A new analysis of state and federal data shows 2.9 million children enrolled in schools and daycares across the country are threatened by oil and gas air pollution. Released by the national environmental group Earthworks, this new analysis is part of a larger update to The Oil & Gas Threat Map, a map-based suite of tools designed to inform and mobilize Americans about the health risks from the oil and gas industry's toxic air pollution.
The Obama-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department issued rules to limit this type of oil and gas pollution. The Trump administration is now trying to block and revoke these rules before they go into effect.
"My two sons are among the millions of children who go to school near oil and gas operations that threatens their health and safety," said Patrice Tomcik, National Oil and Gas program coordinator with Moms Clean Air Force, from Southwest Pennsylvania. She continued, "Children are especially vulnerable to these threats, including cancer, respiratory illness, fetal defects, blood disorders and neurological problems. With so many children living, playing and learning in close proximity to oil and gas production, it is unconscionable that our federal government wants to stall and revoke safeguards that protect our children from this industrial pollution. Moms want to see these vital safeguards implemented, not ignored."
The Oil & Gas Threat Map maps the nation's 1.3 million active oil and gas wells, compressors and processors. Using peer-reviewed research into the health impacts attributed to oil and gas air pollution, the map conservatively draws a 1/2 mile health threat radius around each facility. Within that total area are:
- 2,944,785 students attending 9,102 schools, colleges and day care facilities;
- 12.5 million people living in their homes including
- 3,035,508 children under 18
- 1,756,398 senior citizens 65 and over;
- 2,292 medical facilities; and
- all encompassed by the 187,413 square miles—an area larger than California—that lay within 1/2 mile of 1,292,669 oil and gas production facilities.
The searchable map also allows users to:
- Look up any street address to see if it lies within the health threat radius;
- View infrared videos which makes visible the normally invisible pollution at hundreds of the mapped facilities; and
- View interviews with people impacted by this pollution.
"The Trump administration has at least 2.9 million reasons to support stronger safeguards against toxic oil and gas air pollution," said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel. She continued, "Instead, EPA Administrator Pruitt and Interior Secretary Zinke are hell bent on eliminating them altogether."
Peer-reviewed science indicates that living within a 1/2 mile of these production facilities is clearly correlated with negative health impacts including cancer, respiratory illness, fetal defects, blood disorders and neurological problems.
By Dominique Browning
The nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is unprecedented. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, it is a travesty—because Pruitt has vigorously used his office to derail and obstruct clean air safeguards that are broadly supported by Americans in red and blue states alike. This nomination is a danger to our children and families.
Moms are outraged about this most cynical choice. We do not want an Environmental Destruction Agency.
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, 'Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,' to Head EPA https://t.co/qPkff6DtIS via @EcoWatch— EWG (@EWG)1481166611.0
Pruitt has used his office to attack vital safeguards for our children's health.
Pruitt, Oklahoma's top legal officer, has been against every single clean air protection we have gained. He has sued to stop vital safeguards that protect us from mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other emissions. These protections are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association.
Pruitt has used his office to attack protections against soot and smog pollution, and to attack EPA's science documenting oil and gas air pollution levels.
Pruitt is against standards for reducing soot and smog that crosses state lines and pollutes neighbors' air. Pruitt is against standards that improve air quality in our national parks. In 2014, Pruitt led an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with large energy companies to attack clean air rules. This included using a letter written by an energy company as his own to challenge EPA's science-based analysis of the oil and gas pollution levels in our communities.
Pruitt lies about science.
Pruitt has also professed profound ignorance—willful ignorance—about global warming. He is against any and all plans to cut the carbon and methane pollution that is dangerously altering our atmosphere. He perpetuates lies in an all-out assault on science.
He says the science on climate change is not settled. This is a lie. He claims that human activity has not changed the atmosphere. This is a lie. He claims we can do nothing about a natural phenomenon that has always occurred. This is a lie.
Pruitt accepts money from corporate polluters—to protect them.
He has sued to protect corporate polluters—and his campaigns have been funded by polluters. He has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel companies—to protect their ability to pollute.
Pruitt destroys solutions, rather than solves problems.
He has led lawsuits to undo clean air protections. But he has never, not once, advanced a single solution to any of the problems that the Clean Air Act must, by law, address. Pruitt does not offer solutions to mercury coming from coal-fired power plants, mercury that damages fetal and infant brains.
Pruitt does not offer solutions to soot and smog pollution. Pruitt does not offer solutions to the wasted methane that escapes from fracking operations. Pruitt does not offer plans to cut the emissions that are dangerously throwing our climate off balance.
Pruitt is not a leader for the new economy.
He is operating with an outdated understanding of science, economics, markets and job growth. He will not help position America globally as an innovative energy leader.
The Clean Air Act was signed into law by a Republican president and it was strengthened twenty years later by a Republican president. It is a vital demonstration that some things must transcend partisan politics: the protection of clean air and clean water chief among them.
Pruitt's entire career has demonstrated that his priority is obstructing clean air safeguards for our children.
Tell your elected officials: Scott Pruitt is a dangerous EPA nominee.
Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.