One researcher’s quest to quantify the environmental cost of abandoned oil wells

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Amy Townsend-Small has been chasing methane her entire professional life. The quest has taken her from Southern California freeways to sewage plants to animal feedlots. Sniffing out the potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as carbon dioxide after it’s emitted into the atmosphere, has required her to breathalyze cows and take chemical measurements at large manure lagoons. When fracking took off around 2010, Townsend-Small shifted her focus to a new and growing problem: methane leaks from oil and gas activity.
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Photo Credit: Christopher Collins

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