Ten major oil companies will now be required to disclose more methane emissions data from the Permian Basin. The House Science Committee decided that the companies must do more to track and decrease the amount of methane contaminating this part of Texas and New Mexico. Already, more than a hundred other countries have promised to slice 30% off their methane emissions by the decade’s end. It’s time for the U.S. to catch up.

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“The United States cannot achieve its targeted reduction in methane emissions under the Global Methane Pledge without a swift and large-scale decline in oil and gas sector methane leaks,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, wrote in a letter to the companies’ CEOs, according to the Washington Post. “The existence of these leaks, as well as continued uncertainty regarding their size, duration, and frequency, threatens America’s ability to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Related: Little-known firms lead America’s list of top methane polluters

ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum are a few of the bigger operators in the Permian Basin who have been put on notice regarding methane. Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that “more than 70 percent of current emissions from oil and gas operations are technically feasible to prevent.” The agency estimated that about 45% of leaks could be resolved at no net cost since companies often capture and sell natural gas, which could otherwise escape.

Methane is the predominant component in natural gas, which comes just behind carbon dioxide as a top contributor to climate change. Methane dissipates faster than carbon dioxide but is 80 times more powerful when first released into the atmosphere — and for the next 20 years.

To successfully capture escaping methane, companies need more accurate data to determine whether they need to build new pipelines, storage and processing centers. Johnson is concerned about the accuracy of current leak detection and repair programs, worrying that oil and gas companies “may not be designed and equipped to comprehensively monitor and detect methane leaks, particularly the intermittent, ‘super-emitting’ leaks that are responsible for much of the sector’s leak emissions.”

Via Washington Post

Lead image via Pixabay