March 18, 2024

Collin Rees,
Gabrielle Levy,
Josh Eisenfeld,
Caleb Heeringa,

CERAWeek “certified gas” event – unproven technology, opaque practices, and conflicts of interest

Spokespeople from Earthworks, Oil Change International, Gas Leaks, and Climate Nexus will be available throughout the week for comment

HOUSTON, TEXAS — As CERAWeek — the fossil fuel industry’s largest annual conference of the year — kicks off today, industry insiders will be out in force to continue peddling greenwashing schemes that claim “certified” gas is “cleaner” and less harmful to the climate.

On Tuesday, William Jordan, executive vice president of EQT, the largest gas producer in the United States, will share a stage at CERAWeek with Georges Tijibosch, CEO of gas certifier MiQ. EQT, which operates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia has previously claimed more than half of its gas is certified by MiQ and other standards, making it one of the largest producers of gas that carries a certification label. 

Climate and social movements have forced oil and gas companies to acknowledge that fossil fuels are dirty and dangerous. Now, oil and gas corporations and the governments who support them are turning to schemes such as gas certification to appear as though they are taking serious action on climate, while in practice doing almost nothing to actually reduce the harm they do to the climate and the communities in which they operate.

“The oil and gas industry wants the public to believe that the ‘natural’ gas system is clean and getting cleaner, despite growing evidence that it releases far more planet-warming methane pollution than official estimates,” said Caleb Heeringa, Program Director for the Gas Leaks Project. “Just like ‘clean coal’ before it, certified gas is a marketing gimmick aimed at expanding our dependence on a dirty fossil fuel.”

Gas certification schemes allow producers to falsely claim their operations remain under a certain threshold limit of methane emissions intensity, using a variety of methods and standards that frequently add up to giving extra credit to companies for simply following the law. Certification schemes rely on technology that is frequently unreliable, resulting in reported data that is easily manipulated or cherry-picked, and with minimum transparency to allow for accountability. Yet despite these severe flaws, companies seek to charge a premium for a certification label, the costs of which they are already passing along to consumers.

“We have spent nearly 3 years studying certification schemes both in the field and by talking to current and former employees of the biggest players in the industry. We have shown that the monitoring technology and its implementation in the field are not reliable but often certifiers don’t require any measurement at all. It’s more words with little action and the bottom line is this: there is currently no way for any certifier to guarantee lower emissions from their process,” said Josh Eisenfeld, Campaign Manager of Corporate Accountability at Earthworks.

EQT’s claims of being a responsible purveyor of “clean” gas don’t hold up to scrutiny. This week, it was announced that EQT was buying back Equitrans Midstream Corp (having spun off the unit under investor pressure in 2018) and will again become an owner of the controversial, unfinished Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has famously been delayed by hundreds of environmental and safety violations. Meanwhile, Equitrans is still cleaning up almost 18 months after one of the worst gas leaks in U.S. history blew out a compressor station in southwest Pennsylvania. 

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline was proposed nearly 10 years ago, yet it’s barely half-way built due to its owners’ recklessness and the lack of need,” said Denali Nalamalapu, co-director of POWHR, a grassroots group fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The fossil fuel industry is floundering; it sacrifices our communities to make some more money, before running away and leaving us at risk of explosions, leaks, further endangered ecosystems, and local impacts of the climate crisis. What our communities need is investments in renewable energy and community-led solutions.”

The Biden administration has continued to roll out the welcome mat for unsound certification programs and the industries that seek to use them as justification to continue expanding oil and gas production, despite overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil fuels must be rapidly phased out. On Thursday, the administration provided a stakeholder update on the international working group to develop an international measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification (MMRV) framework. As currently envisioned, the voluntary framework would make no requirements of oil and gas companies to reduce their total emissions from the oil and gas they sell, nor reduce overall production of oil and gas. Instead, the framework will kick open the door to increased production by allowing companies to claim they are marketing a cleaner alternative while relying on unreliable, easily manipulated, and opaque technologies. 

“CERAWeek will be chock full of oil and gas executives claiming a role for fossil gas in a decarbonizing world,” said Lorne Stockman, Research Director, Oil Change International. “Many will claim their gas has been certified as clean. But our research shows that certified gas is a scam mired in unproven technology, opaque practices, and conflicts of interest. The most recent data clearly shows that the oil and gas industry is failing to rein in its pollution while drastically underreporting its methane problem. We don’t need certified gas or any other half-baked scheme for maintaining the status quo. The best way to reduce methane pollution is to phase out the oil and gas industry.”