Vitter Summary Statement for "Fugitive Methane Emissions" Subcommittee Hearing
November 5, 2013
Thank you, Chairman Whitehouse, for convening this hearing today. The simple fact is that the recent increase in U.S. energy production, specifically the rise in the development of America's oil and natural gas, has done more to create good paying domestic jobs, lower energy prices, increase our nation's energy security, revitalize manufacturing in this country, and buoy our struggling economy than virtually any other industry.
I would like to welcome all our witnesses here today, and I am confident that we will have a productive discussion highlighting the benefits of responsible domestic oil and gas production. I expect to hear not only what industry has done to become one of the lone bright spots in our regrettably sluggish economic recovery, but what they have done to ensure the safe and environmentally-friendly extraction of our country's huge supply of natural resources.
Unfortunately, many false assertions have been made regarding methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, and we have seen numerous claims and studies based on flawed and inaccurate emissions estimates. Such assertions have been the focus of a larger junk science war on fracking that, unfortunately, our own EPA has been guilty of helping facilitate.
I am glad to see that we have two authors from the University of Texas - Environmental Defense Fund collaborative study released in September, and I am pleased that Darren Smith from Devon Energy is able to join us again to discuss this issue. Devon Energy has been an industry leader on this issue, working collaboratively with EPA to try and resolve the ongoing problems as a result of EPA relying on inaccurate emissions data. As I understand it, healthy progress has been made to date, and with the release of this new study data, my hope is that the Agency will finally and immediately revise their emissions estimates before any further harm is done.
The UT-EDF study is very important to today's discussion because it represents the first ever measurements of methane emissions made directly at 190 production sites. I hope that this NGO-Academic study can now be used to replace the outdated and grossly flawed data relied upon in everything from Agency rulemakings to bogus studies, including the Cornell University Howarth-Ingraffea study, all of which have been aimed at attacking domestic fossil energy production.
According to EPA's own data from the recently released 2012 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, the oil and gas industry reduced methane emissions from the previous year despite an increase in production, and that was done absent any federal mandates or regulations. I think it should also be mentioned for my friends across the aisle that absolutely nothing has done more to reduce emissions in other sectors of the economy than the recent increase of domestic natural gas production - a result of hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling.
I would also like to note that just last year EPA issued new rules regulating emissions from oil and gas producers, which will be fully implemented in 2015. These rules will result in even further emissions reductions largely through the use of reduced emissions completions which, according to EPA, were being used by many companies voluntarily, and in some cases, were already required by states and cities prior to any EPA action.
With all that being said, there is something we, as Congress and the federal government, can do to help the oil and gas industry reduce methane emissions even further. If we are serious about achieving additional results in this successful process, nothing should be more important at the federal level than ensuring the expeditious granting of permits for gathering lines and other infrastructure necessary to get our natural resources from a well site to be processed and on down to American consumers.
The President's own Interagency Methane Strategy highlighted the importance of oil and gas infrastructure saying "when it comes to the oil and gas sector, investments to build and upgrade gas pipelines will not only put more Americans to work, but also reduce emissions and enhance economic productivity." Unfortunately, permitting has slowed to an unacceptable pace, thanks to the Washington D.C. bureaucratic process.
Finally, derivative products from natural gas production include windmills and solar panels, and it would be nice to expand production of these resources domestically, so they can be refined and manufactured in the United States, and made into the products we all can support.
Again, I would like to thank Chairman Whitehouse for this hearing, and I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses.