The Permian Basin in Texas has been identified as the world’s biggest polluter

TEXAS — A United Nations-sponsored survey of the world’s biggest polluters shows that the Permian Basin in west Texas is the biggest source of pollution on the planet.


what you need to know

  • A new report sponsored by the United Nations identifies the Permian Basin in West Texas as the world’s biggest polluter
  • The Environmental Defense Fund has conducted extensive testing and monitoring of methane pollution in the Permian Basin and has consistently found alarming levels of methane being flared or simply released
  • Climate TRACE reports that the Permian Basin produced more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions last year. That’s 25% more than the world’s second largest polluter
  • President Joe Biden just announced new EPA rules designed to close loopholes and force states like Texas to aggressively monitor and regulate methane releases and flares

First, the big headline at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt last week was that oil and gas operators are the world’s biggest polluters. But only one formation on Earth earns the title of the world’s worst polluter: Texas.

According to the Climate TRACE pollution tracking consortium, the Permian Basin in West Texas is #1.

“This is the United States, we should lead the way in trying to generate the cleanest energy we can,” said Jon Goldstein, spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund. “We shouldn’t end up having the world’s most polluting oil and gas basin.”

The Environmental Defense Fund has conducted extensive testing and monitoring of methane pollution in the Permian Basin and has consistently found alarming levels of methane being flared or simply released into the environment.

Climate TRACE reports that the Permian Basin produced more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions last year. That’s 25% more than the world’s second biggest polluter, an oil and gas field in Russia.

Environmentalist Sharon Wilson of Earthworks Texas is the state’s most active observer of Permian Basin methane emissions. She took infrared video of invisible greenhouse gases emanating from a vent stack reportedly outfitted with the latest environmental equipment a few weeks ago.

“The industry isn’t even trying to stop, it’s just moving as fast as it can,” Wilson said. “They’re trying to make money. If the price of gas goes down, more gas goes into the air.”

President Joe Biden just announced new EPA rules designed to close loopholes and force states like Texas to aggressively monitor and regulate methane releases and flares. But the new rules are unlikely to come into effect until later next year.

“And now is the time, we have to do something now,” Wilson said. “This is an emergency. Our future is at stake.”

Spectrum News 1 repeatedly tried to get a response from Gov. Greg Abbott. We never heard back. The state agency responsible for monitoring and monitoring pollutants in Texas, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, told us, “No comment.”

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