The recent editorial in The New York Times "A Modest Move on Methane" (January 19, 2015) is spot on in identifying methane as a major unaddressed climate change problem, and praising President Obama faintly for his efforts to date. Methane is 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Recent studies demonstrate that methane emissions are significantly greater than previously thought.
The editorial's observation that "... mandatory regulation of some sort will almost certainly be necessary... " echoes the action of the State of California, which last year enacted legislation (Senate Bill 1371) that requires absolute reductions in leaks of natural gas from pipeline systems and specifies procedures and timelines for developing a strategy for achieving the reductions. Under the leadership of Senator Mark Leno, the legislation's author, and Governor Jerry Brown, whose administration has already begun implementing the law at the state Public Utilities Commission, California will develop a model for methane emission reductions that focuses on best practices, deployment of cutting-edge technology, maintaining an adequate workforce and balances cost issues with safety and environmental remediation. The Utility Workers are proud to have sponsored this legislation, working with the Blue Green Alliance to organize a broad coalition of labor, environmental, consumer and economic and environmental justice organizations. We have created the foundation for a broad effort to reduce methane emissions, and have provided an example for successfully implementing it.