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Porter Ranch 'Monster' Gas Leak Largest in U.S. History
According to a peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the journal Science, the nearly four-month leak released roughly 100,000 tons of methane—effectively doubling the methane emissions rate of the entire Los Angeles Basin. Southern California Gas Co. said it stopped the leak earlier this month. State Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources engineers confirmed the leak was halted last week.
"Aliso Canyon will be, certainly, the biggest single [methane] source of the year," said co-lead study author Stephen Conley of UC Davis and Scientific Aviation. "It's definitely a monster."
Beyond that, he told Inside Climate News, "It's the biggest leak in U.S. history."
As the Los Angeles Times reports, "Conley piloted a single-engine plane rigged with methane and ethane sensors through the plume and analyzed it during 13 different research flights between Nov. 7 and Feb. 13, with the last readings taken just two days after the well was temporarily halted."
The newspaper continues:
With each flight, he would start very low—perhaps a couple hundred feet off the ground—fly through the plume, turn around and go back through at about 100 feet higher. He would do this until he reached the top of the plume, which could take anywhere from about 16 to 35 passes. Adding these slices up would give him the total emissions from the plume at that time. Even after the first flight, the methane readings alarmed him.
“It was 20 times larger than anything else we'd ever measured—it was just kind of a shock," said Conley, who recalled thinking, “What in the world was this big?"
With the leak's pollution equivalent to annual emissions from half a million cars, the disaster will substantially affect California's ability to meet greenhouse gas emission targets for the year, added Tom Ryerson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). "Our results show how failures of natural gas infrastructure can significantly impact greenhouse gas control efforts," he said.
In a blog post Thursday, Environmental Defense Fund chief scientist Steven Hamburg noted that Conley's results were "much higher than those provided by the gas company."
But that's not surprising, he continued, explaining that "accurately measuring these large sources is difficult using ground-based approaches like those used by the gas company to estimate the size of emissions from the facility."
Significantly, Hamburg wrote, the study comes days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft results of their updated accounting of methane emissions from the nation's oil and gas supply chain that shows that emissions are up 27 percent above the agency's early estimate.
"The more we know about methane emissions, the higher they get," he said. "The new findings show not just the massive scale of the oil and gas industry's methane problem, but also how critical it is to get the science right to both understand this source of a potent climate pollutant and reduce it. We know that cutting methane is one of the fastest, most cost effective ways to curb today's warming, and when combined with critical efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, substantial climate progress can be made."
The Aliso Canyon disaster has prompted calls from members of Congress for the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to create the first federal standards for underground gas storage.
But with more than 300 such facilities across the U.S., the leak "is just the latest and most public example showing that we need to keep natural gas in the ground, not burn it," as Earthworks executive director Jennifer Krill wrote last month.
Indeed, Sierra Club's Michael Brune declared in a January blog post: "As long as we rely on fossil fuels for energy—and much of the methane that's leaking from Aliso Canyon was intended for California's power plants—we will be fighting climate disruption with both hands tied behind our backs."
"Only when we achieve 100 percent clean energy will we truly be able to safeguard our health, our environment, and our climate," he said. "For the unlucky people in the path of the next fossil fuel disaster—and they could be anywhere—that day can't come soon enough."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Wudan Yan
In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."
On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.
By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans
Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.
While airlines only serve bottled drinking water directly to customers, they use the plane's water for coffee and tea, and passengers can drink the tap water. Aitor Diago / Getty Images
You might want to think twice before washing your hands in an airplane bathroom.
By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis
Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.
Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.