Rulemaking to Make Room in Pipes for Biomethane

By Published On: February 15, 2013

To expand the use of methane from California landfills and dairies, state regulators unanimously agreed Feb. 13 to launch a rulemaking setting health and safety ground rules for injecting the fuel into natural gas pipelines. “This is an opportunity for California to turn methane--a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide--into a useful resource to power homes and vehicles,” said Mike Peevey, California Public Utilities Commission president. The rules are expected to “reduce barriers to the use of biogas” produced in California, added commissioner Carla Peterman. Injection of biogas from in-state landfills into pipelines has been stalled because of concerns about vinyl chloride contamination. Vinyl chloride is recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as creating an increased cancer risk. Out-of-state biofuel put into gas pipes, however, has not faced the same barrier as in-state fuel. That motivated the enactment of legislation last year--AB 1990 by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles)--to increase the use of in-state biogas. Another push came from the governor. He called for higher use of biogas to help meet the state’s 33 percent renewable portfolio standard. Several other state agencies charged with public health, air quality, and environmental protection, including the California Air Resources Board, are set to be involved in the commission’s development of biogas pipe standards as required by AB 1990.

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