Hillary Clinton’s Plan for Ensuring Safe and Responsible Natural Gas Production

Hillary Clinton is committed to making America the world’s clean energy superpower and meeting the climate change challenge. Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy, creating good paying jobs and careers, lowering energy costs for American families and businesses, and reducing air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color. By putting in place new safeguards and raising labor standards, Clinton will ensure safe and responsible natural gas production as we move towards a clean energy future.

Natural Gas and the Clean Energy Transition

Domestically produced natural gas has played a critical role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants. US CO2 emissions in 2015 reached their lowest level in 20 years due in large part to a shift from coal to natural power generation, helping to put the US in a strong negotiating position at the Paris climate conference. This shift has also yielded significant public health benefits, avoiding thousands of premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks in 2015 alone. 1 With the right safeguards in place, natural gas can help meet our 2025 international climate commitment, in a way that keeps us on track with achieving a greater than 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

  • A cleaner and more resilient grid: Switching from coal to natural gas is an important option states have for reducing carbon pollution under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. High efficiency natural gas combined cycle power plants can also improve grid reliability and enable greater integration of renewable energy by balancing variable wind and solar. Clinton will work with states utilizing natural gas generation and support infrastructure to reduce carbon pollution and meet her renewable energy targets, yielding carbon pollution cuts beyond what would be achieved with the Clean Power Plan alone.
  • More efficient buildings and industry: Too many American families and businesses still rely on higher polluting fuel oil for heating. Too many American manufacturing companies still rely on coal or oil-fueled boilers to manufacture their products. Clinton will provide competitive grants to states, cities and rural communities that take the lead in phasing down inefficient fuel oil consumption in buildings and deploying high-efficiency combined heat and power solutions in manufacturing. Clinton will also provide financing tools for new natural gas pipeline investment that supports these objectives.
  • Reducing air pollution through cleaner transportation: Oil combustion in trucks, trains, busses and ships is a leading source of air pollutants responsible for higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illness. This disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color who often live closer to freeways and ports. Through a combination of smart federal standards, infrastructure investments and her Clean Energy Challenge to states, cities and rural communities, Clinton will accelerate the deployment of high efficiency natural gas-fueled trucks, buses, ships, and trains to dramatically reduce local air pollution and improve public health.
  • Accelerating the deployment of renewable natural gas and other low-carbon gas solutions: Meeting our long-term climate goals will ultimately require replacing conventional natural gas with lower carbon alternatives and deploying carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Clinton will increase public R&D in renewable natural gas and other solutions to deliver low-carbon gas to buildings, industry, trucks and ships through our existing pipeline network and drive new technologies to capture and sequester CO2 emissions from natural gas-fired power plants.

Putting New Safeguards in Place

For natural gas to play a role in the transition to a clean energy economy, it’s essential that the right safeguards are in place. States such as Colorado are already pointing the way toward how to do this effectively.  As President, Clinton will ensure natural gas production is safe and responsible in those communities that choose to pursue it, including through the following:

  • Controlling fugitive methane emissions: To capture the climate benefits of shifting from coal and oil to natural gas, fugitive methane emissions must be addressed. Clinton will achieve President Obama’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 40-45% through standards for both new and existing sources. She will ensure new natural gas pipelines are built to the highest standards and repair or replace thousands of miles of leaky pipes by the end of her first term.
  • Protecting local water supplies: Clinton will work with Congress to eliminate the Halliburton loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act. She will follow the lead of states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming in requiring that all companies disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, will ensure robust well casing requirements are in place and will improve wastewater recycling and disposal practices.
  • Preventing induced seismic activity: Clinton will ensure that systems and permitting procedures are in place to avoid potential induced seismic activity. Clinton will direct the USGS to improve states’ knowledge of local geology in order to more effectively reduce the risk of seismic activity.

Raising Labor Standards

Part of ensuring natural gas production and transportation is safe and responsible is ensuring E&P and pipeline companies use high skilled labor. As President, Clinton will improve labor standards through the following:

  • Apprenticeship programs: Apprenticeships are critical in maintaining a highly skilled and well-paid workforce. As President, Clinton will seek to ensure that pipeline and E&P workers have completed or utilize apprentices from jointly managed, DOL-registered programs.
  • Collective bargaining agreements: For E&P workers, Clinton supports collective bargaining agreements that provide living wages, improve jobs security and enhance quality control and operational safety.
  • Project labor agreements: To ensure new pipelines are built to the highest standards and support broad-based local economic development so the benefits of construction are broadly shared, Clinton supports project labor agreements that utilize skilled labor and help recruit and train members of the local community, emphasizing construction career pathways for persons of color, women and veterans. Clinton will also emphasize procurement of contractors and project owners/sponsors with solid safety and performance records.

Clinton’s plan for ensuring safe and responsible production is one pillar of her comprehensive energy and climate agenda, which includes major initiatives in the following areas:

  • Clean Energy Challenge: Develop, defend and implement smart federal energy and climate standards. Provide states, cities and rural communities ready to lead on clean energy and exceed these standards with the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed.
  • Modernizing North American Infrastructure: Improve the safety and security of existing energy infrastructure and align new infrastructure we build with the clean energy economy we are seeking to create.
  • Revitalizing Coal Communities: Protect the health and retirement security of coalfield workers and their families and provide economic opportunities for those that kept the lights on and factories running for more than a century.
  • Energy and Climate Security: Reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world, guard against energy supply disruptions, and make our communities, our infrastructure, and our financial markets more resilient to risks posed by climate change.
  • Collaborative Stewardship:  Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.

[1] Campaign calculations based on data from the Energy Information Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.