Methane Emissions are Worse Than Being Reported
Methane emissions are worse than what is being reported. In 2017 alone, natural gas drillers released 1.1 million tons of methane, which is 16 times the amount they disclosed. Fugitive emissions came from 8,000 unconventional gas wells, totaling 543,000 tons of methane added to the atmosphere while 70,150 tons of methane were reported. Of the 73,000 conventional gas wells, 599,200 tons of methane were added to the atmosphere. This amount of methane is terrible for the environment and the people who are inhaling the substance into their lungs. A 2018 study found that wells around the United States were releasing 60 percent more emissions than estimated. The amount in 2017 ended up being double that of the 2015 number.
Fugitive emissions from gas wells are supposed to be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) so it can study the impact they have on the earth. Based on data from previous years, it has been projected that 13 million tons of methane will be released into the atmosphere if they continue to be unregulated. If regulations are put in place, the number could be reduced to 6.5 million tons. If regulations are weakened compared to what we have now, the amount could reach 19 million tons.
Methane being released is a huge issue because it is a very powerful greenhouse gas. It is 80 times stronger that carbon dioxide when it comes to heating the planet. This can result in extreme weather conditions and an increase in health conditions like West Nile virus and Lyme disease due to hotter temperatures. The substance can also be explosive, cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, a loss of coordination and a harder time breathing.
The gas and drilling industry can also release 63,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOC), forming ozone, which is a major contributor to smog. VOCs can also cause heart disease, asthma, and emphysema, which make people more susceptible to severe reactions to illnesses like COVID-19.
A spokesman from the Marcellus Shale Coalition defended the industry, stating that data is proving methane production is dropping while natural gas production increases. He also said that organizations have every incentive to collect methane because it is a valuable resource itself.
Later this month the DEP will be releasing a new rule regarding the reduction of methane emissions. If it goes into effect, the rule will help reduce methane by 75,000 tons per year for Pennsylvania. This is different than what federal authorities are doing rolling back rules about methane production. They do not see it as a priority to protect the environment and people from pollution and the ill effects that it can cause.