Boulder forming gas/fracking study group
Last Updated: 15:33 October 11, 2013
But Jonathan Koehn, the city's regional sustainability coordinator, said the group's feedback could affect the amount of gas in Boulder's portfolio and the length of time the city relies on it as a transition fuel toward a portfolio based heavily on sustainable resources like wind, solar and hydro power.
The city announced Thursday that it is forming the group, comprised of industry specialists and local stakeholders, "to explore concerns and opportunities related to the use of natural gas to generate electricity" for the city. The city's Energy Future team will hold its first meeting with the working group after the Nov. 5 election. The group has yet to be selected.
In exploring whether to create a municipal utility, the city relied heavily on natural gas in its modeling as a way to steer away from coal quickly while eventually moving toward a greater renewable mix.
But with hydraulic fracturing a hot topic surrounding the extraction of natural gas and its possible effects on the environment, the city wants to use the recommendations and guidance of the working group to make sure it has the best information possible for a variety of areas: how much the use of natural gas versus coal will truly reduce Boulder's harmful emissions; industry best practices; and whether the city can help effect change in the industry with regard to the way natural gas is sourced.
The feedback of the working group, Koehn said, could lead to further portfolio modeling by the city.
Boulder voters on Nov. 5 will decide whether to institute a five-year moratorium on fracking in Boulder and on Boulder-owned open space. But Koehn said the working group is not a reaction to public sentiment but a proactive approach by the city to make sure it has good information in creating its energy portfolio.
"We want to understand what the challenges and what the risks of incorporating natural gas in our portfolio might be," Koehn said. "Have we accurately reflected the role gas could play in what we're calling a transition fuel to get to renewables?"
In addition to fracking, the group will be exploring the impact of things like methane leakage. While natural gas is cleaner to burn that coal, some studies suggest that the full life cycle of it is actually dirtier because of the amount of methane that can escape into the atmosphere during the natural gas lifecycle, from extraction to use.
"If Boulder chooses to municipalize, before we commit to a particular energy portfolio, we want to address concerns around the use of natural gas supplied from fracking and how we can minimize the negative impacts through best practices or other means," Boulder executive director of energy strategy and electric utility development Heather Bailey said in a press release. "Natural gas is likely to be a necessary transition energy source as Boulder makes what we hope will be a dramatic shift away from coal and other fossil fuels toward renewable sources. Recognizing this, we have been working on what we can do as a municipal utility to influence the development of responsibly sourced gas that limits or eliminates the harmful impacts of fracking and methane gas release."
Members of the community and industry personnel who are interested in participating in the working group can contact Bailey at 303-441-1923 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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