Questions in EPA Inspector General letter are narrow, have been asked and answered before

The questions the EPA Inspector General appears to be interested in are ones that have been widely and publicly addressed over the past three years, including in peer-reviewed scientific literature. For reference, see our blog posts from here (December 9, 2016), here (June 9, 2016), and here (March 9, 2015).

The most important thing to understand is that there is an extensive body of scientific research, including substantial research produced just over the last four years documenting the significant problem of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, of which the two studies cited in the IG letter are just a small part. Together, this body of research presents a clear and compelling picture of the magnitude of the methane emissions problem in the U.S. and the urgent need for action to address it.

For example, EDF has helped coordinate 16 different research projects looking at emissions from on the ground and in the air. So far 33 peer-reviewed papers have been published on those projects. More than 35 different research institutions and over 120 individual co-authors have been involved in the work published to date.

(It’s worth noting that the two studies mentioned by the Inspector General were carried out with the cooperation and collaboration of several major oil and gas producers, including Anadarko, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Encana, Pioneer, Shell, Statoil, Southwestern Energy and XTO.)

The central principle of our methane research efforts has been to examine the question from as many angles as possible, using the fullest possible suite of methods and technologies, precisely in order to see where the results were mutually reinforcing, and where differences might point to the need for additional study.

The picture developed from dozens of scientific studies published since the initial UT study was released encompasses a diverse range of measurement techniques, both top-down and bottom-up, that have also been cross-compared with one another.

Bottom line: It is clear that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are too high – higher than EPA estimates, and that strong regulations are necessary to reduce them. What’s more, these emissions are frequently accompanied by smog-forming contaminants, toxic benzene – all of which further underscores the urgency of action.

Fortunately, research has also shown just how effective these solutions can be when properly implemented. We look forward to continuing to work with the federal government, the states and other stakeholders to reduce harmful methane emissions.

For more information on the peer-reviewed, scientific methane research coordinated by EDF see here.

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