US aims to cut methane emissions by nearly half through regulations on gas, oil production

Energy Associated Press

The Obama administration is putting the energy industry on notice that it intends to curb methane emissions by nearly half through regulations affecting oil and gas production.

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A broad, preliminary plan — expected to be unveiled this week — aims to cut emissions 40-45 percent by 2025 compared with 2012 levels. Reductions are to come from a mix of voluntary steps by industry and regulations from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, according to two people familiar with the plan.

President Barack Obama has long wanted to cut methane as part of his broader effort to slow global warming. Concerns about emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have grown amid a boom in natural gas drilling. Natural gas is also known as methane, and sometimes it tends to leak during production.

The oil and gas industry has insisted such rules aren't necessary because the industry is already working to reduce methane leakage. Yet environmentalists and some scientists argue that without methane controls, the ongoing shift from coal to natural gas will have less of an environmental benefit.

The administration's methane goal, first reported by The New York Times, is aspirational, lacking key specifics about what regulations will be needed.

Last year, the White House said the EPA would study how methane is released during drilling and determine whether to develop new regulations. Although the administration has now decided to move ahead, the formal rule-making process will not start until later this year, said the individuals, who requested anonymity because the plan hasn't been announced publicly.

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Methane makes up about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to government estimates, but is roughly 21 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

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Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.