White House Unveils Plan to Cut Methane From Oil, Gas Sector

Icebergs and sea ice float atop the near-freezing waters of the Weddell Sea. Eric Galbraith

WASHINGTON — The White House said on Friday it will take a hard look at whether new regulations are needed to cut emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry, part of President Barack Obama's plan to address climate change.

Regulators will start by proposing new rules later this year to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas wells on public lands, said Dan Utech, Obama's top energy and climate aide.

The Environmental Protection Agency is going to study this year whether additional broader regulations are needed for methane emissions under the Clean Air Act, Utech told reporters. If the agency deems additional regulations are needed, those will be completed before Obama leaves the White House at the end of 2016.

Methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, is the main component of natural gas. The largest U.S. industrial source of methane is oil and natural gas operations.

The methane plan was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency with input from the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Agriculture, John Podesta, an adviser to Obama, told reporters last week. He said then the plan was soon to be finalized.

In the first 20 years after it is released, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping more heat, scientists with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said.

— Reuters