California not counting methane leaks from idle wells

(AP) – California says it will see more greenhouse gas emissions from within its borders. That’s the law: California has limited air pollution and it’s getting tougher every year.

The state has been a major oil and gas producer for more than a century, and officials are well aware of some 35,000 oil and gas wells emerging in the country.

However, officials with the agency responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions say they do not include the methane flowing from these idle wells in their inventory of the state’s emissions.

Ira Leifer, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the lack of data on releases or leaks from idle wells calls into question the possibility of state to achieve its main goal of achieving carbon neutrality in 2045.

Residents and environmentalists from across the state have expressed concern about the potential for wells to be drained and abandoned for years, but concerns escalated in May and June when found 21 idle wells leaking methane near two Bakersfield sites. They say the wells are a “serious health problem,” because when a well leaks methane, other gases often escape.

Leifer says these “ridealong” gases are his biggest concern with springs.

“Those other gases have significant effects,” Leifer said, but we know much less about them than methane.

In July, residents living in communities near the leaking wells protested at the California Geologic Management Division’s field offices, calling for an investigation.

“It is clear that they want to leave this public health problem. Our communities are done waiting. CalGEM must do their job,” said Cesar Aguirre, a community organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network, in a statement.

Robert Howarth, a methane researcher at Cornell University, agreed with Leifer that the amount of methane from the leaky wells is not well known and is not a major source of emissions compared to methane emissions from that side of the oil and gas industry.

However, he said, “it is adding something very clear, and we should not allow it to happen.”

Methane is 83 times more harmful to the climate than a ton of carbon dioxide, compared over twenty years.

A 2020 study said emissions from idle wells are greater than from wells on tap in California, but more data collection on idle wells in oil fields is expected. and major bowls in the state.

Robert Jackson, a Stanford University scientist on that study, said they found high emissions from some of the idle wells they measured in the study.

In order to get a better idea of ​​how much methane is flowing, the state of California is focusing on projects on the ground and in the air. David Clegern, a spokesman for CARB, said the agency is beginning a project to measure emissions from a sample of eligible and improperly abandoned wells to estimate the state’s emissions.

And in June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that includes a global effort to reduce emissions called the Methane Accountability Project. The state will spend $100 million to use satellites to monitor large methane leaks to help the state identify the sources of the gas and cap leaks.

Several studies have been done to determine the amount of methane that comes from oil and gas facilities. A 2019 Nature study found that 26% of the state’s methane emissions come from oil and gas. A new study by the Associated Press found that methane is leaking from oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin in Texas and companies under reporting.

Howarth said that while methane from idle oil and gas wells is not a major pollutant, it should be a priority not only in California, but across the country, to help the country meet its goals. promise.

“Methane escapes quickly into the atmosphere,” he said, “so cutting emissions is one of the easiest ways to slow the pace of global warming and meet that Paris goal.” .”

A new Senate proposal would provide hundreds of millions to plug wells and reduce pollution from them, especially in hard-hit communities.


Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for everything.

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California not counting methane leaks from idle wells Source link California not counting methane leaks from idle wells

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