Don’t weaken methane emissions rules

Recently there has been a lot of news coverage of a plan to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of methane emissions. Weakening regulation of methane emissions is a mistake.

Natural gas, made up primarily of methane, is an essential form of energy that is used for cooking, water heating, space heating, manufacturing and the generation of electricity. Natural gas is the cleanest available heating fuel, even cleaner than electricity from the grid, and effective regulation of methane emissions is an important factor in keeping it that way.

We want to be very clear: We will not waiver from our commitment to build a clean, sustainable energy future for New Hampshire. Liberty Utilities is committed to building and operating our business to make a positive and durable contribution to sustainable energy, and to fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane escaping into the atmosphere is a serious risk to climate change, and companies like ours take this risk very seriously while working successfully to eliminate it.

According to the EPA, methane emissions from natural gas extraction and transportation systems have decreased by 31.6 million metric tons, or 16.2%, since 1990. Since taking over New Hampshire’s largest natural gas utility in 2012, Liberty Utilities has replaced more than 60 miles of older, more leak-prone cast-iron and bare-steel gas pipe, and we plan to completely eliminate cast iron and bare steel mains from our system by 2024. We will continue to do our part to eliminate methane emissions, regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C.

We are constantly looking for innovative ways to provide essential energy to our customers while reducing the impact on the environment. For example, capturing and utilizing the methane produced by decomposing organic matter, known as “renewable natural gas,” is actually carbon-negative. We have filed a proposal with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission to capture methane from a landfill in Bethlehem, turn it into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas and provide it to customers to serve their heating needs. This project would offset demand for traditional natural gas and make use of a local, renewable energy source that is currently not serving a purpose, all without increasing customers’ energy bills.

On the electric side of our business, we are looking for environmentally conscious solutions as well. We are rolling out a cutting-edge, first-in-the-nation battery storage program designed to lower overall peak demand for electricity on our system, while reducing costs and increasing reliability. The batteries can work with or without solar power.

We are also working with cities and towns to convert to high-efficiency LED street lighting, which will reduce energy usage and reduce energy bills for municipalities.

We offer rebates and incentives to customers who invest in qualifying high-efficiency measures, such as LED lighting, programmable Wi-Fi thermostats and heating systems. We have generous incentives for insulation and air sealing.

Using less energy is a great way to reduce our impact on the environment. These programs result in less usage while maintaining or increasing comfort. An additional benefit is lower energy bills.

Relaxing the regulation of methane emissions is troubling. However, regardless of the regulations, Liberty Utilities remains firm in our position to reduce emissions and fight climate change. We are committed to meeting our customers’ energy needs today, without compromising tomorrow.

James Sweeney is president of Liberty Utilities-East Region.

Categories: Opinion