Democratic News

Washington, D.C. – Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today applauded the formation of a working group to come up with solutions to adding natural gas to the transportation sector, while addressing methane emissions and other environmental concerns, which was announced during a wide-ranging discussion at the first in a series of three forums focusing on natural gas in the United States.

“I think what we’ve picked up today is there are a host of areas where if you get it right, where if you don’t just have some kind of top-down, one-size-fits-all strategy from Washington, D.C., you can really make a very significant contribution, particularly in light of what Gregg Kantor’s talking about, some of the innovation taking place in the states and in the private sector,” Wyden said. “That’s exactly what we’re all about. It’s just what I was hoping for in terms of our first panel.”

Northwest Natural President and CEO Gregg Kantor said the company is looking at new ways to encourage the use of natural gas in transportation, which has already saved its 690,000 customers in Oregon and southwest Washington more than $400 million over the last four years. Nationally, Kantor said, natural gas customers have saved about $250 billion over the last three years.

Wyden urged the working group to find creative ways to lower methane emissions and consumer costs, increase the use of natural gas-powered vehicles and find innovative solutions to update natural-gas related infrastructure.

“My aim is to look at what can be done to address the infrastructure issues hindering wider use of natural gas, beyond just fleets. In addition I would hope the group could also tackle environmental concerns such as fugitive methane emissions,” Wyden said.

Wyden has asked the group to present its findings to Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaksa, and other members on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this summer.

Steve Bolze, president and CEO of General Electric Power & Water, discussed the importance of natural gas as an important way to integrate intermittent renewable power sources, including wind and solar power.

“U.S. natural gas supply is a global game changer, and everybody in the world is watching the U.S. right now,” Bolze said. “Industry and government leaders from around the world would love to have the domestic benefits available to the U.S. as a result of natural gas reserves.”

Kantor and Bolze said the working group plans to begin meeting by June. The committee brought the company leaders together as part of a diverse group of witnesses to discuss the next applications for natural gas and how the new demand will be met in the United States. The second forum will be held May 21 and will examine domestic supply estimates and exports.