Environmentalists: Wasted gas hurts climate, state revenue

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Louisiana lost more than $82 million worth of natural gas in 2019 due to leaks, venting or flaring at production sites, according to a study released Thursday by an environmental group and government watchdog organizations.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s report said state fossil fuel producers wasted more than 27 billion cubic feet (760 million cubic meters) of gas in 2019. It’s an economic loss for the state, the report said, estimating the tax and royalty revenue lost to state government that year at $2.5 million. The report also said it was an environmental hazard because methane, a major component of natural gas, is a contributor to climate change.

More than 81% of wasted gas was from leaks. Less than 1% was from purposeful venting, and 19% was lost by flaring. Releasing gas by venting small amounts or by burning it is done for a variety of possible reasons involving safety and economics.

“That’s enough lost gas to meet more than 2/3 of residential natural gas demand in the state for a year,” a statement accompanying the report said.

The research was done by Synapse Energy Economics Inc., a consulting firm that lists various environmental groups and municipal, state and federal agencies among its clients.

The report comes as the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers rules aimed at preventing gas releases, including inspection requirements for well sites. The state also is setting in motion a process for developing rules to deal with the issues, said Patrick Courreges, spokesperson for the state Department of Natural Resources.

That includes what other oil and gas producing states are adopting and seeing how those regulations might work in Louisiana. Courreges, while not commenting on the accuracy of the report’s figures, said reducing gas emissions is a department goal.

“We’d rather keep it in the pipes and send it somewhere doing work,” he said in a telephone interview.

State and federal authorities also have stepped up efforts to address leaks from “orphan wells” – non-producing, abandoned well sites that are still leaking contaminants.

Two watchdog groups joined the Environmental Defense Fund in calling for policies to address the issue.

“Outdated policies keep billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas from getting to market at a time when budgets are tight and energy security is important as ever,” Autumn Hanna, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in a statement issued by the fund.

“When the industry is allowed to waste natural gas, it robs the state of important tax revenue, which then has to be made up through other taxes or else leave the state without the revenue it needs to fund critical programs,” added Jan Moller of the Louisiana Budget Project.

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