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Obama Aims for Huge Cut in Methane Emissions From Wells

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration laid out a blueprint Wednesday for the first regulations to cut down on methane emissions from new natural gas wells, aiming to curb the discharge of a potent greenhouse gas by roughly half.

Relying once again on the Clean Air Act, the rules join a host of others that President Barack Obama has ordered in an effort to slow global warming despite opposition to new laws in Congress that has only hardened since the midterm elections. Although just a sliver of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, methane is far more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The White House set a new target for the U.S. to cut methane emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels. To meet that goal, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue a proposal affecting oil and gas production, while the Interior Department will also update its standards for drilling to reduce leakage from wells on public lands.

How much will the regulations cost the energy industry? The White House said it won't have specific estimates until later. These rules will target new or modified natural gas wells, meaning thousands of existing wells won't have to comply. The Obama administration left open the possibility it could regulate methane from existing wells in the future while asking the energy industry to take voluntary steps to curb emissions in the meantime.

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— The Associated Press