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Symposium Highlights Urgent Need for Methane Solutions

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Wayne Nastri, acting executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Seyed Sadredin, executive director and air pollution control officer at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

July 18, 2016

The June 29 Rethink Methane Symposium drove home the urgent need to deal with the roadblocks that impede RNG development and use in California.

There is widespread agreement on the problems, reports Coalition President Thomas Lawson: Methane emissions are an ongoing issue, and air pollution along California’s freight corridors disproportionately harms the health of surrounding communities. Meanwhile, there’s not enough funding to expand RNG production, which captures methane, or to incentivize trucking companies to switch to RNG. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a main source of RNG support, is under renewed attack. And RNG providers continue to have limited access to the natural gas pipeline.

Symposium attendees aired several responses to these problems.

Wayne Nastri, acting executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Seyed Sadredin, executive director and air pollution control officer at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said that they are jointly advocating for a federal Clean Air Investment Fund to clean up the air in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. The air districts are hoping the proposed Superfund, similar to existing U.S. EPA programs for soil and water cleanup, would receive $500 million to $1 billion in annual funding. It could fund projects such as shifting heavy-duty trucks to RNG and low-NOx engines.

Harrison Clay, president of Clean Energy Renewable Fuels, called for action to remove barriers to accessing the state’s gas pipeline. “There continues to be a wide chasm between what the developer community needs from utilities to be successful in building new biogas energy projects in California and what the utilities are willing or able to provide—particularly in terms of interconnection with the grid,” said Clay.

He continued: “If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that large-scale growth in biogas energy use will require significant changes in the way that utilities approach interconnection costs and risks. We will never have a thriving biomethane production industry in the state until the current utility quality specs and interconnect costs change.”

Finally, the Coalition and others are rallying support for the LCFS. Lawson is urging Coalition members to write letters to their state representatives describing how the program has contributed to greenhouse gas reductions and helped their businesses. “Lawmakers need to hear that there is a strong business constituency in favor of the LCFS; otherwise, they might be tempted to use it as a bargaining chip in the effort to extend cap and trade,” he said.

Several members have already written letters; see examples from Clean Energy, Agility Fuel Systems, and Applied LNG. In addition, Calstart recently sent a group letter to legislative leaders.

“Methane is a significant contributor to global warming, particularly in the near term, which is precisely why it is such an important part of the solution,” noted Clay. “Capturing all the vented, flared, and wasted methane we produce and using it to displace fossil fuels is one of the biggest opportunities we have to reduce GHG emissions, particularly in the heavy-duty transportation space.”

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