The Obama administration said Wednesday it will issue 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 a small component of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, methane is far more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
In tandem with the announcement, the White House set a new target for the U.S. to cut methane emissions by 40% to 45% by 2025, compared to 2012 levels. To meet that goal, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue a proposal affecting oil and gas production this summer, and then finalize it in 2016—the last year of Obama’s presidency. The Interior Department will also update its standards for drilling to reduce leakage from wells on public lands.
Methane leaks during production of natural gas. The rules will only target new or modified natural gas wells, not existing ones. But the White House said the U.S. is also asking for the energy industry to voluntarily curb emissions from existing wells.