Selected category: Methane

New Poll: U.S. Latino Communities Overwhelmingly Support Clean Air Protections

latinopollPoliticians and political observers are increasing the amount of time spent trying to figure out how to engage with Latino voters – a large and growing part of the American electorate. Issues such as immigration reform usually dominate the discussion nationally, but a new poll from the national polling firm Latino Decisions shows that clean water and healthy air are also of utmost importance for Latinos.

According to their poll 85% of those surveyed found reducing smog and air pollution to be extremely or very important, compared to 80 percent for comprehensive immigration reform.

This comes as no surprise to those of us that are rooted in this community where issues of the health of our communities and families are often top-of-mind around the dinner table.  In reality, it also comes as no surprise to decision makers who have listened to our communities, and know Latinos have rich ties to the outdoors, but are too often the first and worst impacted by pollution. Read More »

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EPA Methane Rule: A Good Start Toward Meeting Administration’s Landmark Goal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took a big step this week, announcing the nation’s first methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry. But to understand the impact of these new draft rules, it’s important to look at what they do – and what they don’t – and measure them against the nation’s bold but readily achievable goals set out by the Obama administration earlier this year.

The president’s target of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent in the next decade is historic – currently there are no national limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. It’s also critical to protecting the climate and public health – methane packs more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe, and is released along with other toxic pollutants.

The scale of the problem is massive, with industry releasing more than 7 million tons of methane each year. It could also be even bigger than we realize. A new study published just this week reported unrecorded methane emissions from thousands of facilities in only one part of the supply chain. It concluded gathering facility emissions were eight times higher than estimated, a staggering figure that if included in EPA’s inventory would increase current estimates of total industry emissions by 20 percent. Read More »

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Game Time for Fixing The Gas Industry’s Achilles Heel

By  Ben Ratner and Sean Wright

GametimeAs the dog days of summer expire and football season approaches, many sports fans will anxiously scan their favorite team’s rosters for training camp injuries–finding everything from the innocuous, to the dreaded torn Achilles that already sidelined several pro players for the season’s start.

When it comes to the energy industry, methane emissions loom as the Achilles heel of natural gas. On the surface, natural gas appears to many as a star American player – abundant and cleaner burning than coal.

But unchecked methane emissions, which are 84 times more potent than CO2, undercut natural gas’ climate change performance. Read More »

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Study Reveals Vast Unrecorded Oil and Gas Industry Methane Emissions

G&PimagesUPDATEDA new study published today reveals that facilities that collect and gather natural gas from well sites across the United States emit about one hundred billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, roughly eight times the previous estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the segment. The wasted gas identified in the study is worth about $300 million, and packs the same 20-year climate impact as 37 coal-fired power plants.

Until now, emissions from thousands of gathering facilities – which consolidate gas from multiple wells in an area and feed it into processing plants or pipelines – have been largely uncounted in federal statistics, yet they may be the largest methane source in the oil and gas supply chain. Indeed, the newly identified emissions from gathering facilities would increase total emissions from the natural gas supply chain in EPA’s current Greenhouse Gas Inventory by approximately 25 percent if added to the tally.

The study was conducted by scientists at Colorado State University and published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

EPA doesn’t track emissions from gathering facilities separately from production activities, and there have been no estimates and almost no research on them until now. One reason prior emissions estimates are so uncertain is because the number of facilities was completely unknown. Without conducting a full census, the CSU researchers were able to put the figure at between 3,846 and 5,470 facilities – a wide range, but far better than the guesswork than existed previously. Read More »

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Sizing Up EPA’s New Voluntary Methane Reduction Program

Flare tanks credit Earthworks

The U.S. oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2013, a three percent increase over 2012 – that’s an amount of gas worth nearly $2 billion, and enough to supply about 6 million American homes. The sector is the largest source of industrial methane pollution in the country. And not even the industry disputes that methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

So what are we going to do about it?

Earlier this year, the Administration took the first and most important step so far, setting a national goal to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years (to achieve this, rules will need to cover both new and existing emitters, but that’s another story). The first round of proposed regulations is due later this summer.

In the meantime, yesterday EPA released the draft framework for its updated voluntary Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program. Well-designed voluntary initiatives like this one have always been a potential complement to concrete rules, helping to define and showcase best practices. We commend the agency on this new effort.

But did EPA hit the mark – will this program achieve real, measurable, verifiable benefits for the environment? Does it fairly recognize and reward those companies that step up to innovate and lead? Let’s take a closer look at the proposal against a list of critical elements necessary for an effective voluntary program. Read More »

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New Study Emphasizes Need to Find and Fix Methane Leaks; Reveals Limits of Voluntary Action

T_S image 2A study published today in Environmental Science & Technology confirms official figures from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that an enormous amount of methane – about 80 billion cubic feet per year – is escaping from thousands of key nodes along the nation’s natural gas interstate pipeline system. This equals the 20-year climate impact of 33 coal-fired power plants and more than $240 million worth of wasted natural gas per year, enough to meet the yearly heating and cooking needs of over a million U.S. households.

The study also shows the limitations of voluntary measures to address the industry’s methane problem. Companies that volunteered for this study, for example, reported emissions 30 percent lower than companies that were not involved. For some equipment, the difference was more than seven-fold. The performance gap between volunteer and non-volunteer companies reinforces doubt about industry claims that it can manage methane emissions on its own, underscoring the need for standards that create a level playing field across the sector.

Major Challenge, Big Opportunity

The study also confirms that major emission sources are widely distributed, intermittent, and unpredictable. In this case, a relatively small number of large leaks from ill-performing equipment and facilities accounted for 40 percent of the methane leaking from the country’s pipeline transmission and storage infrastructure. Read More »

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