Florida: EPA Launches Investigation of Massive Methane Leak

Photo: Andrew Caplan / Gainesville Sun

August 21, 2020

By Carlos Anchondo, E&E News

EPA is investigating a massive release of methane over northern Florida in May to see whether it violated any requirements of the Clean Air Act, the agency confirmed yesterday.

EPA’s Region 4 office — which covers eight states and six tribes — said the release occurred northeast of Gainesville, which lies roughly 60 miles south of the Georgia border.

“Our preliminary findings indicate that the release may have occurred from maintenance operations at a natural gas compressor station located in Brooker (Bradford County), Florida,” Brandi Jenkins, director of Region 4’s Outreach and External Engagement Office, said in an emailed statement yesterday.

Jenkins said the agency is continuing to investigate the release’s cause.

Bloomberg first reported the EPA investigation.

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — comes from natural gas and petroleum systems across the country, according to EPA figures for 2018.

EPA’s findings mirror those from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which said earlier this month the cloud of methane tracked by technology firm Bluefield Technologies Inc. came from an emergency shutdown of a natural gas compressor station on May 2 (Climatewire, Aug. 3).

Bluefield said in a statement last month that the “massive methane release” equaled about 300 metric tons of methane, which is described as the equivalent of over 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“On May 2, 2020, the Florida Gas Transmission Pipeline performed an intentional emergency shutdown at its Brooker facility in Bradford County to repair the combustion turbine, which caused upstream natural gas (methane) to be vented to the atmosphere. Interstate pipelines are regulated at the federal level,” Alexandra Kuchta, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email yesterday.

Earlier reporting from Bloomberg tied the facility to the Florida Gas Transmission pipeline, a joint venture between Kinder Morgan Inc. and Energy Transfer Partners LP.

Katherine Hill, a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan, referred a request for comment to Energy Transfer, which operates the system.

Energy Transfer did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

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