News Summary: EPA lowers methane leak estimate

News Summary: EPA lowers estimate of gas drilling methane leaks

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- THE CHANGE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently dramatically lowered its estimates of how much of a potent greenhouse gas leaks during gas drilling operations, from 214 million metric tons for 2010 to 144 million metric tons, a change of more than 30 percent.

THE DISPUTE: There's a split between leading environmental groups over whether the boom in natural gas drilling, or fracking, will help or hurt efforts to fight climate change. That's because while natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal, the methane in the gas is also a potent greenhouse gas. If too much methane leaks into the atmosphere, that negates the benefits over coal.

THE REACTION: Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger said the EPA revisions are "great news" and "kind of an earthquake." But 350.org founder Bill McKibben said the news doesn't change the fact that natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits some greenhouse gas.

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