The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defended itself against claims made in an industry report that it has overestimated methane emissions from natural gas well activities by more than 50%.

"EPA will review and consider the recently released...report" by America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), the agency said in an e-mail. "We are always open to reviewing relevant information that may help inform the science around important standards.

"The agency's [existing] methane emissions estimates are based on the best data available, and our NSPS [National Source Performance Standard] was informed by extensive industry feedback and leverages technologies that are already widely deployed by producers. In fact, the standards will allow the industry to capture additional product to be sold at market," EPA said.

"We shared the data with them [EPA] yesterday, but we have not received a formal response," said an API spokesman.

Methane emissions from gas wells, particularly those from unconventional wells using hydraulic fracturing (fracking), are half of what the EPA estimated in 2010, according to the joint ANGA-API report, which was released Monday (see Daily GPI, June 5).

Based on a survey of 91,000 gas wells operated by more than 20 companies, compared to the EPA's survey of 8,880 wells in 2010, the ANGA-API report estimated methane emissions from gas wells are 4.42 million metric tons, far below the 8.79 million metric tons that the EPA had calculated.

The study, "Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production," was conducted by URS Corp. and Thousand Oaks, CA-based consultant LEVON Group, and provides the "best most comprehensive estimate" on methane emissions from gas production activities, said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at API. API and ANGA contend that the EPA's methane estimates for gas production are overstated due to incorrect information on production activity.

The new report "provides clarity on the actual emissions coming from natural gas operations today and improves upon the outdated, unrepresentative data [the] EPA has relied upon," said Sara Banaszak, chief economist for ANGA. "With better data from a wider sampling of companies and wells we have set a more accurate baseline for developing future emission estimates for natural gas production."

In other EPA-related news, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hear testimony Wednesday from Al Armendariz, who resigned as head of the EPA's Dallas office in April following a public outcry over his remarks favoring a "crucify them" approach to enforcement of the oil and gas industry. State and Native American regulators also will appear before the House panel.

In a video that was made in 2010 but only surfaced in late April, Armendariz said his enforcement approach "was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere; they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years (see Daily GPI, May 1)."

The video was made public by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. On Monday, he made public a second video in which EPA Region 1 (New England) Administrator Curt Spaulding admitted that agency regulations will block the construction of new coal plants. "If you want to build a coal plant, you got a big problem," he told a Yale University gathering.

Spaulding went on to explain that the decision to kill coal was painful "because you've got to remember that if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal. And to say that we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But [Administrator Lisa Jackson] had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way."

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