Map showing methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in Oklahoma. (Image courtesy: Earthworks)
Map showing methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in Oklahoma. (Image courtesy: Earthworks)

Click here to sign the petition: Plug the methane leak loophole.

Bold Oklahoma partnered with Earthworks and Stop Fracking Payne County to use special infrared cameras to document local oil and gas wells that are leaking methane — a potent greenhouse gas that is colorless, odorless and a significant contributor to climate change.

The team recently visited 30 wells near White Eagle, including over 20 on Ponca Nation lands — and every single one of them was found to be leaking methane. (1)

Natural gas is seen by many as a potential “bridge” fuel that is cleaner than coal, and could be relied on to help our transition to clean energy, but when it leaks into the atmosphere as methane its benefits as a “cleaner” source of energy evaporate.

Methane traps 87 times more heat pound-for-pound than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry — including well leaks like the ones we documented in Oklahoma — are estimated to be equivalent to the pollution from 180 coal-fired power plants. (2)

While President Obama recently took action to implement new federal rules to address methane leaks on *future* wells, the new rules do not apply to *existing* leaky wells and infrastructure, which scientists say will be “responsible for nearly half the warming impact of current U.S. emissions over the next 20 years.” (3)

We call on President Obama and the EPA to plug the methane leak loophole:

Use your existing 111(d) Clean Air Act authority to directly regulate methane leaks from existing oil and gas wells.

We call on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to plug the methane leak loophole: 

  • Annual leak testing of all existing wells, including unannounced onsite inspections of some wells.
  • Install automatic downhole shutoff systems on all new wells, which must have a cement barrier.

  • Companies must submit a leak monitoring plan that satisfies program requirements.

  • Companies must begin preparations for drilling a relief well within 24 hrs of discovery of a leak, and post notice of the leak on a public website.

  • Companies must develop and maintain gas storage well training and mentoring programs for employees who work in safety-related position, develop ongoing best practices.

  • [The State Air Resources Board (or appropriate state agency?)] is tasked with developing a continuous methane leak monitoring program near gas storage facilities.

  • Institute a $25,000 fine for each violation, to be classified as a misdemeanor.

Click here to sign the petition: Plug the methane leak loophole.

WATCH: Ponca Nation elder Casey Camp Horinek describes the impact of the oil and gas industry on her community:

REFERENCES: 

1. “Bold Oklahoma Joins Coalition Mapping Methane Leaks via Infrared Videos to Expose Health Threat of Oklahoma’s Oil & Gas Air Pollution,” BoldOklahoma.org, 7/12/16.

2. “Rising Risk: Improving Methane Disclosure in the Oil and Gas Industry,” Envrionmental Defense Fund, 1/11/16.

3. “Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Systems,” Howarth et al., 2012.