Louisiana oil and gas wells wasted more than 27 billion cubic feet of planet-heating methane into the atmosphere — more than 80% of it from leaks — in 2019, a new Synapse Energy Economics report shows. The report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and Taxpayers for Common Sense, outlines far greater pollution from the state’s oil and gas industry than what was previously known.

Methane, the main component in so-called “natural gas,” traps more than 80 times* more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year timeframe. The widespread leaking, flaring, and venting of methane gas is extremely wasteful — Louisiana oil and gas operators released enough gas in 2019 to meet half the state’s residential methane gas demand that year — and also robbed taxpayers of $2.5 million** in state revenue because oil and gas companies do not pay royalties on the gas lost in leaks. A disproportionate amount of the pollution came from low-producing operations.

“Methane flaring and venting is bad for the environment, the state economy and state budget,” Ned Randolph of the Louisiana Budget Project told NOLA.com. “It robs all of us of important revenue which needs to be made up by other taxes.” Not only is slashing methane pollution, especially by fixing leaks, the most cost-efficient and effective way to limit near-term planetary heating, it also has other benefits. “Mitigation is a job creator,” Randolph added. “And it gets us closer to a clean energy transition.” (NOLA.com, AP, Louisiana Illuminator)

*An earlier version of this story misstated how much more heat is trapped by atmospheric methane. Methane traps 80 times more heat than CO2 over a 20-year timeframe.
** An earlier version of this story misstated the state revenues that went uncollected because of lost gas. The total value of the vented, flared, and leaked methane gas was $82 million, which corresponds to $2.5 in lost state revenue.