Natural gas microscope

Colorado PUC to analyze its role in curbing emissions from natural gas

Natural gas use, both by consumers and the extraction and processing phases, will come under the microscope of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission beginning with at least one information meeting tentatively scheduled for early November.

The purpose hinges upon the targets identified by HB 19-1261, the “Climate Action Plan to Reduction Pollution,” which specified economy-wide carbon reduction of 50% by 2030.

The state’s Air Quality Control Commission, aided by the Colorado Energy Office, have primary authority for creating and executing efforts to attain those goals, but SB-236 also identifies the PUC as having a major role because of its regulation of utilities.

PUC Commissioner Megan Gilman had flagged the issue several times. She will have responsibility for guiding the hearings.

Bob Bergman, a PUC staff member, cited the language of HB-1261. The law speaks to the need to “require the use of all available practical methods which are technologically feasible and economically reasonable so as to reduce, prevent, and control air pollution throughout the state of Colorado.”

The PUC plans to invite academics and others to help inform the discussion.

This is from the Oct. 16, 2020, issue of Big Pivots, an e-magazine. To get on the e-distribution list, go to BigPivots.com

Nearly all buildings in Colorado use fossil fuels, primarily natural gas but also propane, for heating and warming of water and, to a lesser extent, cooking. For Colorado to meet its 2030 goals, according to a roadmap to decarbonization recently released by state agencies, some reduction in the building sector must begin by 2030 and such use must almost entirely be curtailed by mid-century if the goals are to be met.

There are myriad issues, though. For example, there are questions of stranded assets. There are questions about the cost of natural gas to those consumers unable to upgrade their buildings so that gas will be unnecessary.

PUC Commissioner John Gavan nodded at the need to avoid duplicating work of the Air Quality Control Commission, which has been engaged in rule-making on how to reduce methane emissions from the oil-and-gas sector. He suggested that the PUC would benefit from taking a look at emissions from these mid-stream and upper-stream sources.

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Allen Best