Natural gas: Local leaks impact global climate

EDF and Google Earth Outreach use new approach to pinpoint climate pollution

By: Art Cooley

Today, the Environmental Defense Fund's Chief Scientist, Dr. Steven Hamburg,
announced new
interactive online maps that Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
developed in partnership with Google Earth Outreach quantifying thousands
of natural gas leaks beneath the streets of Boston, Indianapolis and New York Cityís Staten Island
(follow this link for a
Washington Post blog on the project). 
The maps are Phase 1 of a pilot project
using data gathered by specially equipped
Google Street View mapping cars to provide
the first large-scale quantification of
natural gas leaks in the local distribution system.
Our goal is to unlock the potential
of new technologies to help better
understand ó and solve ó environmental problems.

Leaking natural gas, which is mostly methane,
is a widespread problem, though the type 3 leaks
that we are mapping rarely present an immediate
public safety threat. Utilities are required by
federal law to periodically survey their system for leaks,
categorize the leaks they find, and fix the type 1 and type 2 l
eaks that present an immediate threat to public safety.
But there still can be thousands of methane leaks
that go unaddressed and this is a real concern.


Methane ó which has 120 times the warming effect
of carbon dioxide ó poses a serious threat to our climate.
Thatís why itís critical to determine where and how much
gas is escaping. EDF worked closely with several leading
utilities to validate our findings, which offer a valuable new
way to quantify leaks and use that information to reduce
emissions by helping utilities prioritize system repairs and upgrades.

Art Cooley
Founding Trustee Environmental Defense Fund
La Jolla, CA 92037

PS. Please note that if you click on the interactive online maps
on the EDF site, you can find a place for your email address and zip code so
that you can nominate your city to part of this survey.

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