Natural Gas Leak Abatement
Phase 1: Policies and Guidelines 

Background


In 2014, California passed SenateBill (SB) 1371, which requires the CPUC to adopt rules and procedures to minimize natural gas leakage from the natural gas pipelines it regulates. In January 2015, the CPUC initiated a Rulemaking to implement the bill. The purpose of this effort is for the CPUC mitigate hazardous gas leaks and to reduce GHG emissions. The Rulemaking has two objectives for Phase 1:

  1. Utility leak reports
  2. Determine rules and procedures to support best practices

The purpose of this phase is to determine guidelines for Best Practices to mitigate natural gas leaks. In September 2015, the CPUC held stakeholder workshops to discuss:

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Methane leak reporting
  • Leak mitigation techniques

On July 24, 2015 the CPUC issued a Ruling setting the scope for Phase 1 on Policies and Guidelines, which includes the following activities:

  • Information Gathering, Measurement, and Best Practices
  • Targets, Compliance, and Reporting
  • Training and Enforcement

 

In June 2017, Decision 17-06-015 was issued that established best practices and reporting requirements for the CPUC Natural Gas Leak Abatement Program. That decision also included:

  •  Annual reporting for tracking methane emissions with emphasis on transparency of data to the public;
  • Twenty-six best practices for minimizing methane emissions pertaining to gas meters, pipelines, storage facilities, compressors and other infrastructure; compliance categories also included leak detection, leak repair, and leak prevention, and also policies and procedures, recordkeeping, training, and experienced trained personnel.  
  • Biennial compliance plans that must be incorporated into gas-utility safety plans required by the Commission’s General Order 112-F.
  • “Soft” methane reduction targets to support California’s statutory methane emissions reduction target of 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. (SB 1383, Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016).
  • Cost recovery process to facilitate Commission review and approval of incremental expenditures to implement best practices, Pilot Programs, and Research & Development.

Utility Leak Reports

The purpose of the Leak Reports Phase is to Document each gas utility's leak status. The CPUC required each gas utility to file a leak Report in May 2015, which included:

  • A description of the gas corporation's pipeline facilities.
  • A summary of current leak management practices.
  • A list of new leaks in 2013 and 2014.
  • A list of open leaks being monitored or are scheduled to be repaired.
  • A total number of leaks detected and repaired in 2013 and 2014.

In February 2016, the CPUC issued a Ruling attaching a Report of its analysis of the utilities' May 2015 Leak reports. The CPUC's analysis found that utility leak reporting templates should be improved to promote consistency and more comprehensive data across the utilities.

 

The utilities submitted Leak Report updates on June 17, 2016.

 

Determine Rules and Procedures to Support Best Practices

Rules and procedures were informed by the utilities' Leak Reports, workshops, and other stakeholder input.

 

On March 18, 2015 the CPUC issued a Ruling attaching its "Safety Enforcement Division Staff Report Survey of Natural Gas Leakage Abatement Best Practices." The report contains preliminary observations, recommendations, and conclusions regarding leak detection, repair, and prevention.

 

On March 24, 2016, the CPUC and CARB issued a Ruling with staff recommendations for mandatory and voluntary best practices for natural gas leak abatement.

Public Advocates Office (the Office) Position

The Office supports the CPUC's efforts on natural gas leak abatement in order to reduce:

  • Safety risks to California's natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
  • Methane emissions as a source of greenhouse gases.

The Office reviewed the March 2016 staff recommendations and recommends that the CPUC and CARB should use a set of criteria to identify a suite of practices that utilities will choose from to effectively reduce emissions of natural gas from their systems. The Office recommended:

  • The majority of the CPUC's and CARB's recommended best practices provided no data on estimated emission reductions or cost.
  • Data should be collected that will help determine the impact that the best practices will have in terms of emission reductions, safety, and cost.
  • The CPUC should require a two-prong process for ensuring that the list of best practices is kept up-to-date.

See:

The Office's April 1, 2015 Comments on the SED Staff Report Survey of Natural Gas Leakage Abatement Best Practices.

The Office's May 6, 2016 Comments on Leak Abatement Best Practices.

CPUC Proceeding Docket

See the Proceeding docket

Resources

CPUC Methane Leak Proceeding Webpage

On this page you can find information related workshops, presentations, reporting requirements.