World Resources Institute WRI

Clearing the Air: Reducing upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems

Key findings: 1) Fugitive methane emissions from natural gas systems represent a significant source of global warming pollution in the U.S. Reductions in methane emissions are urgently needed as part of the broader effort to slow the rate of global temperature rise. 2) Cutting methane leakage rates from natural gas systems to less than 1 percent of total production would ensure that the climate impacts of natural gas are lower than coal or diesel fuel over any time horizon. This goal can be achieved by reducing emissions by one-half to two-thirds below current levels through the widespread use of proven, cost-effective technologies. 3)Fugitive methane emissions occur at every stage of the natural gas life cycle; however, the total amount of leakage is unclear. More comprehensive and current direct emissions measurements are needed from this regionally diverse and rapidly expanding energy sector. 4) Recent standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will substantially reduce leakage from natural gas systems, but to help slow the rate of global warming and improve air quality, further action by states and EPA should directly address fugitive methane from new and existing wells and equipment. 5) Federal rules building on existing Clean Air Act (CAA) authorities could provide an appropriate framework for reducing upstream methane emissions. This approach accounts for input by affected industries, while allowing flexibility for states to implement rules according to unique local circumstances.

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