U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Bobby Rush, D-Ill., members of House committees on energy, issued a letter to their Republican counterparts calling for hearings to assess the level of methane emitted during production, processing and distribution of hydrocarbons.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Waxman and Rush said carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were decreasing because U.S. utility companies were switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas. Methane, however, may be an unfortunate consequence of natural gas production in particular, they wrote.
"The rate at which methane leaks into the atmosphere from natural gas production is a critical question that we must answer," they said in their letter Tuesday.
There was no statement issued in response by Waxman's counterpart, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., or Rush's, Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.
The call for hearings follows a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration stating U.S. oil production in 2016 should match records set in the 1970s and natural gas production should increase steadily through 2040.