"Of all the many and varied consequences of fracking, [and] one of the least understood is so-called 'fugitive' methane emissions" according to a story by Grist.Org. Fugitive methane "could become one of the worst climate impacts of the fracking boom — and yet, it's one of the easiest to tackle right away. Best of all, fixing the leaks is good for the bottom line."
"According to the World Resources Institute [WRI], natural gas producers allow $1.5 billion worth of methane to escape from their operations every year. "Those leaks are everywhere," said WRI analyst James Bradbury, so fixing them would be "super low-hanging fruit.
"The scale of the problem is hard to overstate: The Energy Department found that leaking methane could ultimately make natural gas — which purports to be a 'clean' fossil fuel — even more damaging than coal, and an earlier WRI study found that fixing methane leaks would be the single biggest step the U.S. could take toward meeting its long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals."
What's more, the solution to the problem doesn't rely on some kind futuristic, expensive technology: It's literally a matter of patching up leaky pipes, according to the Grist.Org.
So what's the holdup? For one thing, Bradbury says, that $1.5 billion in savings wouldn't necessarily go to the companies making investments in fixing pipes: Gas inside a pipeline is owned by the producer, but the pipeline itself is owned by an independent operator who might not see any advantage in preventing methane leaks, the article says.
"This is where the EPA needs to step in," Bradbury says. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA could regulate all greenhouse gas emissions, which would cover not only methane but also the main climate-change culprit, CO2. It could, at a minimum, require companies to monitor these emissions. And it could reward companies that take action via recognition in its fracking best-practices program, Natural Gas Star. Finally, the EPA could provide better support to the state-level agencies that are ultimately responsible for enforcing Clean Air Act rules.
If the president is serious about tackling climate change from the Oval Office, Bradbury says, there could hardly be a better place to start than here, writes Grist.Org.
"We need to be focused on solutions and not take a wait-and-see approach," he says. "You want to get these rules in place at the front end; we're already playing catch-up."