As 13 straight months break global heat record, groups call for rapid cuts in methane leakage and venting throughout the US natural gas industry
Today NC WARN sent the Inspector General of the US EPA a statement signed by 130 diverse organizations calling for an investigation into our June 8 complaint that scientific fraud and cover-up by agency officials has already wasted crucial years in slowing the climate crisis and has enhanced hazards for gas facility workers and neighbors.
Today’s joint statement coincides with the release of data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing the hottest May on record for average global temperature. This “marks the 13th consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken—the longest such streak since global temperature records began in 1880” according to NOAA.
The supporting organizations include communities near gas facilities, faith-based and social justice groups, labor, health care, scientific and environmental justice groups from at least 22 US states and five foreign countries. They range from the NC NAACP to Friends of the Earth to the Hip Hop Caucus to Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, and more. The joint statement says, in part:
Frontline communities impacted by methane emissions are counting on the EPA to effectively regulate the natural gas industry. In order to protect public health and safety and to avoid catastrophic climate change, we urge you to do all in your power to reduce methane emissions.
The urgency of this situation is conveyed thusly by Dr. Robert Howarth of Cornell University: “The climate responds very quickly to methane, so if we reduce our methane emissions from shale gas now, we will slow the rate of global warming …in fact, that is the only way to avoid irreversible harm to the climate.” [emphasis added]
We also appeal to the US news media that the general public and policy makers deserve to be informed about the leading role the gas industry’s methane emissions now plays in the intensifying climate crisis, along with heightened risks of gas explosions and damage to community health.
NC WARN’s June 8 complaint is based on written evidence and testimony provided by the engineer who invented the primary technology used to measure leakage and deliberate venting of natural gas. We are charging that the previous head of EPA’s Science Advisory Board, David Allen, and others have led an ongoing, three-year effort to cover up severe underreporting of that measuring device during a high-profile study in 2013.
Many other studies have shown alarming levels of methane emissions, but the 2013 Allen study showed far lower emissions. That study has been used persistently by the gas industry to argue that methane leakage is low and that EPA should back off efforts to begin reducing methane emissions at hundreds of thousands of tanks, drilling sites and other gas equipment across the US.
Surprisingly, in a written response to our complaint, the Environmental Defense Fund – which sponsored the 2013 Allen study – blatantly led several reporters to believe that the multiple other studies “broadly support Allen’s findings.” In truth, the Allen study stands alone, as clearly shown in a bar chart on page 3 of our complaint, and it has allowed the industry to dig in for years of delay in cutting the emissions of climate-wrecking methane – at the worst possible time.
Also in response to our complaint, Allen falsely told reporters there were multiple back-up systems that disproved failure of the primary measuring device.
Methane is 100 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over the first ten years, and levels in the air above the US have risen sharply since the fracking boom began. Rapid global heating is now underway that could signal abrupt acceleration of climate change and sea level rise, which could spell worldwide climate-economic-social chaos within just a few dozen years.
Prominent scientists believe there remains very little time – possibly only one or two years – to avert that tipping point into an irreversible cascade of heating, extreme weather and soaring sea levels. Cutting the methane spewing from throughout the US natural gas infrastructure is essential to staying below the tipping point, as Cornell’s Howarth emphasizes.
We have been in touch with the Office of Inspector General. They are taking seriously our call for an expedited investigation due to the urgent climate and safety implications of the EPA’s failure to curb widespread methane emissions.