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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flew reconnaissance flights over major metropolitan areas on the East Coast – Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and found that those cities were emitting nearly 950,000 metric tons of methane gas into the atmosphere, which was more than twice what EPA had estimated.The Associated Press reported on the study’s surprising results have yet to be fully explained – scientists believe it is natural gas coming from leaky homes and pipes as opposed to methane gas from landfills.
Why This Matters: It is not surprising but very disappointing that we did not have this data sooner – think how much we might have kept out of the atmosphere if we had. This is why environmental monitoring and data collection is such an important government function and there ought to be more funding for it. With information, we can make adjustments and fixes – ignorance is hardly bliss when it comes to greenhouse gas pollution. The natural gas escaping is almost 10 times more than what EPA previously believed. In this day and age, with the technology we have available, that is simply unacceptable.
It’s Not a Safety Issue But It Is a Climate Problem
This was the first study to look not just at individual cities but to look comprehensively in a large region – NOAA logged over 1200 flight hours – but it begs the question about whether the same problem or worse exists in other regions of the country.
The upside is that now that we know, the scientists believe this represents low hanging fruit in the battle against climate change – these leaks are by and large preventable.
As the Biden administration is readying a reversal of the Trump policies loosening rules on auto emissions, many states have started tightening their laws to align with the California clean car standards. Case in point: the Virginia legislature last week passed a law that toughened its emissions standards.
Gas flaring was responsible for Texas’s recent increase in oil refinery pollution, but it’s hardly a new problem. We’re less than a decade away from the UN’s goal of Zero Routine Flaring by 2030, but refineries still flare 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, releasing 400 million tons of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Why This Matters: Companies have historically practiced gas flaring as a convenient and inexpensive way to “dispose of ” gas that was extracted alongside oil, as opposed to storing paying to store it.
Despite over four million Texans losing power during the recent deep freeze, oil refineries released an increased amount of pollution into the air. In a state that leads the nation in both power production and carbon emissions, experts say that failure to winterize power infrastructure resulted in harmful releases of toxic air pollution.
Why This Matters: Texas is the nation’s leading power producer, and to achieve this, the state has heavily deregulated not only its power grid but the fossil fuel industry as well.
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