Energy

EPA Says Air Pollution From Fracking Will Get Worse — Despite Falling Emissions

The EPA predicts methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing operations will get worse as more wells are drilled, despite being contradicted by its own data.

The Obama administration is frantically rushing to impose regulations on methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations as part of the president’s Climate Action Plan. The administration argues that methane is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. Clamping down on emissions is essential, it argues.

Obama’s EPA justifies methane regulations by claiming emissions are “projected to increase by about 25 percent over the next decade if additional steps are not taken to reduce emissions from this rapidly growing industry.”

The only problem is its own data shows methane emissions are rapidly declining. EPA’s newly released greenhouse gas data shows that methane emissions have fallen 13 percent from 2011 to 2014. Furthermore, EPA data shows that emissions from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fell 81 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Methane is a byproduct of drilling for oil and natural gas, and also comes from agricultural operations. Methane also comes from natural sources, like wetlands, but environmentalists and the Obama administration have been concerned that manmade emissions of methane will cause more global warming.

Earlier this year, the White House released a plan to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations 40 to 45 percent by 2025. This was followed up seven months later by EPA regulations to limit methane from oil and gas sites while also cutting emissions from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

“Cleaner-burning energy sources like natural gas are key compliance options for our Clean Power Plan and we are committed to ensuring safe and responsible production that supports a robust clean energy economy,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in August, citing the agency’s regulation on power plants.

EPA released the regulations about three months before the United Nations climate summit is Paris is set to take place.

The fall in methane emissions also comes as production levels and the number of oil and gas systems increase across the U.S. — a development which may now be blunted by low crude oil prices. A graph from the pro-drilling group Energy From Shale illustrates just how much natural gas production has grown and emissions have fallen:

Source: Energy From Shale, http://www.energyfromshale.org/articles/energy-and-methane

Source: Energy From Shale, http://www.energyfromshale.org/articles/energy-and-methane

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