Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
New Study Finds U.S. Has Greatly Underestimated Methane Emissions

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Measurements of greenhouse gases taken by aircraft and ground stations like these were used in the new study of methane estimates.Roy Kaltschmidt, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Measurements of greenhouse gases taken by aircraft and ground stations like these were used in the new study of methane estimates.

Updated, 3:53 p.m. | A comprehensive new study of atmospheric levels of methane, an important greenhouse gas released by leaky oil and gas operations and livestock, has found much higher levels over the United States than those estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency and an international greenhouse gas monitoring effort. The paper, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States,” is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, combining ground and aerial sampling of the gas with computer modeling, is the most comprehensive “top down” look so far at methane levels over the United States, providing a vital check on “bottom up” approaches, which have tallied estimates for releases from a host of sources — ranging from livestock operations to gas wells.

Read on for an excerpt from the news release issued by Harvard University, the home of two of the lead authors, Scot M. Miller and Steven Wofsy, which summarizes the main points well.

Later today, I’ll add answers to questions I posed to the authors as well as reactions from Robert Howarth, the Cornell environmental scientist who’s been studying methane levels and pushing for an end to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and Steven Hamburg of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is working with a host of academic and industry partners on a big emissions study, part of which was described here recently.

This new work clearly points to the importance of the E.P.A. updating how it tracks this important emission, and also bolsters arguments for the Obama administration to move forward faster with its proposed standards for cutting leaks and emissions from oil and gas operations. A spokeswoman for the agency, Alisha Johnson:
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