According to a new study released last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has consistently underestimated pollution from natural gas production. Researchers found that over the past two decades, about 50 percent more methane polluted the atmosphere – from processing plants, seeping pipelines, wells and natural gas facilities – than the EPA estimated.
This means that the U.S. is polluting 14 million more tons of methane into the atmosphere annually. Methane is a potent green house gas. Over the first 20 years after it is released, methane is 84-87 times more potent than carbon dioxide – the main source of man made global warming pollution.
Perhaps the silver lining to the new development is the estimate that more than half of the natural gas industry’s methane pollution is caused by a small number of ‘super-emitters’. So, at least theoretically, if the industry could identify and clean up these ‘super-emitters’, they could significantly cut back on the millions of tons of dangerous methane-greenhouse gas pollution.
This new research echoes findings published in the Proceedings of National Science Academy last year.