There is now even more evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using politics, and not science, in opposing hydraulic fracturing and the oil and gas industry. A recent survey and report entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production“, done by the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) reached a few interesting conclusions, especially for those of us skeptical of the EPA’s stance on hydraulic fracturing. The survey found that the methane emissions levels from fracing in the US were 50% lower than the EPA estimated in its 2011 emissions inventory. Between 2010 and 2011, this new study found the natural gas industry emitted 4.4 million tons of methane gas, compared to the EPA’s estimate of 8.7 million tons. This is an important distinction because methane can be a potent pollutant.
There is little to dispute in this extensive and thorough new survey and report, which studied 91,000 wells operated by more than 20 companies over a vast geographical area. It represents nearly one-fifth of all US oil wells (18.8 % to be precise). The survey examined ten times more dates than those used in the EPA’s study on methane emissions. This survey and report show even more drastic differences in numbers in specific areas. For example, venting of methane into the air during liquid unloading was 86% less and emissions from well workovers were 72% less than indicated in the EPA report.
Howard Feldman, API’s regulatory and scientific affairs director, mentioned earlier this month that, “The industry is voluntarily reducing its environmental footprint and not waiting for regulatory mandates or incentives to continue to make progress. The technology and equipment used to reduce emissions were created by the industry, and companies are already implementing those technologies in locations where it is most effective. By January of 2015, all wells are required to include reduced emissions completions, which will further ensure emission reductions.” Mr. Feldmen said there are no plans to challenge the EPA’s emission standards in court, and added he hopes the agency will look at the industry report’s findings and reassess its regulations.
The survey further stated that as the oil and gas industry and federal government continue to address methane emissions from fossil fuel production, there are three main points to consider: 1) in addition to voluntary measures by producers, more data will become available in the future; 2) the oil and gas industry has committed to improving itself; and 3) the producers who participated in the API and ANGA survey are committed to providing information about the new and evolving area of unconventional oil and gas operations.
Mr. Feldman concluded by saying: “We think the emphasis on gas is good for the country, and we believe anyone who feels otherwise is out of touch with what’s going on.” As someone who has worked as an attorney in this field for many years, I could not agree more.
When I see instances like this, in which the EPA’s figures diverge substantially from reality, I have to suspect that the EPA has once again cast objectivity aside and is pursuing its own private agendas instead.
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