Devon blasts EPA as it leaves emissions program

Devon Energy has pulled out of a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing methane emissions, accusing the federal agency of “seriously flawed misuse” of data.

The Natural Gas STAR Program encourages oil and natural gas companies to voluntarily adopt technologies and practices to reduce methane emissions in the production and processing of energy.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the dominant component of natural gas, has drawn increasing attention from environmental groups because of possible leakage at drilling and storage sites.

Oklahoma City-based Devon has participated in the EPA program for the past decade. The company announced its withdrawal in a letter dated March 5, addressed to Roger Fernandez, team leader for the program, and signed by William F. Whitsitt, executive vice president for public affairs at Devon.

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According to the letter, “information provided in good faith by Devon and other operators has been irresponsibly and inaccurately used to justify costly regulations, taint policy research and, most recently, to provide the basis for the notice by seven northeastern states that they intend to sue (the) EPA to require new methane emission standards for the exploration and production sector.

“Specifically, EPA has used Natural Gas STAR reported volumes for gas captured to represent gas that would otherwise be emitted. This is a seriously flawed misuse of the data.”

In the letter, Witsitt said Devon has tried to get the issue corrected, without result.

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Methane continues to be a controversial issue associated with natural gas drilling. Last year, a number of natural gas producers joined with the Environmental Defense Fund to support a University of Texas study of methane leaks at well sites in an effort to face public concern over oil-field operations head-on.

Companies contributing funding to the study include some of the largest natural gas producers in North America: Anadarko Petroleum Corp., BG Group plc, Chevron, Encana, Pioneer Natural Resources, Shell Oil, Southwestern Energy, Talisman Energy USA and XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil.

Devon isn’t part of that study.

Devon Letter