Fracking study downgrades methane worries, escalates enviro infighting

From Grist:

By 17 Sep 2013

The latest research on methane emissions at fracking sites is dividing environmentalists.

A study of 190 natural gas fracking sites, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that methane leaks at the sites were notably lower than fracking critics have warned.

The New York Times reports that the study is “the most comprehensive look to date” at the issue of methane leakage during natural gas drilling and production:

The study, conducted by the University of Texas and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and nine petroleum companies, … concluded that while the total amount of escaped methane from shale-gas operations was substantial — more than one million tons annually — it was probably less than the Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2011.

From the AP:

The findings bolster a big selling point for natural gas, that it’s not as bad for global warming as coal. And they undercut a major environmental argument against fracking, a process that breaks apart deep rock to recover more gas. The study … doesn’t address other fracking concerns about potential air and water pollution.

There’s controversy not only about the study’s findings but about its backers. Alongside oil companies, the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based environmental group, was a funder. The group was already being treated as a pariah by some greens for striking an agreement with frackers in March, agreeing on voluntary environmental standards for fracking (instead of pushing for a ban) and jointly establishing the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. With the release of Monday’s paper, howls of anger only grew louder.

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