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 Obama Administration Recognizes Efforts by Natural Gas Utilities to Continue Declining Emissions   

AGA looks forward to continuing to work with Administration in developing emission reduction approaches
Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) today commented on an initiative by the Obama Administration to reduce methane emissions in the oil and natural gas sector.

“Safety is the top priority for natural gas utilities, and due to continuing efforts to modernize infrastructure and enhance pipeline safety, natural gas emissions are on a declining trend,” said AGA Chairman Gregg Kantor. “This is not an industry that rests on its laurels. We remain vigilant and deeply committed to continually upgrading our infrastructure. AGA and its members are working to develop best practices and we are pursuing the most up-to-date science to help ensure that natural gas will remain a foundation fuel for our nation’s clean and secure energy future.”

Kantor has led an initiative by the AGA Board of Directors to develop industry consensus and identify pipeline safety best practices for continuing the trend of declining emissions. Five AGA distribution company senior executives participated in a recent methane emissions reduction strategy roundtable held by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, part of an ongoing dialogue between the Secretary and AGA leadership about areas of joint coordination. In February, the AGA Board approved principles for continuing the declining trend in natural gas emissions.

“We all share the goal of a safe, resilient, clean energy infrastructure and natural gas utilities are working with state regulators and key stakeholders to do our part,” said Dave McCurdy, President and CEO of the American Gas Association. “We will achieve this goal in our sector through investments to modernize and expand the grid and by delivering natural gas safely to growing numbers of homes and businesses. Smart, cost effective investments in system modernization can continue, and accelerate, the trend in decreasing natural gas emissions.”

Natural gas emissions from utility-owned distribution systems have dropped 16 percent since 1990, even as the industry added nearly 600,000 miles of distribution mains and service lines to serve 17 million more customers, an increase of 30 percent. Two thirds of the emissions declines from distribution systems since 1990 are due to pipeline replacements.

AGA and thirteen of its member companies have been participating with the Environmental Defense Fund in a multi-city study conducted by the Washington State University to measure methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems.  Previously, a lack of real world data made it difficult to make meaningful estimates of methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems. The results of this important study, to be published this summer, will help government, industry, and other stakeholders to work together to develop sound, data-driven policies.

As an extension of this research effort, AGA and participating companies are drawing on this new emissions data to inform a best practices initiative. The result of this effort will be a set of voluntary guidelines with a menu of best practices for continuing the declining emissions trend for natural gas distribution systems.   

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the annual natural gas emissions rate per unit of natural gas production in 2011 was estimated to be 1.5 percent. And of that, only 0.3 percent was emitted from systems operated by local natural gas utilities.
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The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 71 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 94 percent — over 68 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets almost one-fourth of the United States' energy needs.

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