EPA Report Says Emissions from Local Distribution Systems Decreased 74 Percent

News Release April 18, 2016

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) has issued the following statement regarding the 2016 EPA Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaffirms the small emissions footprint of natural gas distribution systems and again further clarifies how the increased efficient use of natural gas may achieve greater environmental benefits.

“According to the 2016 EPA Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, emissions from local distribution systems decreased by 74 percent from 1990 to 2014 following a substantial downward revision for the sector. EPA attributes the decrease to the industry’s continued work to replace pipelines no longer fit for service with ones made from modern plastic materials, as well as upgrades at metering and regulating stations. Today, natural gas utility systems account for only six percent of total methane emissions from the natural gas value chain.

“A concerted effort by America's natural gas utilities to upgrade and modernize our nation's pipeline network to enhance safety has contributed to a declining trend in emissions from natural gas distribution systems. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have a program or policies to facilitate accelerated replacement and modernization of natural gas distribution pipelines no longer fit for service. In the case of the states without such programs, several utility systems in those states no longer have pipelines made of legacy materials and others recover their costs through annual rate cases.

“The 2016 EPA Inventory incorporates new data from a nationwide field study of natural gas utility systems conducted in 2015 by Washington State University’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research with coordination and support from major natural gas utilities and the Environmental Defense Fund. The study concluded that as little as 0.1 percent of the natural gas delivered nationwide is emitted from local distribution systems. The study also found that the number of pipeline leaks have decreased 25 percent for pipeline mains and 16 percent for services since 1990. Continued efforts to upgrade and modernize the natural gas pipeline network to enhance safety are lowering emissions even further.”


The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 76 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 72 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than thirty percent of the United States' energy needs.