Renewable Natural Gas: A Solution for Climate Protection and Economic Development

By Cliff Gladstein - Gladstein, Meandrous and Associates. 

Many thought 2016 was going to be a bad year for climate protection. As late as the third week in August, most observers were resigned to wait until 2017 to expand greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, address short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), and appropriate resources from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to climate protection projects. However, to the surprise and delight of many in the industry, the achievements realized in the California Legislature before the end of session dramatically enhance efforts to reduce GHGs and, arguably, contain the most promising advances for renewable natural gas in the industry’s short history.  These bills include:

  • SB 32 and its companion, AB 197, recommitted the state to the goal of reducing emissions of harmful GHGs. The two bills increased the target GHG reduction to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and directs the state to concentrate its efforts to ensure that the environmental, public health and economic development benefits of this policy accrue to residents in the state’s most disproportionately impacted communities.
  • SB 1383 refocuses California on the need to address short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), with emphasis on addressing emissions from dairy operations and organics recovery and recycling, and establishes mandates for both methane and black carbon reduction by 2030.
  • AB 1613 appropriates over $900 million to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to programs that will directly impact the production and consumption of renewable gases.
  • SB 840 addressed issues related to the standards for the injection of biogas in to the state’s natural gas pipeline system and removed barriers to the development of small scale forest bioenergy projects.
  • AB 2313 increased the California Public Utilities Commission’s incentive for pipeline interconnection from $1.5 million to $3 million per project, and up to $5 million of dairy digester cluster projects.