Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2019, Vol. 28, No. 1

California Adopted the Nation’s First Comprehensive Methane Standards for the Oil and Gas Industry—And They Will Be Meaningful for the Energy Sector Going Forward

by Timothy O’Connor,* Kamya Sud,** and Andreya Woo***

For decades, California has been at the forefront of developing environmental protections for clean air and water and using energy more efficiently. With the passage of AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act) in 2006, California took a major step forward for climate protection, and since that time has adopted policies and regulations in furtherance of the need to reduce greenhouse gases ("GHGs"). One pollutant at the center of these GHG reduction efforts is methane. This article highlights the steps California took to become the first state in the nation to regulate methane emissions top to bottom from the oil and gas industry, and what that regulation means for the energy sector going forward.

I. A BRIEF PRIMER ON THE CALIFORNIA OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY’S CONNECTION TO METHANE

California is the third largest oil and gas-producing state in the nation, extracting about nine billion dollars’ worth of fossil fuels every year.1 Some of the nation’s highest-producing fields are located in California’s Central Valley region, while the country’s largest urban oil field sits underneath Los Angeles. To meet the major fossil fuel demand across its economy, California also imports massive amounts of oil and gas, making it the nation’s second largest importer of energy.

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