Op-ed: Make the most of methane

By Isaac Brown | July 23, 2022

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Right now, there is a critical need to make our oil and gas industry more efficient because of the $2 billion worth of natural gas wasted through the venting, flaring and leaking of methane every year. Flaring is the controversial practice of sending natural gas — which is mostly methane — up a pipe and igniting it, rather than capturing it for productive use. Instead of going to good use, enough gas is wasted to heat every home in West Virginia for a decade.

Fortunately, there is a path forward – one that can create good jobs right here in West Virginia. The methane mitigation industry is growing all across the U.S. and studies show it can create good jobs here in West Virginia as well. But for this to happen, the Environmental Protection Agency must follow the lead of oil-producing states like New Mexico and Colorado, and enact strong protections against methane pollution that ban routine flaring and require regular inspections at smaller wells with leak-prone equipment. We have an opportunity to stop wasting natural resources while improving our air and creating good paying jobs.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the near term, presents a clear threat to our climate. Onsite emissions jeopardize the health and safety of workers along with communities living closest to development. Other pollutants released, such as benzene and volatile organic compounds, can worsen asthma, increase the risk of cancer, cause immune system damage and even developmental problems in children. We have the tools and technology to cut methane waste and pollution — it’s simply a question of deciding to demand less waste.

Making these changes will be a win for communities, local economies, and even for oil and gas producers who are able to bring more natural gas to market and increase revenue. Now, the methane mitigation industry, which is growing rapidly across the country, is ready to support this effort. Manufacturing in the methane mitigation sector grew by 33% in less than a decade, and services firms grew a whopping 90% in the last five years.

These firms are adding new U.S.-based locations, and in 2021, Datu Research identified a total of 748 employee locations for manufacturing and service firms — an increase of 26% from the last study. A majority of these firms are small businesses, which are known to serve as an economic engine for new job growth. And they tend to locate in areas where action to limit methane waste is occurring, including in West Virginia.

This industry is ready to rise to the challenge of meeting emission reduction goals, especially if regulations for inspections at small, leak-prone wells are made stronger by the EPA. A recent report found that “75% of the manufacturing firms and 88% of the service firms reported that if future state or federal methane emission rules were put in place, they would anticipate hiring more employees.” This means lucrative new jobs for folks across the country and in West Virginia, on top of the public health and climate benefits.

The EPA must follow the lead of New Mexico and Colorado by finalizing the strongest possible protections against methane pollution by banning routine flaring and including inspections of small, leak-prone wells in its supplemental rule making expected late this summer. This new rule will improve our air, decrease the waste of natural resources and create good-paying jobs.

Given everything we are facing on energy both foreign and domestic, our country needs bold, decisive action to stop the needless waste of our resources now.

Find online at https://www.newsandsentinel.com/opinion/local-columns/2022/07/op-ed-make-the-most-of-methane/