Energy Exchange

INTERACTIVE MAP: Who is impacted most by overlooked pollution from America’s small oil and gas wells

A new EDF map is making it easier to access information about the communities across the country who are impacted by pollution from small oil and gas wells with leak-prone equipment.

There are over half a million wells across the country that are producing less than 15 barrels of oil and gas a day. But while they produce just 6% of the nation’s oil and gas, a new study reveals they are causing half of wellsite pollution nationwide.

Explore the map to learn more about your county.

This pollution has a very real impact on the climate and on the health of communities who live near these facilities. Not only do these facilities emit significant volumes of the potent greenhouse gas methane, they also leak other pollution that is toxic to human health and can severely deteriorate air quality.

Nearly 8 million people across the country live within half a mile of these well sites. A closer look at the data reveals that pollution from these wells has a disproportionate impact on many historically marginalized or vulnerable communities.

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In wake of Supreme Court ruling, we must go full steam ahead to reduce methane pollution

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent climate change ruling has unfortunately restricted the tools available to EPA in its effort to address climate pollution from power plants. However, it’s also important to recognize that the ruling in no way changed EPA’s longstanding authority and duty to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution itself — including from new cars and freight trucks, industrial sources, new and existing power plants, and oil and gas development.  And with respect to oil and gas pollution, this decision in no way impedes the agency’s ongoing and important efforts to reduce oil and gas methane pollution.

It remains critical that the EPA exercise its clear authority and obligation to move forward with protective climate standards, including its proposed rules to curb methane pollution from the oil and gas sector, which emits roughly 16 million tons of methane annually. Globally, methane from human sources is responsible for over a quarter of the warming we are experiencing today.

EPA’s authority to tackle methane pollution was reaffirmed by bipartisan majorities in Congress just last year, and the agency has commonsense, cost-effective tools at hand to address the health harms posed by oil and gas methane pollution, which in the U.S. alone has the near-term climate impact every year of 294 million passenger vehicles. Read More »

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Creating data to support communities on the front lines of oil and gas production in the U.S.

By Jeremy Proville and Kate Roberts

This week we published a new study that combines locations of active oil and gas wells with census tract data in a way that helps us better understand the characteristics of the communities living near them. Our findings support what environmental justice groups have been voicing for years: in many counties across America, people who have been historically marginalized — communities of color, older Americans, children and people living under the federal poverty line — often live near wells in greater proportions than the other groups that make up the rest of their local county.

In addition to publishing these data with our study, we also used it to develop an interactive tool, which users can access to explore how each of 13 different demographic groups relate to oil and gas wells across all U.S. counties.

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Rogue methane leaks from idle wells carry four big takeaways for policymakers

An ongoing methane leak involving several long-term idle wells in Southern California is raising safety concerns for nearby residents and highlights an important climate issue. Southern California has some of the worst air quality in the country, and leaks like these compound the negative impacts on some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Both in California and across the country, many hundreds of thousands of end-of-life oil and gas wells are idle. That means that they are just sitting around awaiting proper site closure, which involves plugging the wells with cement to prevent gases or liquids from escaping and threatening the environment and public health.

Several such wells were recently found to be leaking methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that often escapes from oil and gas facilities alongside other toxic pollutants — in the Morningstar section of Bakersfield, CA. Local residents are concerned about the possibility of subsurface methane migration to homes and other structures in the vicinity.

While CalGEM and other agencies work to investigate and remediate the situation, four takeaways are already emerging:

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Big bright spot in a disappointing season for shareholder climate resolutions

By Andrew Howell, CFA

It’s annual general meeting season in the U.S. — when shareholders hold companies to account and press management to do better.

A record 71 climate-related resolutions will be presented this year at public companies, more than double the number last year. But with a more ambitious suite of resolutions, fewer are being approved: just 21% of climate resolutions have passed so far this year, compared with 33% last year.

So it is big news that yesterday brought the passage of the first two climate resolutions in the oil and gas sector at ExxonMobil and Chevron. And while the successful Exxon resolution, requiring reporting on the financial impacts of a net zero by 2050 world, received more attention, the Chevron resolution is equally noteworthy. Chevron’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution filed by Mercy Investment Services pushing the company to improve its reporting on methane emissions.

Methane is a critically important issue to mitigate climate emissions and improve energy security. Having reliable, quality data is the key to rapidly address both imperatives now.

The Chevron methane resolution was backed by a whopping 98% of shareholders and was supported by the company’s board — one of the first times a climate resolution has achieved this status.

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Differentiated gas: Nothing but hot air without these five criteria

By Dan Grossman and Maureen Lackner

Getting a comprehensive and accurate picture of the extent of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is hard.

Our scientists have spent much of the last decade detailing deficiencies and inaccuracies in the way companies — and even regulators — estimate emissions, which result in dangerous understatements of the methane problem.

And that is precisely why efforts by oil and gas companies and their consultants to differentiate some natural gas as “responsibly sourced” or “low emission” is problematic.

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