EPA Air Pollution Rules Targeted at Senate Hearing Today

Today, Devon Energy Corp.’s environmental manager Darren Smith will testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in Washington, D.C. about the Environmental Protection Agency’s badly overestimated data on the amount of so-called fugitive emissions that escape from a natural gas well when it’s drilled (a copy of his full testimony is embedded below).

Methane itself (natural gas) is considered a greenhouse gas when it escapes into the atmosphere. In April in response to a court order, the EPA released new rules for controlling air pollution around well sites that include extreme measures to control methane emissions (see this MDN story). The problem, according to Darren Smith, is that the data EPA used to craft their rules is off—way off. And the result are standards that are unnecessarily strict and unnecessarily expensive. The net effect is to reduce drilling activity (but perhaps that was desired result all along?).

Two weeks ago, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) released the results of a new study that finds methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing are at least 50% less than estimates from the EPA. And this is not a wild, unsubstantiated claim by “the industry.” ANGA and API studied data from 91,000 producing natural gas wells—more than 10 times the sample size of the EPA study.

Will a little science actually win the day? We sure hope so.