US Chamber petitions EPA to lower gas-well emissions estimates

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By Ben Geman – The Hill

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is formally petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to reassess estimates of the potent greenhouse gas methane and other pollution from oil-and-gas drilling sites, alleging they’re far too high.

The powerful business group filed a petition Monday under the Data Quality Act, a brief statute buried inside a appropriations bill passed in 2000 that gives outside parties an avenue to seek changes in federal data.

The granular debate about emissions data has high stakes for the oil-and-gas industry. The petition alleges that EPA estimates, which the Chamber calls inflated, have “crept into multiple rulemakings and across agencies over the course of the past two years.”

The Chamber’s petition echoes concerns among natural gas companies that EPA is overstating the emissions from wells developed using the technique called hydraulic fracturing.

EPA “erroneously overestimates methane emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from gas wells by orders of magnitude,” the petition states.

Gas advocates fear the EPA data could erode the conventional wisdom that natural gas is a climate-friendly alternative to coal and oil. They worry it would influence planned EPA rules to cut toxic, smog-forming emissions from oil-and-gas sites as well.

“Researchers, financial analysts and other governmental bodies have relied on EPA’s flawed estimates of natural gas emissions from unconventional shale gas well completions in a number of research reports and policy consideration,” the petition states. “Those concerned about overall global climate change policy see the revised EPA methane emission numbers as calling into question the emissions benefits to using natural gas.”

Already, a contrarian paper this year by Cornell University researchers cited the EPA data to claim that when methane from well sites is considered, it’s enough to negate the lower emissions that gas creates when compared to burning coal for power.

An Energy Department advisory panel in a recent report on the environmental footprint of natural gas produced through hydraulic fracturing noted that the Cornell conclusion is “not widely accepted.”

But the panel nonetheless said more data on the impact of the gas development are needed. The Cornell paper has come under heavy fire from the oil-and-gas industry.

4 comments. Leave a Reply

  1. Gone Fishing (From The Hill)

    The anti US Chamber of Commerce is only interested in Profits for their Transnational Corporate heads.

    NONE of them care about the USA. In fact they view the USA as any third world country in which they would just as soon rape and plunder all of OUR natural resouces.

    Leaving behind a toxic wasteland in which WE pay to clean up. As they walk away with ALL the money and resources.


  2. Robert F. (From The Hill)

    One look at the ongoing air study in Sublette County Wyoming shows what insanity this is.

    They have air compared to Los Angeles and Houston and the state study identified the Jonah gas field and Pinedale Anticline as the only source.

  3. JOANNE C (From The Hill)

    The Cornell study was already almost finished before the EPA changed their estimates. In fact, the Cornell study would have been published several months sooner, had the authors not delayed submission to peer review in order to incorporate the change in the EPA numbers into the paper. The Cornell paper used what data were available, some of it from industry, to arrive at their emissions figures, which are given as a range. They also call for more research. Since its publication, there have been some further studies which concur with their estimates at various points in the process and further scientific work is ongoing.

    The Cornell paper also is not specifically about using methane for electricity production. Most methane is burned for heating, cooking, and other uses than power generation, while some is used in manufacturing. The greenhouse gas emission footprint is based on the way in which methane is used. The comparisons with coal are on total use basis; hence, some papers that are concentrating on electricity production and seem to contradict the Cornell study do not in fact contradict it. The Cornell study makes evident that all fossil fuels are very harmful for the atmosphere and that we have reached a critical point, where the 20 year timeframe is vital if we are to stabilize and begin reduction of atmospheric damage.

    While the 90 day report from the DOE did characterize the Cornell study as “not widely accepted,” I believe the final, 180 day report did not use that language. Furthermore, acceptance is not the measure of truth. Further independent scientific research is. The Chamber of Congress and the industry can complain, but unless they can conclusively prove that the estimates are erroneous, they should stand.

    The United States has the technology to move to renewable energy within the next two decades without the use of unconventionall y drilled methane as a bridge. If the Chamber of Congress wants to truly serve our country and economy, they should put their energy into non-emitting energy development.

  4. John In WY (From The Hill)

    Joanne, sorry to burst your bubble, but the Cornell Study is fatally flawed. No amount of sugar coating or misrepresentati on on your part will correct that fact.

    University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon, Wood Mackenzie, Pennsylvania DEP, GWPF, NRDC, DOE, new DOE National Energy Technology Lab, another professor at Cornell, and even a Sierra Club funded study have all debunked the Howarth and Ingraffea GHG study.

    The facts are that the study is junk and should’ve never been published.

    The amounts of methane that both Cornell and EPA say result from natural gas operations would result in a deadly and hazardous enviroment at every well site. Do you honestly believe that to be the case?

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