For Immediate Release
June 18 2024
Al Johnson-Kurts, al@priceofoil.org, 802-595-9593

Washington, DC – Fossil fuel companies are under public pressure to address the climate crisis and reduce pollution. In response, almost 40% of US gas is now “certified” by third-party companies, allowing fossil fuel producers to claim reduced methane emissions from their operations. The problem? The claims are false. Gas certification threatens climate goals by promoting false data and enabling gas companies to expand operations under the guise of reduced emissions.

New research from Earthworks and Oil Change International compares first-hand field evidence to operators’ emissions monitoring data and finds: 

  • Industry-operated continuous emissions monitors (CEMs) at well sites regularly miss pollution events.
  • “Continuous” monitors belonging to Project Canary – a certifying company – are inexplicably offline over 25% of the time.
  • Fossil fuel companies rarely take action to address pollution when it is detected. 
  • Industry and regulators see opportunity for profit in certification schemes. 

Download the Certified Gaslighting report.

Over 10 months in 2023, Earthworks thermographers captured evidence of 23 emissions events at oil and gas well sites in Colorado. Only one of those events was recorded by industry-operated monitors. This research builds on last year’s Certified Disasters report, in which on-site monitors detected none of 22 emissions events recorded by our research team. This shows the industry’s use of monitors and the monitor technology itself have not improved despite clear evidence of major flaws. Additional studies cast serious doubt on the technology behind gas certification schemes.

U.S. methane emissions are rising every year

The fossil fuel industry claims it is reducing emissions, but independent estimates show the global oil and gas sector released over 79.5 million metric tons of methane in 2023, accelerating the climate crisis at an alarming rate. While the certification industry has grown rapidly, U.S. methane emissions continue to rise. The International Energy Agency estimates that companies underreport their methane pollution by up to 95%.

Meanwhile, federal agencies, utilities, and companies continue to pursue failing gas certification

In spite of a poor performance record, the oil and gas industry has accelerated the adoption of certification and has increasingly pressed regulators to use certification as a proxy for regulatory oversight. The U.S. Department of Energy, Treasury Department, and EPA are considering or have already begun to integrate certification into policies and regulations. Operators are pushing for certification in voluntary international measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV) frameworks meant to boost gas exports, secure tax credits for hydrogen projects, and influence decisions on liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals

Some utility companies are purchasing certified gas, passing premiums onto consumers, and claiming to make progress toward climate targets. Just this week, however, the Public Utilities Commission in Colorado recognized certification for the scam that it is, rejecting a utility’s proposed Clean Heat Plan over significant concerns that certification would be able to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions it claimed.

Recommendations

Phasing out fossil fuels is the first and most critical step towards reducing pollution that contributes to the climate crisis and harms communities. Furthermore:

  • Methane reduction must only happen under government oversight and regulation that puts community and consumer protection first.
  • Certification should not be a part of regulatory frameworks. 
  • Effective deployment of continuous emissions monitors requires full transparency, public availability of monitoring data, and real-world deployment that matches peer-reviewed test conditions.

State and federal government regulators should treat certification programs with extreme skepticism and avoid using certification in place of real, robust oversight that prioritizes the health, safety, and well-being of communities. Regulatory agencies should seek to protect consumers from certifiers’ misleading claims by implementing strict, peer-reviewed standards for the deployment of monitors and fully transparent and publicly available monitoring data. 

Email al@priceofoil.org to speak with an expert to discuss the findings of the Certified Gaslighting report.

Dakota Raynes, Report Author and Research and Policy Manager, Earthworks, said:“‘Certified’ gas is the industry’s latest effort at greenwashing, not an earnest effort at halting the accelerating climate crisis. Hundreds of hours of on-the-ground research has made it more clear than ever that certifiers are not living up to their claims. The longer we continue to entertain their efforts as legitimate, we lose precious time to stave off the worst of the climate crisis. The science is clear, we’ve no time left for industry’s grab bag of dangerous distractions – we must start phasing out fossil fuels.”

Lorne Stockman, Research Director, Oil Change International, said:
“Every new gas well, pipeline, and plant harms communities and the planet. Fossil fuel companies are scrambling to maintain relevance amid mounting pressure from communities and climate advocates, so they resort to third-party “certification” schemes as a last-ditch effort to portray their operations as “clean.” Our research reveals these certification scams are deceptive, enabling gas companies to expand under the false pretense of emission reductions. This greenwashing scam must end so we can focus on what’s urgently needed – phasing out oil and gas.”

James Hadgis, Executive Director, The Gas Leaks Project, said:
“It’s no surprise that the same industry that has spent decades marketing gas as ‘safe,’ ‘clean,’ and ‘natural’ is now looking for new ways to greenwash its product. Third-party gas certification schemes are unable, or unwilling, to capture emissions events that intensify the climate crisis while poisoning nearby communities. If we want to stop rising methane emissions, then we must stop the gas certification farce.”

Jim Walsh, Policy Director, Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action, said:
“LNG exports are a certified disaster. No amount of greenwashing changes the fact that continuing to expand fossil fuels will perpetuate harms to our climate and the communities in the path of the fracking industry’s drilling pads, pipelines, and export facilities. We continue to see major fossil fuel companies move forward plans to increase exports of fracked gas, despite the limited pause on new export approvals. The health of our communities and the planet depends on President Biden rejecting these misleading industry certification schemes and starting a real and robust effort to phase out fossil fuels.”

Tom Owens, Executive Director, Center for Oil and Gas Organizing, said:
“I grew up on a farm nearly a mile from where in 2022 Equitrans spilled toxic methane equivalent to 360,000 cars running for a year. We shouldn’t be putting our trust in gas companies, who are coming off years of record profits, to reduce their own methane emissions and get paid bonuses for doing so, while everyday consumers have paid more. Certification is not a substitute for phasing out fossil fuels. State and federal government regulators should treat certification with extreme skepticism and avoid using it in place of real, robust oversight that prioritizes the health, safety, and wellbeing of communities like mine.”

Alan Zibel, Oil and Gas Researcher, Public Citizen, said:
“Private entities are unqualified to provide a seal of approval for harmful methane emissions. The issue is too important to leave to private entities. Federal and state governments must take the lead in ensuring that methane emitters are properly overseen and regulated and violators of such standards are held accountable.”

Lauren Parker, Attorney, Climate Law Institute at the Center For Biological Diversity, said:“This report highlights the failure of certified gas to actually cut super-polluting methane emissions. Certified gas is the fossil fuel industry’s latest certified lie, misleading the public on its climate-heating emissions reductions. Our government must act now to protect consumers from this predatory climate scam that’s hiking up consumer prices while steering us toward climate destruction.”

Leah Qusba, Executive Director, Action for the Climate Emergency, said:
“As they have for decades, the fossil fuel industry is deliberately lying, manipulating, and gaslighting the public. Before ‘certified gas’ there was ‘next-gen gas,’ before that there was ‘natural gas,’ and before that there was the myth of ‘clean coal.’ All these fancy terms to hide the truth: fossil fuels are deadly, and they’re stealing our future.”

###

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *