Energy. Environment. Economy.

DEP Attempted To Suppress Controversial Study That Criticized Shale Gas

A natural gas drilling rig in Susquehanna County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas drilling rig in Susquehanna County.

A state report outlining how climate change will impact Pennsylvania is currently a year and a half late – and there’s still no indication of when it will be released publicly.

The Department of Environmental Protection missed its legally-mandated deadline to publish the report in the spring of 2012.

Today at a meeting of the DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee, the department said the report is still going through the review process.

However StateImpact Pennsylvania has obtained a copy of the original draft climate report and internal DEP emails, which reveal an attempt by its Policy Office to suppress controversial research that questions the benefits of natural gas.

Methane study stirs debate

The DEP’s Policy Office wanted a team of Penn State scientists who authored the climate report to remove all references to a 2011 study from Cornell University.

The peer reviewed paper, by professor Robert Howarth, has been the subject of intense debate. It concludes that from a climate change perspective, natural gas is dirtier than coal.

Although natural gas is much cleaner-burning than coal when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, methane can leak throughout the gas production process.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (although it remains in the atmosphere for a much shorter time period).

Howarth believes this methane leakage negates any climate change benefits derived from burning natural gas.

His work has has been criticized by the oil and gas industry and challenged by other scientists including his colleagues at Cornell.

Missing climate report

A FirstEnergy coal plant in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer/Landov

A coal plant in Cleveland, Ohio.

Despite this debate, the Penn State scientists believed Howarth’s study was worth mentioning as part of the ongoing scientific discussion about methane emissions.

They also cited three other studies that challenged his conclusions.

Here’s part of their original climate change draft report, which was submitted to the DEP in February 2012:

Under scenarios where large amounts of methane are vented, or fugitive methane emissions from the gas transportation system are high, the life-cycle climate impacts of natural gas power generation may be on par with coal-fired power generation (Howarth, et al., 2011). This conclusion also rests on assumptions regarding the timing of climate impacts over which there is additional uncertainty. Three other studies (Jiang et al., 2011: NETL, 2011: Cathles, 2011) question the assumptions by Howarth…

The report’s lead author, Penn State professor James Shortle, declined to comment for this story.

One of the report’s co-authors Seth Blumsack, an associate professor at Penn State, says he viewed his job as simply laying out the scientific debate to the public.

“My role in this was to provide information on the current state of the science, including areas where there is some disagreement,” he told StateImpact Pennsylvania.

Emails show effort to suppress study

A few months ago, DEP’s Climate Change Program Manager quit his job out of frustration.

Joe Sherrick was charged with overseeing the process of producing the report for the agency. He did not comment for this story but has previously told StateImpact Pennsylvania there was a “lack of support” from the Corbett administration and the DEP for anything related to climate change.

A few months after the Penn State team submitted its original draft, the DEP Policy Office directed Sherrick to take Howarth’s work out of the report.

Sherrick relayed the message to the Penn State team in a May 21, 2012 email.

“Our Policy Office is rather firm that on Page 100 of the report they want no reference to Professor Howarth,” he wrote to Shortle.

A few weeks later DEP policy specialist Jessica Shirley pressed the point again to Sherrick in an email.

“Please ensure that all references to Howarth are removed,” she wrote.

The Penn State team responded to the DEP the same day.

“This is kind of tough ground for me because I believe our job is to provide you with the relevant science,” Shortle wrote to Sherrick,  ”It raises ethical issues to be asked to remove peer reviewed work if we believe providing it is appropriate. I know you know that.”

Sherrick agreed with the Penn State scientists and appealed to the Policy Office a few days later.

“This section [of the report] does nothing more than cover the differences of opinion among current researchers and study” he wrote to Shirley in an email, “It does not advocate right or wrong but instead shows where the preponderance of researchers are on the topic. I don’t believe it should be withheld…”

Drafts of the climate report and internal DEP emails were obtained by the environmental group, PennFuture through an open records request and shared with StateImpact Pennsylvania.

“I didn’t want anything controversial”

Jessica Shirley, the DEP policy specialist who asked for the study to be removed, says it was her own judgement call, and she was not pressured by anyone above her.

“We ended up not taking it out,” she tells StateImpact, “[Howarth] will be in the final assessment report.”

Shirely says the reference will remain to show the current debate.

Although she has no formal scientific background, she says she still doesn’t believe the study is accurate.

“At the time, we were really trying to refute it,” Shirley says, “It was so controversial. I didn’t want anything controversial in there.”

She doesn’t know when the report will be published.

For his part, Howarth is pleased to hear his study will still be mentioned in the final report, but is disturbed by the attempt to suppress it.

“It’s really horrifying,” he says, “I’m not surprised that there’s political pressure to interfere with the scientific process, but I think that’s really damaging to society in the long term. You need to have agencies put forward the best information they can.”

Scientists say more data is needed

The back and forth over the Howarth study lead the Penn State team to add a new section to the report describing the uncertainties around how natural gas will impact the climate.

Here’s a portion of the new section:

Life-cycle comparisons of greenhouse-gas emissions from the natural gas sector are subject to uncertainties due primarily to lack of data, but also due to other modelling assumptions … Howarth et al. (2011) assume high levels of [methane] and fugitive emissions; these estimates are viewed as unrealistically aggressive by other studies (Jiang et al., 2011; NETL, 2011; Cathles, 2011). Direct measurement of [methane] venting and fugitive emissions is rare and expensive. The recent study described by Tolleson (2012) based on measurement of a gas field in Colorado, finds that methane releases to the atmosphere are more in line with Howarth, et al. (2011) than with other studies.

While the Colorado study represents only a single data point, it is suggestive of the high degree of uncertainty that exists in current estimates of direct methane releases from natural gas drilling.

After seeing the new section, Sherrick emailed the Penn State team to say he thought it was a “good discussion.”

“I suspect it will not be well received within our policy office, but please incorporate and format this into the final version,” he wrote, “I’ll deal with our policy office.”

Other scientists agree more data is needed.

Colm Sweeney studies greenhouse gas emissions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado.

He and a team of scientists recently took measurements with an airplane over a gas field in Utah and found on one day the gas field leaked 6 to 12 percent of the methane produced (which is on the higher end of Howarth’s leakage rates).

Sweeney stresses that this only represents one gas field and and one day of data.

“We need a lot more measurements to say methane leakage is a national problem,” he says.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently slashed its estimates of how much methane is being emitted by oil and gas production, citing tighter controls by the industry.

However the EPA’s own internal watchdog issued a report earlier this year saying the agency needs to get better data to track air emissions from oil and natural gas operations.


  • Bullzeyet

    I suppose a LARGE investigation by the A.G’s office “just” might be in the works?????Mmmm, naaaaaaah, not a chance with King Tom in charge for his corporate, er political funding. Maybe the Feds should be called in for a fairer investigation???

  • NorthernTier

    Good job of reporting! And, credit to the Penn State team for not agreeing to remove the reference to Howarth’s paper. It should be credited for bringing attention to a valid concern (fugitive methane), not treated as something to be swept under the rug. It will be interesting to see if any of the Considine papers are included in the final report; they were also controversial.

    While on the topic of delayed reports … why the delay in releasing the 2012
    “Air Emissions Inventory Data for the Unconventional Natural Gas Industry”? The reports from the owner/operators were due (to PA DEP) 3/1/2013.

  • DoryHippauf

    at the time of the report submission and subsequent suppression, policy director of the PA DEP was Patricia Allan, wife of the now former PA DCNR Secretary, Richard Allan

  • DoryHippauf

    how many other reports were suppressed or otherwise manipulated?

  • Patty Rykhus

    Wow, I always look at who requests a study to see who is behind it, just never thought that DEP would even ask to have a study report “modified” to suit their purposes. Wow, this reeks

  • Brian Oram

    This is the problem when science and PR/policy/politics clash. In a scientific evaluation it is important to site the literature review and any controversies and dissenting opinion and facts or hypothesis. This is the only way to move forward. This condition sometimes competes with the PR/policy approach of everything is fine.
    This is one reason I believe we need a third party laboratory and possibly a contractor to be involved with the review of suspected impacts. This would hopefully minimize the political influence and remove some of the administrative pressure. Also private citizens should consider supporting the Citizens Database – grassroots effort to track change.

  • Jim Foster

    Why should we be surprised, since this Administration was bought and paid for by oil and gas interests.

  • Former USGCRP author

    This is mild compared to what the IPCC does to dissenting authors.

    Hopefully seeing the shoe on the other foot will help commenters to better understand the AGW fraud.

    • Sean Indignado Kitchen

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I needed a good laugh this morning.

  • Julieann Wozniak

    The GOP does not believe in science, or facts, or democracy. PADEP has always been too industry friendly and not protective enough of the citizenry it is supposed to serve.

  • Mike Knapp

    The reason that the Howarth paper has no place in a serious scientific discussion is because…well…. it’s not serious science. This video is of Howarth and Ingraffea presenting their study for the first time to peer review, about a month before it’s published.

    They are very adamant that the study is based on extremely poor data and
    its only worth is to stimulate other, more comprehensive studies. Ok. Fair enough.
    Those studies were done by very capable researchers at MIT, University
    of Maryland, NETL, Worldwatch Institute, Carnegie Mellon (funded by the Sierra Club) and even by other researchers at Cornell. They all showed that natural gas is about 50% better for global warming than coal.

    These people also looked very closely at the Howarth study itself, and some found it to be “simply misleading and disingenuous”.

    When these new studies came out, did Howarth acknowledge them? Nope. Him and his funders at the Park Foundation (which funnels millions of dollars to anti-fracking groups) hired a PR firm to double down on their flawed and intentionally deceptive study.

    • Beth

      Thank you Mr. Knapp, and even for posting the link to Mr. Hanger’s blog where he outlines how poor Mr. Howarth’s research is. Unfortunately these facts do not fit into Marie’s agenda for writing STORIES. Mr. Howarth’s “study” was proved time and time again by many different researchers (including his own collegues at Cornell) to be a bunch of bologna. Ms. Cusick couldn’t report that.

      • mariecusick


        Actually, I did report (with links) about how other scientists, including Cornell colleagues have challenged him.
        It’s in the sixth paragraph under the heading “Methane study stirs debate:

        His work has has been criticized by the oil and gas industry and challenged by other scientists including his colleagues at Cornell.

        • Beth

          But you didn’t state that that was real reason that it was suggested to be taken out of the document. Selective journalism folks.

          • mariecusick

            Hi again,

            I’m not sure I understand your complaint.

            As you can see, I spoke directly with the DEP staffer who asked for it to be removed.

            She explained that she wanted the study taken out because it is so controversial.

            She later decided to keep it in after hearing objections from the Penn State authors and the DEP Climate Change Program Manager (who has since left his job):

            “Shirely says the reference will remain to show the current debate. Although she has no formal scientific background, she says she still doesn’t believe the study is accurate.”

          • Beth

            But unfortunately Ms. Cusick, the headline of your story leads people to believe that it was asked to be taken out because it “criticized shale gas”, not because it was shoddy research.

          • mariecusick

            The headline clearly states it’s a controversial study.

            If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to email me:


          • Scott Brion


            Thank you for your coverage of this important issue, but your can not seriously argue that headline stating that the “DEP attempted to suppress controversial study” accurately represents the story. The “story” is that The DEP sought to remove reference to a study widely acknowledged to be flawed in its conclusion regarding likely levels of fugitive methane.

            Mentioning that the Howarth study has critics in the sixth paragraph gives the study a whole lot more credibility than most open minded observers would grant it.

            I am all for bashing the current administration’s use of the DEP to advance its pro industry agenda, but this dog just doesn’t hunt.

          • Scott Brion

            Oh, by the way – I am aware that your headline did pull me in to read the story and a whole pile of comments…. Oh the insanity!

          • Meme

            Thank you for your professionalism. Beth clearly read what she wants. You could have rea it to her and she would have still taken it out of context.

    • Sean Indignado Kitchen

      Let’s look at the ProPublica reporting that shows how we’re getting screwed out of billions of dollars. I’m sure that one is “fake” as well.

    • unreceivedogma

      Howarth is upfront about the fact that he has “extremely poor” data, which I presume to mean, insufficient data. You then go on to refer to research at MIT, Maryland, NETL, Worldwatch Institute, Carnegie Mellon. To me, for these studies to have any validity, the data must somehow have suddenly gotten a whole lot more abundant. I believe that Howarth is at least implying that it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money to gather the kind of and amount of data points that would provide the credibility that is needed. So, do in fact these other studies have those sufficient data points, or, absent them, address the problem of the dearth of data points? If so, could you provide links to areas of each of these studies where this question is addressed? Thank you.

      • Mike Knapp

        I won’t venture to guess what he meant by that, but one of my major concerns is the fact that once his study was pushed out into the media, the context in which they present it (this is preliminary, only to provoke further study) did a 180 degree flip. Suddenly they claim this study is definitive. It’s all through international headlines, they are named to Time Magazine’s Top 50 People Who Matter, and they are hanging out with movie stars. The authors of the study are very vocal, very committed anti-gas drilling activists. They are funded by the Park Foundation, which may be the country’s largest funder of anti-gas drilling groups.

        There are many accusations of intentional cherry-picking and manipulation of the data to paint a deceptive picture. One of the people leading the charge is John Hanger, who coincidentally is the founder of the environmental group PennFuture, which appears to have been the group that obtained these documents and provided to StateImpact. Check out his blog, there are many posts addressing this in better detail than I can provide here.

        I’m not saying that every study done by environmental groups is bunk. And the same goes the other way, studies paid for in part by the gas industry should not be immediately dismissed because of that… But when a study is done by some of the country’s loudest anti-drilling activists who admit it’s based on bad info and is just intended to “stir the pot”, and the study is paid for by the country’s leading anti-drilling activist organizations, and a half dozen of the country’s most reputable research organizations all come to a vastly different (and nearly identical) conclusion, and basically call the study purposefully deceptive…..

        • Bernard Malin

          Mike Knapp is a troll for the fracking industry…angry and mean. Careful.

        • JimBarth

          Mr. Knapp continues to present the industry’s bogus attack against Professor Howarth. John Hanger, is not one to quote in support. He is no authority on the issue, and, he jumped the gun in his comments, when he made them.

          The Howarth, Santoro, Ingraffea report was not a study, it provided an educated estimate based upon available data at the time. It turned out to be a very conservative projection, and has been more than vindicated, as a projection. The other “projections” to which Mr. Knapp refers, that support the industry view, were based upon the same insubstantial data, and have turned out to have been squashed by subsequent data collected in the field.

          I suggest that people refer to Professor Ingraffea’s NYTimes editorial published July 28, 2013 for a more complete rebuttal to the Mr. Knapps of the industry. I hope the link below is complete. I don’t have access to this in the NYTimes now, as I am not a subscriber.

          My comment following Professor Ingraffea’s editorial, published in the NYTimes was:

          “When Prof. Howarth, Prof. Ingraffea, and Rene Santoro presented their methane projections of between 3.6% and 7.9%, industry followed immediately with denials, and with personal attacks, in an attempt to undermine Howarth’s
          credibility, especially. Ingraffea is rather untouchable, as you see by his writing. He is far too credible, and careful, a source of information, to impeach.

          Their early projections were very conservative, as it turned
          out. As Prof. Ingraffea notes, subsequent actual data gathered at the production fields in California, and Utah showed rates of 17% and 9% methane emissions
          alone. Prof. Ingraffea implies that the measurements include compressors, pipelines (distribution) as well as the wells in the fields, but, I’m not sure about that.

          What the measurements certainly do not show are the massive fugitive emissions escaping into the atmosphere in major cities across the planet. Envision every old pipe under the street, every old pipe and fitting
          from the street to the meters, to the stoves and boilers.

          It is estimated that the cost to switch electrical generation from coal fired to gas fired, would be $750 billion. Industry wants subsidies, and tax breaks, to accomplish that.
          Industry wants subsidies and tax breaks to finance the
          building of LNG plants, and infrastructure, to export LNG. Industry wants financial aid to build an infrastructure for
          methane powered auto transportation.

          This is not a bridge to renewables, it is a theft from

          I add to this the data collected in Boston, New York City, and Washington, all of which back up what I referred to in the fugitive emissions escaping in the metropolitan areas, and I repeat, that when you add in compressor stations, feedlines to pipelines, distribution as a whole, we see a massive fugitive emission problem, which utterly negates any positive effect of burning gas.

          Howarth, Santoro, and Ingraffea’s projections were wildly conservative. The problem is much greater.

          The enemies of truth are: Mr. Hanger, PA DEP, Governor Corbett, the industry PR firms, and the cheerleader bloggers for the industry.

          • Mike Knapp

            Your “enemies of the truth” list needs to be a lot longer if you’re trying to name everyone that has called into question Howarth, et al.

            Here’s Andy Revkin’s response to the NYT op/ed by Ingraffea. Lots of interesting things in there.


            Keep in mind that before the shale gas boom, natural gas was beloved by the environmental groups. I’m quite sure that global warming was still an issue in 2007-2009. Those opposed to drilling and see it as a threat (even though its not) to the proliferation of renewable energy have proven that any means justify their end game. Twist a little here, fudge a little there, get it out in the news cycle. Howarth et al is a perfect example, which is why the scientific community, in almost unanimous agreement, has shunned it.

          • JimBarth

            Your reply is an utter non reply to either my, or, unreceiveddogma’s, post.

            You dare to write that the “scientific community, in almost unanimous agreement”, shuns Howarth? The “scientific community” is very large. To what thousands of scientists do you refer?

            Shame on you Mr. Knapp, but, then again, I’ve watched you write, and this is typical of you. What you assert is thoroughly contradicted just by the article we are writing in response to. Does your “scientific community” include Colm Sweeney? Does it include James Shortle, Seth Blumsack, or any other of the Penn State authors not cited in this article? Does it include Anthony Ingraffea? Or, does it just include you, Corbett, Mike Krancer, Andrew Revkin, and the PA DEP ideologue, Jessica Shirley?

            Why did Joe Sherrick quit? It states it in the article, doesn’t it?

            It might be a good idea for you to actually read the article!

            Do you ever bother to deal with fact?

          • Mike Knapp

            The fact is that Howarth put out a study that, in his own words, was preliminary and only intended to spur further, more detailed research. More than a half dozen extremely reputable DISINTERESTED institutions did that more detailed research and came to a vastly different and unanimous conclusion, several going so far as to not only disagree with Howarth et al, but to question the integrity of its authors and accusing them of manipulating data to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

            Why would they do such a thing?

          • JimBarth

            Again, the data collected since Howarth/Santoro/Ingraffea’s projections show far greater methane emissions, unburned, into the atmosphere. Their projections included not only the production field, but the distribution.

            The subsequent data collected in the California and Utah production fields, included only the production field rates.
            These emissions were at a much higher rate (17% and 9%).

            Then, if you were to bother to add the compressor sites, distribution pipelines and distribution infrastructure in general, plus the massive leakage that the data collected in metropolitan areas show, you could not present your argument with a straight face. Then again, you may be simply interested in laughing on your way to your bank?

            Mr. Knapp, please respond to the data and examples gathered since then, which I state above, instead of simply referring to a blog by Hanger, and a few scientists, which they presented two years ago, in relation to the original H/S/I report.

            The current data is not backing your position, at all.
            The fact that you and your colleagues are still presenting the false accusations, trying to make it a “Howarth” personal issue, instead of dealing with the actual data, speaks volumes on the emptiness of your “science”.
            The fact that you defend the attempted removal of reference to the H/S/I projected data, by PADEP, is icing on your cake.

          • Mike Knapp

            The numbers you are referencing, as you are well aware, are single data points. One test, on one day, in one basin, one set of researchers, one set of equipment, one set of variables. There is a litany of tests that show numbers that are at or around the 1% that is generally accepted. They just don’t get any media coverage, because they’re pretty boring.

            There is also a whole slew of new EPA regulations that are kicking in come 2014 as well that are set to reduce methane emissions even further.

            It’s time to face the facts that natural gas is a significant improvement for the climate, not to mention all of the other air quality benefits like particulate matter, NOx, SOx, Mercury, Selenium, Arsenic, etc. It’s why up until just a few years ago, even the Sierra Club and people like RFK Jr. were big champions of natural gas…

          • JimBarth

            Mr. Knapp,
            As you move your head in a circle in space, while rolling your eyes, you try to make our heads spin with your circular logic, and misinformation. We are not Linda Blair. We are not in “The Exorcist.”
            We are writing comments following a real article.
            A sane person who follows events, would note that if not for Professor Howarth, we might not even be discussing methane emissions, and the overwhelming role they play in relation to climate change, and the shale gas extraction, and burning, equation.
            Despite this undeniable fact, you, and Jessica Shirley do not even want his name, or projections, even referenced in the PADEP report.
            It is precisely his projections, and his paper, that have generated independent research into this issue, whether on a 100 year time frame, or, a twenty year one. Without his projections, there might not be any research, or discussion.
            As for the inadequate data he based his projections upon, it was data supplied by your industry, which is why it is so inadequate, no doubt. Hear no evil. See no evil.
            You, and your industry, would like no independent data to be collected, and, no independent scientific study to be performed.
            According to you, we have all the information we need, and we have had it for sixty years. Godspeed, and full speed, ahead. Drill baby drill, burn baby burn.
            There is not a single problem. There is no radical “climate change” that is taking place. There is no undue threat from our burning of fossil fuels. We do not need to move, with utmost speed, to non burning renewable energy.
            Frac’ed shale gas and oil is the answer.
            We understand your point of view.
            We see. Thank you for your point of view.

          • Meme

            Name one Test!

          • meme

            Because Scientist (who if you did not know are humans) tend to disagree sometimes. That’s why we have peer reviewed journals. A preliminary study is what gets the scientific community mobilized to fact check research. It is not the end of the research. If I understand you correctly you believe that until it is proven as law that a scientist shouldn’t say anything. Well if that were the case nothing would ever be published. There are few laws; lots of theories; but there is an astronomical amount of supporting science that draws conclusions derived from using the scientific method. Not all studies will have the same conclusions due to the constant tweaking of input data and the methodologies that were executed by the scientist.
            To infer that everyone must agree for it to be true is an oxymoronic statement and is why most politicians cannot wrap their little minds around climate change.
            What everyone is saying to you is that while everyone may not agree on the results, science is only “Good Science” if every fact or possibility is laid out. Well I’m sorry to inform you, but science is not about proof. It is about facts. All of them…To omit any data based on prejudice or feelings of backlash is not science. It’s politics!!

        • unreceivedogma

          Mike, work with me here: mine was a simple question. Please show specifically what data these other studies produce and explain to me how they specifically apples to apples and oranges to oranges refute Howarth’s study.

          • Mike Knapp

            The studies are readily available online, and they are quite detailed. If you are really interested and not just trying to argue, feel free to check them out.

          • VAppalachia1

            If you have examined these studies, kindly supply the links?

          • NorthernTier

            Mike: How about a reference (with url) for at least one comprehensive study/report that you consider an accurate estimate of the amount of fugitive methane released in the development, production, transmission, storage, and distribution of natural gas. That is, the documentation you would include If you were deciding on the content of the PA DEP report. There seems to be a surplus of people willing to criticize Howarth’s paper, but few willing to risk making estimates themselves.

          • Mike Knapp

            University of MD study:

            Carnegie Mellon University (funded by the Sierra Club):

            Cornell Study:

            National Energy Technology Lab (taxpayer funded, completely independent):

            You’ll note each link is to John Hanger’s blog. Each blog post contains a link to each study. John being the founder of the largest environmental group in Pennsylvania and possibly the biggest proponent of renewable energy in the state as well.

          • NorthernTier

            Mike: I have looked at your cites. They all reference Howarth, so how could they be used without including Howarth? To summarize, they all think natural gas has a clear environmental advantage over coal for the generation of electricity. But they’re uncertain about conventional vs unconventional gas emissions. From two reports:
            “We were unable to find good data on fugitive emissions from unconventional gas production in general, much less data documenting the equipment and practices most commonly used by these wells.”
            “There is significant uncertainty in our Marcellus shale GHG emission estimates due to eventual production volumes and variability in flaring, construction and transportation.”
            No one toke the position that simply being better than coal is “good enough”.

            I am curious why you persist in posting urls for the Hanger blog rather than for the actual reports. Now he has announced he’s running for political office, I suspect he wishes he’d dialed the criticism back some.

          • Mike Knapp

            I don’t think including Howarth would be the end of the world. I couldn’t care less one way or the other. I am pointing out that there is plenty of scientific reason to exclude it, and challenging those who (predictably) are falling over themselves to make this into some sort of conspiracy to suppress data…as if the study wasn’t already extremely well known.

          • NorthernTier

            Ok, then we’re back to what the Penn State team did; they included both Howarth and his detractors.
            Conspiracy? No, more like an ill-considered attempt by an employee to “spin” a document to conform to her bosses’ perceived preferences.

    • NorthernTier

      I took the main point of the article to be the PA DEP’s attempt to dictate the contents of a supposedly objective report. Was Howarth’s (qualified) estimate high? Probably. But it wasn’t the PA DEP’s role to make that judgment. Instead, retain the cite in context – as the Penn State team did – and let readers of the report come to their own conclusions.
      Still, 1-1/2+ years after the draft report, there is no definitive answer. But there are broader scoped studies under way that should provide better estimates. This is not exclusively an environmental issue; fugitive methane is $$ lost by the industry.

  • JoanneCorey

    Additional studies and data have been amassed that are in line with the Howarth/Ingraffea/Santoro paper. For example, there have been several studies of major cities, such as Boston, NYC, and Washington DC showing thousands of methane leaks from the gas distribution lines under the city streets.

  • Paco

    Science and morality seem to go hand-in-hand. This explains why “anti-science” factions seem also to be the ones ready to poison, bomb or otherwise cause suffering.

    • let the record show

      How foolish! Learn history. Ever heard of Eugenics?

    • let the record show

      Ever heard of Eugenics? Pretty much blows this idea away.

  • Ruth says

    “Natural” gas is leaking now out of wells where it is extracted, pipelines and all infrastructural parts of gas distribution. It is happening – not can happen. Fugitive emission studies are proving this in Boston, Manhattan, Dimock, Washington DC, Colorado, Utah and more places. More than Howarth and Ingraffea are looking at this problem and agreeing with Howarth and Ingraffea.

    Most important is what Ingraffea points out in his NY Times Op Ed, we don’t have much time to reduce methane emissions before the planet heats up considerably and the damage of climate change gets larger and more complicated to live with.

    Addressing climate change is the biggest issue on the table, and the one most governing bodies run away from because it will hurt fossil fuel industry’s financial portfolio. It hurts everybody else’s financial portfolio to subsidize and give exemptions to this “cheap” nat gas industry, that will be leaving a likely unbearable clean up job for the next generation of humans to face. NRDC says cost of climate change in 2012 was over $100 billion for the USA.

    This is not complicated: the measurements of carbon dioxide
    and methane emissions are showing that they are excessively high. We see
    the planet is heating up with more storms, more wildfires, droughts, floods –
    how it is not obvious that something is scary wrong!

    The ‘cleaner’ description of natural gas use is only for the burning which still puts carbon dioxide into the air, about ½ the amount of coal. How can that be so flaunted as a benefit especially when the additional problems are added – and include spills that kill fish and other wildlife, make cows loose calves, causes contamination of water by migration, human illness – respiratory and skin disease – and the anticipation of cancers appearing in a few more years. This is just the beginning of the list of damage.

    Who would be hurt if we stopped using natural gas and switched to renewable energy, which is available now?

  • Allan Ruddy

    We need to spend the money to collect good, quality assured data, then let those data speak for themselves. Direct measurements may be difficult, but they are possible.

  • JimBarth

    Shirley says, “It was so controversial. I didn’t want anything controversial in there.”

    So the PA DEP specialist didn’t want a reference to the Howarth/Santoro/Ingraffea methane emission projections to be included in the scientist’s report, because she, PA DEP, and the supporters of the shale gas extraction industry consider the projections “controversial”?

    Far, far more people consider high volume, slick water, multi-stage HF into tight formations with horizontal drilling to be far, far more controversial, and for very good reason.

    Therefore, I propose that such drilling and frac’ing be removed from Pennsylvania, the U.S., and the planet Earth.

    • Mike Knapp

      Are you willing to lead by example? I haven’t seen a single anti-gas drilling proponent (NOT ONE) that has resigned themselves to living a life devoid of fossil-fuel or mining related energy/consumer products.

      Which is pretty messed up, considering they are trying to force EVERYONE into that decision by banning drilling. Kind of like demanding that cigarettes and fast food be banned with a Marlboro hanging out the side of your mouth and Big Mac stains all over your shirt.

      • JimBarth

        The first of your two paragraphs (of your weak, personal attack on your opposition) is unrelated to any meaningful discussion related to the damage to life and the environment that shale gas and oil extraction causes, and, whether the burning of fossil fuels should be diminished as fast as possible, with no further subsidies or tax breaks given to the industry. It is even further distanced from anything in the article, if that is even possible.
        It is reflective of your impoverished command of logic, combined with the emptiness of any and all arguments you present on the subject of shale gas and oil extraction and the burning of fossil fuels.
        You, and your colleagues in industry have such weak legs to stand on, that it is only a short matter of time before you slither into your “hypocrisy” attack charges.
        Since you do not know anything, personally, about “anti-gas drilling proponent”(s), your last sentence is just a crude, hollow analogy, again, not surprising since you are the source.
        If you are going to lob meaningless personal attacks, you should become a much more interesting writer.

        • Mike Knapp

          I’m going to take that as a “no”.

          • JimBarth

            Now that you have “taken” it, Mike, you know where you can put it. I’m sure you are able to understand at least that much, “no”?

          • Mike Knapp

            Thanks for the mature, adult conversation.

          • JimBarth

            I will know when you are a serious, thoughtful, earnest person, through your comments.
            In the meantime, as long as you personally attack people as hypocrites, lowering the discourse to that meaningless level, I am more than happy to tell you where you can go.

    • Beth

      Hi. I feel certain that Miss Cusick only published a very small portion of the reasoning Shirley gave. That’s Cusick’s style, cutting quotes to fit her story line. If you read the article without the slant, you’ll be able to see that it was because the study was a pile of garbage. That’s why it was “controversial”. It even says that the research will remain in the report. So what’s the story here?

  • jonathandeal

    This is great news and I intend to use this in our battle in South Africa

  • fcfcfc

    Hi: As was pointed out in GLII, gas wells fail 5% right out of the gate with a 50% failure rate after 40 some years. In time they all will fail. Of course CH4 will leak at all phases of the process. Gas under pressure leaks to where the pressure is lower. Period, basic Physics.

    Concentrated wealth is the enemy of the truth, therefore the enemy of Science. The scales of discussion are not at all balanced. There is NO money to be made by NOT extracting a resource. There is HUGE money to be made by doing so, therefore the scales will always be heavily tipped towards extraction no matter what harm is done. This is the inherent problem with a currency based world. What else is new after 4000 years of this system….


    • FrackDaddy

      Just one question about your Josh Fox Science? If 5% of wells fail right out of the gate, Where is all the pollution? Where are the empty towns that have been ravaged by bad wells and abandoned? How come people in CO, OH, PA, TX still drink their water? Over 10,000 wells fracked in the last 10 years that is a minimum for 500 leaking wells, how come you cant come up with just one proven case of fracking contaminating? Seems like anyone with the slightest bit of common sense would see right through such a wild and false accusation. If you can provide a FACT to discredit this I welcome you. Why don’t you do some real research and see whats up? The Cornell study you are all so high on was paid for by the Park Foundation, the same people who bankroll Gasland and the sky is pink, shaleshock and so on. If the gas industry published a study saying it is 100% safe there are never accidents or problems you and I would call BS. But when a special interest group bankrolls a study to further its agenda you put it on the same shelf as the Bible! Please see link from Prof Mueller at Cal-Berkley (one of the most enviro friendly schools in the nation)…….

      • fcfcfc

        Hi: “….500 leaking wells, how come you cant come up with just one proven case of fracking contaminating”. You just called it 100% safe didn’t you…. by your own definition above you are BS…….
        You should try thinking before you write….


        • FrackDaddy

          Typical response. No facts, Insult, and put words in my mouth. No mention of a proven case, Do not address any water issues, no mention of referenced study, nothing about the buy me science Cornell study. But instead say I said its 100% safe, When a quote from my post reads “If the gas industry published a study saying it is 100% safe there are never accidents or problems you and I would call BS.” This is a great representation of how you use half truths and twisted words, to scare people into your agenda.

          • fcfcfc

            Hi: No, it is a great example of how you do not even realize the logical consequences of the tired diatribes you O&G people spew out. Tons of evidence has been put forth and you simply refuse to except it. The bodies are dead on the ground and you just keep claiming they are all walking around and no harm has been done. The is no point in speaking the truth if the listener in incapable of hearing it, be it a religious fanatic or a business interest with power and control….


          • FrackDaddy

            That is my point exactly, You watch a few movies and think its the truth. I just go by what the science tells me not Josh Faux tells me. But you are to close minded to listen. That is expressed that by your lack of trying to provide a real fact to support your argument, and instead just use name calling and false accusations. You are all the same, the more you talk the more any intelligent person sees you have nothing but propaganda on your side. But I look forward to your new of topic rant.

          • fcfcfc

            …as I said.. pointless…

          • FrackDaddy

            Well, you have proved that you have no facts or science on your side. Most likely just out to get some attention. But I am sure you don’t use any products that use energy or are petroleum based, Because you would be quite a hypocrite if you did that. Have a nice day Mr. Fitch!

  • debra haddix

    They have to keep the truth hide aleast until they are sure that they have killed the coal industries!

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