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Tina Casey headshot

Lockheed Martin Joins the Climate Change Battle

With climate impacts coming into sharper focus, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin can play an important role in addressing this risk.
By Tina Casey
Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized climate change as a national security risk since at least 2010. Those warnings have become more dire since. With climate impacts coming into sharper focus, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin can - and are - playing an important role in addressing this new threat.

Taking on methane emissions

One of Lockheed Martin’s recent contributions is technology to monitor methane flaring at oil and gas drilling sites.

Flaring is intended to burn off methane emissions and other pollutants before they reach the atmosphere. However, evidence is growing that fugitive emissions from oil and gas operations make a significant contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Monitoring and measuring are the first steps for prioritizing sites for remediations.

To that end, the company developed the new VISR (video imaging spectral radiometry) flare monitoring system with the companies Surface Optics and Providence Photonics. Originally designed for use on fighter jets, the system has already been deployed by BP to measure sites in Alaska and Angola.

BP is sending the equipment to four other sites this year.

Lockheed Martin, climate change and national defense

During the Obama administration, Lockheed’s climate actions were supported by the policies of its top client, the U.S. government.

The situation is different under the Trump administration. Among other policy changes, the president has called for rolling back the EPA regulations on methane emissions.

The new rules would relax monitoring requirements and provide more time for operators to make repairs.

The Trump administration has also withdrawn support for an EPA initiative that Lockheed helped to launch back in 2002, the Climate Leaders program.

Somewhat ironically, Lockheed Martin was one of 15 Climate Leadership awardees in the program’s final year before EPA eliminated it in 2017.

The company won its climate award in the Organizational Leadership category, alongside Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, The Goldman Sachs Group, IBM and Procter & Gamble.

Among other achievements, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showcased the company for its ambitious goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and for adapting its business strategy to climate change, in the context of federal policies on “building energy conservation, efficiency and management, renewable and alternative energy use, water use efficiency and management, and other sustainability-focused metrics.”

EPA also took note of Lockheed’s role in cutting energy use at federal sites, and its programs for renewable energy, supply chain management and employee education.

Over the past years the company has also been recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project (now CDP) for its actions on climate change. The high marks have continued through to 2017 and 2018, with the company receiving an overall score of A for greenhouse gas initiatives.

BP and climate change

While Lockheed has cemented its brand reputation in the climate action corner, the situation is different for BP.

In recent months the company has made some strong moves to transition into clean energy, but its core business remains in oil and gas.

The Financial Times has reported that BP has participated in a lobbying effort to weaken the methane emissions rules, despite the company’s climate change pledges and renewable energy investments.

BP answered the report with a list of its methane-reducing actions. The company also argued that EPA regulations should be revised to provide for improvements in monitoring technology.

However, all of that may a moot point if the Trump administration moves forward with new rules that have the effect of enabling methane emissions to increase across the oil and gas industry.

Another climate change challenge

Over and above these issues, science-based sustainability efforts face a broader challenge from the Trump administration.

In the latest development, last Friday the president signed an executive order directing all federal agencies to reduce the number of their science advisory committees by one-third.

That order comes into conflict with Lockheed Martin’s most recent corporate sustainability report, released in April. As in past years, the report is built on the theme of “The Science of Citizenship.”

In releasing the 2019 report, Lockheed  explained that its approach to sustainability “incorporates sound science and future-oriented thinking to address pressing environmental, social and governance issues.”

Keep your eye on this legacy company; it will be interesting to see how Lockheed Martin maintains its climate change leadership position in the months and years to come.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin/Facebook

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey