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Greenhouse Gases

U.S. EPA watchdog says agency did not use possibly flawed methane data for regulation

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
March 26, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 13

 

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Credit: Shutterstock
Researchers continue to study methane emissions from oil wells like this one in Oklahoma and natural gas wells.

In an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy stretching back to 2013, the inspector general for the U.S. EPA has determined that the agency has not relied on possibly flawed results from a study of methane emissions from oil and gas fields. Critics claimed that the study was based on inaccurate measurements made using faulty equipment. They alleged the study underestimated emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from U.S. oil and gas fields. In a report released on March 16, the inspector general found that the devices were EPA approved. The inspector general did not find conclusive evidence of misuse. Additionally, EPA did not use the study’s emission figures for development of its greenhouse gas inventory or for the agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, the report says. Nor did EPA use the study’s data when setting the 2016 regulation to limit methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. The disputed research was published in 2013 (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1304880110). It was led by David Allen, a University of Texas, Austin, chemical engineering professor and a former top adviser to the agency.

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