Some environmentalists fear the methane releases — absent much better controls in the field — will erase the climate benefits of natural gas, which releases far less carbon dioxide than coal when burned to create electricity.
For instance, the Environmental Defense Fund, which is on the moderate end of the green group spectrum, recently highlighted research that showed substantial methane emissions in a Utah region with energy development.
President Obama’s climate plan calls for development of an interagency methane strategy among the Energy Department, the EPA and other agencies to explore and find gaps in data and work on ways to help spur methane emissions reductions, among other steps.
In addition to the methane issue, the EPA is conducting a major study of how the gas development method hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," affects drinking water resources.
McCarthy, in her remarks at the University of Colorado in Boulder, broadly cited the need for safeguards alongside gas production.
“EPA continues to work with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment," she said.
More broadly, McCarthy used her speech to promoteObama’s second-term climate agenda that hands a big role to the EPA, which is crafting carbon emissions rules for power plants.
“I want you to talk to your friends and your relatives in other places and tell them that working on the issues of climate are not scary,” she said in a clip the Boulder Daily Camera posted online.
“What's scary is not working issues associated with climate, not understanding how your communities need to be resilient and adapt, not understanding about the changes that we are going to have to face together,” McCarthy said.