Hydrogen Blending for Homes Contributes to Health Inequities
- Hydrogen production and blending harm environmental justice communities by increasing air pollution in neighborhoods that are already-overburdened with pollution from industries and transportation (e.g., oil wells and refineries, shipping ports, airports, proximate freeway traffic, etc. ).
- “Natural” gas and hydrogen blends would be moved through current gas power plants and compressor stations, which are overwhelmingly situated amongst minority and/or lower-income neighborhoods. The blending of hydrogen with “natural” gas will extend both this infrastructure and the use of gas-burning appliances in lower-income homes where appliances may be old and leaky, and spaces may be smaller and/or have poor ventilation.
- Policies such as redlining have limited the neighborhoods where people of color could buy homes and reduced their ability to access credit necessary for energy efficiency retrofits. As a result, these communities are more likely than white neighborhoods to have aging appliances. Consequently, non-white, lower-income people bear the brunt of “natural” gas leaks.
- Communities of color are more likely to suffer from air pollution-related illnesses such as asthma – this is especially true of Black children, who suffer from asthma at epidemic rates.
- Lower-income households may not have health insurance or access to quality health care.
Consequently, the air pollution generated by producing and burning blended hydrogen will disproportionately harm the health of our most vulnerable communities.
Increased energy costs: The high costs of hydrogen production and delivery could result in dramatic increases in energy costs for homes with gas-burning appliances. Higher energy costs would harm lower-income households who are already having to make choices between paying for air conditioning during deadly heatwaves or buying enough food.
Finally, existing health inequities are magnified by our climate emergency. By accelerating climate change, methane and hydrogen reinforce existing health inequities.
Salem State University Study: An environmental justice analysis of distribution-level natural gas leaks in Massachusetts, USA
McGill University Study: Racial inequity in household energy efficiency and carbon emissions in the United States: An emissions paradox
What Is Happening in CALIFORNIA?
- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering whether to approve utility proposals for various hydrogen blending pilots. The utilities need to refile their applications to comply with direction from the Commission on how it wants them to research hydrogen blending.
Read the protest Earthjustice filed on behalf of Sierra Club to three gas utilities’ joint application for hydrogen blending projects.
- California’s major hydrogen program is called Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES). Here is an article by Sierra Club about many concerns regarding the program.
Sierra Club on ARCHES: California EJ and climate advocates urge greater transparency and community engagement in the state’s Hydrogen Hub process
CALL TO ACTION
Burning hydrogen in homes poses risks to public health and our climate. Electrification of our homes is a healthier climate solution than burning gas and hydrogen. Electric appliances are increasingly more available and affordable, especially with all the current financial subsidies.
SF Bay PSR recommends:
- Do not blend hydrogen for use in buildings.
- Support the speedy just-transition of homes to healthier electric appliances, stoves, heaters, etc.
- Engage and help protect frontline communities from air pollution and other health impacts of our climate emergency.
- Rapidly expand renewable energy production to expedite the end of fossil fuel use and decarbonization of our economy.