Newswise — Facing new rules requiring oil and gas producers to find and fix methane leaks, drillers have asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt the smallest wells — those producing less than 6 barrels per day — from the rules. Producers argue it would be inefficient and costly to comply and that they lack the resources for these smaller wells. The EPA is expected to address the issue in the coming weeks.

Robert Howarth is a professor of ecology and environmental biology and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He studies the greenhouse gas footprint of methane extracted from shale formations and his research has demonstrated that increased emissions from the oil and gas industry prompted a global spike in atmospheric methane.

Howarth says:

“The Biden administration must hold all producers, including the smaller ones, responsible if we are to meet climate goals such as the one laid out a year ago by President Biden at COP26 in Glasgow to reduce methane emissions in the U.S. by 30% by 2030.

“Methane emissions are responsible for one-third of all global warming to date since the industrial revolution and reducing methane emissions is the fastest and perhaps easiest way to slow global warming. 

“My research shows that increased emissions from the natural gas industry in the U.S. are perhaps the single largest source of the increase in global atmospheric methane globally. Per unit of natural gas produced, small producers are responsible for a disproportionate part of these methane emissions.” 

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