In the News

October 30, 2013

Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton testifies on the expansion of the Vermont Gas Network

Vermont Gas Systems, a utility that pipes Canadian natural gas into Vermont, is seeking to expand its network by building 43 miles of new gas transmission pipeline along the western side of the state. On behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation, Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton provided testimony to the Vermont Public Service Board regarding the company’s request for a certificate of public good to move forward with the project. Her testimony identifies serious shortcomings in the company’s argument that the new infrastructure would result in a reduction to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Dr. Stanton’s analysis identifies a range of possible emission rates associated with the project, taking into account uncertainty regarding methane leak rates and the lifecycle contribution of natural gas to greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Although scenarios in which the project’s emission rate is at the lower end of the range may result in reduced emissions for Vermont, a rate at the higher end of the range would likely increase greenhouse gases. Given aggressive state goals to mitigate climate change, this finding suggests it would be a gamble to grant the petition. Dr. Stanton’s testimony, mentioned in a July 13 article by AP reporter Dave Gram about the region’s love-hate relationship with natural gas, has helped to shift the dialogue about greenhouse gas emissions to include the full, lifecycle impacts of long-lived energy infrastructure. Board decision pending.

When growing demands on water meet dwindling supplies, what will it mean for our electric system?

America’s electric infrastructure is too dependent on water, write Synapse’s Melissa Whited and Frank Ackerman in an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, leaving the system vulnerable to water shortages while contaminating existing water supplies. Thermoelectric generators withdraw 41 percent of the nation's freshwater—more than any other sector—while mining, processing, storing, and transporting fuels requires even more water and contaminates some in the process. This water-intensive system compounds the stress of the country’s already diminishing water supplies, particularly in arid regions such as the Southwest. To avoid perpetuating this double dose of risk, future energy planning must take into account water-related threats, as well as the cost of pollution-related health impacts and climate contributions that are often not factored into electric system planning.

Ms. Whited and Dr. Ackerman recently authored a report with Synapse colleague Sarah Jackson on behalf of the Civil Society Institute (CSI) about the electric sector’s excessive water consumption in a water constrained world. View the full report, Water Constraints on Energy Production: Altering Our Current Collision Course, and the authors’ recommendations to policymakers in this policy brief. On September 12, Ms. Whited and Dr. Ackerman presented the findings of the report at a webinar hosted by CSI. You can listen to the webcast and view the presentation slides here.