Drilling Methane Emissions Lawsuit: New York And 6 Other States To Sue EPA

by Duane Nichols on December 13, 2012

Plots for CO2, CH4, Nitrous Oxide

New Lawsuit Challenges Methane Emissions from Shale Gas Development

Exerpted from the article by Kevin Begos, Huffington Post, 12-12-12

Seven Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have announced plans to sue the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying it is violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from oil and gas drilling, which has boomed in nearby states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and the oil and gas industry is the largest source of emissions in this country. Other major sources come from landfills and livestock.

The EPA said in an email that it plans to review and respond to the notice from the states. Howard Feldman, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said the lawsuit “makes no sense” since the EPA passed rules on oil and gas emissions earlier this year, and many companies have already started installing new equipment to limit methane leaks and other pollution. Those rules take effect in 2015.

Peter ZalZal, a staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, said the group thinks the recent EPA rules are “a good first step,” but that more can be done to target methane emissions directly. “We think that controlling and reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is critical,” ZalZal said.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said that the coalition of states “can’t continue to ignore the evidence of climate change or the catastrophic threat that unabated greenhouse gas pollution poses to our families, our communities and our economy.” He said Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont joined in sending a required 60-day notice of intent to sue to EPA.

Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio – all states with intensive oil and gas drilling – didn’t join in the campaign. None of the states that sent the notice to the EPA are major producers of oil or gas.

Some natural gas leaks occur not just at wells, but from distribution networks in cities. Many experts have noted that addressing the methane problem can even make financial sense for the industry, because by reducing leaks they end up with more product to sell. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it also decays much quicker.

Patrick Henderson, Pennsylvania’s energy executive in Gov. Tom Corbett’s office, noted that other top New York officials have recently supported more natural gas use. “Gov. Cuomo proposed investing $500 million in natural gas distribution infrastructure, and New York City Mayor Bloomberg wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that shale gas `is one of the best things we can do to improve air quality and fight climate change,’” Henderson said in an email.

Henderson added that natural gas also has environmental benefits, since it emits just 50 percent of the carbon dioxide of coal-fired power plants. That switch from coal to gas has contributed to declining greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to federal energy statistics. He also noted that increased domestic oil and gas production has helped reduce imports.

Federal climate researchers say they haven’t yet seen signs that increased drilling is affecting global methane levels, but they’re worried about the threat. “(It is)Not the mid-latitudes where the drilling is being done, which is interesting,” said James Butler, head of global monitoring for NOAA. Butler said the tropics and the arctic are the biggest current sources, from decaying vegetation (linked to a rise in rainfall) and thawing of the Arctic tundra (linked to global warming).

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis V. Gomez December 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I haven’t checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will return to reading these articles. You deserve it my friend :)


Randal Scott Mick December 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

There are always so many articles that say how green natural gas is and how it is the greener energy. When we factor in the effect that the massive drilling projects, cement jobs, completions, frac jobs, compressors, separators, massive condensation tanks, the green is hard to find. You look at the massive amount of land it absorbs, as it scars it forever changing land and ecosystem, when you realize that payzones are getting bigger and bigger thanks to rotary steering capability.

With out a doubt, causing massive contamination of land, air, water and therfore life itself, maybe we should rethink this a little. We need to look at everything and decide what works and what doesn’t, what we can do better and as needed, and take a deeper look at things.


Randal Scott Mick December 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm

The recent lawsuit against EPA speaks volumes. What I am seeing is the frustration of so many citizens that quality of life has been compromised and a future that would seem uncertain at best. An example of the overwhelming influence would be the recent spill in a stream that the oil company controlled. The company would not tell people what was in tanker truck and did everything to downplay a serious environmental situation. Then Guess what? They got away with it thus far.

When people are frustrated and feel oppressed, powerless, the control of their health and happiness compromised for profit. The beautiful land that they and their children came up on is now scarred and polluted and there seems to be no answers or support.

This is what happens and an awakening is now at our door. The EPA will have to take a stand and soon, from what I understand, they did link hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. This is the beginning and a positive start, that awareness is rising. Lets continue to demand that the highest environmental values be upheld, this for the future of our children and life itself.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: