The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to adopt new rules this week that would rollback regulations for methane-gas emissions — rescinding requirements that oil and gas companies have systems for detecting methane leaks.

Robert Howarth is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He studies the greenhouse gas footprint of methane extracted from shale formations such as the Marcellus shale. Howarth authored a study in Biogeosciences demonstrating that increased emissions from the oil and gas industry prompted a global spike in atmospheric methane.


Howarth says:

“Increasing evidence shows the importance of methane as a greenhouse gas, and some 25% of the global warming over the past few decades has been due to methane. Further, reducing methane is critical to slowing the rate of global warming to try to reach the United Nations COP 21 target (from Paris in 2015) of keeping the planet well below 2 degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial baseline. The climate system responds much more quickly to decreases in methane emissions than to decreases in carbon dioxide.

“Unfortunately, methane emissions are increasing rapidly, and the oil and gas industry is clearly part of the problem. My research concluded that shale gas development in North America alone has been responsible for one third of the total increase in global methane emissions over the past year. Given this context, the decision by the Trump administration to rescind regulations on methane emissions is dangerously reckless.” 

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