New Oil and Gas Methane Inventory Numbers Back Pressing Need for Standards

Credit: U.S. EPA, compiled from Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2014.

Last month, EPA released its national greenhouse gas inventory for 1990-2014, and it’s not good news for the oil and gas industry. Estimated total emissions of methane—a highly potent greenhouse gas with upwards of 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the near-term—from the sector increased more than a third from levels reported in last year’s inventory. To meet our country’s climate commitments, we must take on this pollution, and we must do it now. As we’ve set forth in the Waste Not report, the good news is that we have the legal and technical tools to do so. Now we need to make it happen.

Breaking down this year’s inventory shows some important and troubling points:

  • The biggest increases on both a percentage and absolute basis came from the petroleum sector. In addition, the oil side of the ledger has been growing in methane emissions from year to year, in contrast to the natural gas side, which has seen more up and down fluctuation in total estimated sector methane emissions.
  • The production segment of the natural gas sector increased its methane pollution significantly. In fact, the only reason the natural gas sector as a whole registered a relatively small increase was that big decreases in the transmission and storage and distribution segments offset the large production segment increases.

Each of these trends supports the need to expand the scope of methane standards for new sources coming on line, and to address the backlog of sources already in existence to which no federal air quality standards currently apply. That’s why EPA and President Obama need to act now to finalize stringent new source standards and propose guidelines for existing sources of methane pollution. 

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