Many of the oil and gas industry’s top emitters of methane are small, little-known companies, a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency emissions data found. The analysis, commissioned by Clean Air Task Force and Ceres, found that five of the ten biggest methane emitters were small producers, and overall, the 195 smallest producers were responsible for 22% of total emissions, despite only accounting for 9% of production. These small producers have largely escaped the climate scrutiny placed on major oil and gas companies. The largest emitter, Hilcorp Energy, reported almost 50% more methane emissions than Exxon Mobil despite pumping far less oil and gas, and had a leak rate nearly six times higher than the average of the top 30 producers.

One reason small producers, including Hilcorp Energy, emit so much is because they have purchased old, highly-polluting oil and gas assets from larger companies like BP and ConocoPhillips. The practice allows major fossil fuel companies to garner positive press by selling assets and cutting their personal carbon footprint, when in actuality those assets continue to pollute. “So nothing changed from the perspective of the climate, even though it certainly made ConocoPhillips look a lot better,” explained Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres. (New York Times $, Gizmodo, MarketWatch, Washington Examiner, E&E $)