Gas Industry Lawsuits Undermine Americans' Right to Know about Dangerous Pollution

February 1, 2011


Ramon Alvarez, 512-691-3408,
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – February 1, 2011) Lawsuits filed by the oil and gas industry would undermine the American public’s right to know about harmful pollution in our air, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Industry members have filed three legal challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas pollution inventorying and disclosure requirements for the oil and gas sector. The oil and gas industry is one of the nation’s largest sources of methane, a potent global warming pollutant.

The American Gas Association (Case No. 11-1020), Gas Processors Association (Case No. 11-1022), and Chesapeake Energy Corporation and American Exploration and Production Council (Case No. 11-1025) have each filed legal challenges in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

“Americans have a right to know about the pollution that is leaked, vented, and flared into our air from the oil and gas industry,” said Dr. Ramon Alvarez, an atmospheric scientist with EDF. “EPA’s action to require disclosure of this harmful pollution means concerned citizens and policy makers across our nation will have essential information about pollution discharges. They’ll also have critical information about which companies are leaders in managing their air pollution — and which companies are lagging behind as big emitters. It is disappointing that some companies in the American oil and gas industry are litigating over the basic public right to know how much pollution is being poured into their air.”

Under EPA’s final rules, pollution data collection began last month, and reporting of annual emissions to EPA will begin in March 2012. EPA estimates that its standards will cover 85 percent of the greenhouse gas discharges from the oil and gas sector and will require reporting by about 2,800 facilities.

EPA’s action for the oil and gas sector requires annual reporting of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from flaring, equipment leaks, offshore petroleum and natural gas production, onshore production facilities, liquefied natural gas imports and exports, and onshore transmission and distribution.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide. The oil and gas industry is the second largest contributor to U.S. methane emissions, accounting for 23% of methane emissions in the United States in 2007.

Background Information

A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office estimated that 4.2% of the natural gas produced at onshore federal leases was vented or flared before the gas even left the lease. This does not include the gas lost during processing and transmission. Government Accountability Office, “Federal Oil and Gas Leases: Opportunities exist to Capture Vented and Flared Natural Gas, Which Would Increase Royalty Payments and Reduce Greenhouse Gases,” GAO-11-34 (October 2010)

Emissions of greenhouse gases (CH4 and CO2) from the natural gas industry in 2006 are estimated by EPA to be 244 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents (MMTCO2e). This estimate includes an adjustment of 45 MMTCO2e to reflect reductions reported to the Natural Gas STAR program. Another 28 million metric tons CO2e come from the petroleum industry. (Technical Support Document, EPA’s reporting rule for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry, Nov. 2010) These emissions are larger than the emissions from petroleum refining, estimated by EPA to be 214 MMTCO2e in 2005. (Available and Emerging Technologies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Petroleum Refining Industry, U.S. EPA, Oct. 2010)