According to a new analysis of the latest emissions data available to the Environmental Protection Agency, little-known oil companies are the leading emitters of methane pollution. Among the top 10 emitters of methane, five are smaller firms. Their environmental footprint is now larger than their production.

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The analysis was carried out by M.J. Bradley & Associates, an energy consultancy firm. The analysts largely used data provided by firms to the EPA through the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

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The small firms that were found to be polluting the most turned out to be buying their high-polluting assets from the larger oil companies. As a result, the smaller firms end up emitting relatively high amounts of greenhouse gases as compared to their production. In other cases, private equity firms buy and develop risky, high-polluting assets, then sell them.

In the recent analysis, Hilcorp Energy was found to be the highest methane gas emitter, producing 50% more pollution than Exxon Mobil, the largest fossil fuel producer. Hilcorp Energy pumps far less oil and gas but still managed to produce more pollution. The other four relatively lesser known companies include Terra Energy Partners, Blackbeard Operating, Flywheel Energy and Scout Energy.

“It’s amazing how the small operators manage to constitute a very large part of the problem,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a nonprofit investor network, as reported by The New York Times. “There’s just no pressure on them to do things better. And being a clean operator, unfortunately, isn’t a priority in this business model.”

According to Enesta Jones, an EPA spokeswoman, the agency is always working on ways to track emissions. The analysis found that while the large oil companies have started the journey toward reducing emissions, they are simply passing their heavily polluting assets to smaller firms. These smaller firms have operations that seem to experience less scrutiny.

The EPA is now calling on larger firms to be more responsible in disposing of polluting assets. At the same time, it is now focusing more on monitoring smaller firms that have been hiding behind the shadows while emitting harmful gases.

+ Clean Air Task Force

Via The New York Times

Image via Jared Evans