Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever nationwide standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. It’s a common sense move: With its potent global warming power and low-cost solutions, cutting methane is the biggest bargain for greenhouse gas reductions in the energy business.
The array of supporters speaking out in favor of the proposal underscores just how smart, practical and doable EPA’s move is. Applause has come from voices as diverse as citizens impacted by oil and gas development and investors to government leaders in the heart of oil and gas country.
Here’s just a sample of the voices we’ve heard over the past two weeks:
Communities in the Crosshairs
Methane is a potent climate forcer, but it also carries with it serious health impacts because it’s emitted alongside toxic and smog-forming pollutants. Read More
Politicians 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
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Colorado, Methane Tagged air quality, California, Clean Air, Clean Power Plan, Colorado, diversity, Latinos, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico
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
A 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
It’s been two months since EPA released its much anticipated draft report on hydraulic fracturing, and organizations like ours are busy preparing their official comments, which are due at the end of August.
But based on what we have learned so far and what has been written in the media, it’s important to spend some time on what the report said – and didn’t say – and what it all means.
“Is Fracking Safe?”
Scouring the EPA report for statements proving or disproving that hydraulic fracturing is safe will surely reveal both. It is true that water supplies have been contaminated by activities related to hydraulic fracturing. It is also true that the number of documented contamination events make up a small percentage of all wells. But “Is it safe?” is a red herring. Read More
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