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Environment

EPA watchdog declines to investigate chemistry professor

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
August 21, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 33

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Credit: Shutterstock
Groups have questioned the validity of a 2013 study on methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas production.
Credit: Shutterstock
Groups have questioned the validity of a 2013 study on methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas production.

EPA’s inspector general won’t investigate allegations that a top agency adviser knowingly used flawed data in an influential study of methane emissions from oil and natural gas production. Some 130 environmental and other organizations claim that researcher David Allen used an inaccurate device to measure oil and gas field methane emissions in a study published in 2013 (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1304880110). Allen is a University of Texas, Austin, chemical engineering professor and former head of EPA’s Science Advisory Board. As a result of Allen’s study, the groups allege, U.S. oil and gas field emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were underestimated. The inaccurate figures influenced EPA’s development of regulations to control methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities, they said in a petition filed in June with the agency’s inspector general. The EPA Office of Inspector General gave C&EN no reasons for its decision not to investigate Allen. However, the office is still deciding whether to launch an evaluation of the EPA program that used Allen’s data, a spokesperson says.


CORRECTION: On Sept. 7, 2016, this story was updated to correct David Allen’s position at the University of Texas, Austin.

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