By: Mark Brownstein, Vice President, US Climate and Energy
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Here we go again.
A new set of peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to 50 percent higher than estimated regional methane emissions from oil and gas operations in Texas were published this week. And like clockwork, the oil and gas industry’s public relations machine, Energy In Depth, proclaimed that rising emissions are actually falling, and that the industry’s meager voluntary efforts are responsible.
This is, of course, wrong on both counts. In fact, it’s a willful misrepresentation of the findings.
First, the assertion that emissions are going down is flat wrong. EPA’s latest inventory released in April reports that in 2013 the oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere from their operations—a three percent increase over 2012—making it the largest industrial source of methane pollution. So much for those voluntary efforts. Read More
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Is that flare operating efficiently? Is it dangerous to my health? Whom do I ask? Whom do I tell? These are the types of questions an emerging workshop developed by EDF and RGISC aims to answer.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently ranked the Eagle Ford Shale play as the nation’s largest oil field. But with oil wells often comes wasted gas, something Texas knows all too well. A huge portion of the gas pulled from oil wells in the Eagle Ford is burned away— often sending damaging pollutants into our environment.
An investigative report published in the San Antonio Express-News last year found “the rate of Eagle Ford flaring was 10 times higher than the combined rate of the state's other oil fields.” The same researchers found that from 2009 through the first seven months of 2014 oil and gas operators in the Eagle Ford region wasted about 94 billion cubic feet of natural gas – roughly enough gas to serve the heating and cooking needs of all the homes in San Antonio over four years. Excessive or improper flaring is not only a waste of a valuable resource, but can also have harmful health effects and damage the environment. Read More
Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.
It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including: Read More
EDITOR'S NOTE: The final draft report was released May 24. Download the PDF here.
A soon-to-be released key flare emissions report could help answer the question of why Texas air toxics concentrations are higher than those reported through industrial emission inventories.
Footage of flare emissions captured by advanced monitoring technology at facility in Texas. The video was presented by TCEQ at the Hot Air Topics Conference on Jan 13, 2011 in Houston, TX. Flare is described as being oversteamed, resulting in reduced destruction efficiency and increased emissions.
Across the state, there are 1,500 flares registered with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The “flaring” or burning of excess gases using these flares has been accepted industrial practice for combusting routine waste gases as well as for combusting large volumes of gases that may result from plant emergencies, such as those that could lead to a facility explosion. Air quality experts have long held that an increase in flare pollution has been a significant contributing factor in escalating smog levels and toxic “hot spots,” particularly in fenceline communities. Read More
Our first post to Texas Clean Air Matters offers a 12-step program to TCEQ for cleaning up air pollutant hotspots around the state (and not just because it's Earth Day, but if it helps promote the cause, we'll take it).
1. Identify that we have a problem with toxic air
As with other 12-step programs, the first step toward recovery is admitting that there's a problem. Texas, we have a problem: It's called "hotspots." The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently released the 2009 Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) report, which outlines areas around the state where pollution levels for one or more toxic compounds exceeds the state’s health-based levels of concern, referred to as "effects screening levels" or ESLs. Some of the pollutants within these hotspot areas can cause cancer, birth defects, or even death. Read More