The gas industry received a blow yesterday when the nonprofit group Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) released a joint statement by Professors Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth of Cornell University. According to the release the EPA’s new emissions standards for methane and volatile organics from shale gas development “must be considered to little, too late” given the urgent need to reduce global levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The gas industry is set to remain the single largest methane polluter in the United States, according to the release, with an overall GHG footprint surpassing emissions from coal.
The EPA’s new national emissions standards
, finalized in mid-April, rely on new air quality measures, the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS
) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAPS
), that target pollutants discharged during gas extraction activities. New procedures, such as a methane capture technique known as “green completion,” are expected to play a significant role in achieving the new standards.
Howarth and Ingraffea agree these standards are significant and if strongly-enforced could amount to a reduction in methane emissions of about one-third. But despite this achievement, they write, methane emissions remain a serious problem.
“Despite the new regulations, shale gas methane emissions will remain significant, with the estimates of EPA (2011) and Howarth et al. (2011) indicating a likely leakage of 2.5 – 3.9 percent of the amount of methane produced over the lifetime of a shale-gas well, and possibly as high as 6 percent,” the statement reads.
Despite the EPA
’s efforts, which have caught positive attention from prominent environmental groups
, Howarth and Ingraffea remain very matter-of-fact about the real issue, which hinges on a nation-wide spread of poor practice. Gas production is plagued with ‘ongoing emission’ problems and the EPA
’s emissions standards – while a step in the right direction – just aren’t enough to make the concerns associated with poor practice go away.