to evaluate leak data through geographic maps and annual leak reports.

These policies comes days after  the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to delay implementation of national policies aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry  even though such policies have garnered broad, bi-partisan support from communities that extend beyond climate advocates.

California is the nation’s second largest consumer of natural gas and boasts the world’s sixth-largest economy, and yet it continues to implement some of the strongest environmental protections in the nation. These efforts signal that environmental stewardship is essential to responsible energy development and economic prosperity.

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Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and our Energy Exchange blog.

IBEW Local 1245, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, defends members’ rights at the work site, at the bargaining table, at regulatory agencies, at city councils and state legislatures.