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EPA issues rules for reducing methane emissions from oil and gas industry

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For the first time ever, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed rules for cutting methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling companies, The New York Times reports. The regulations require companies to stop methane leaks from oil and gas wells, as well as capture escaped gas before it spreads in the environment.

Methane, a primary component of natural gas, is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas in the United States emitted by human activities. (Carbon dioxide is first.) The amount of methane in the atmosphere has almost doubled since pre-industrial times to 1,800 parts per billion. Methane is also about 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, which has made it a crucial target for regulation in order to reduce the impact of global warming.

Methane is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas in the United States

These new regulations are part of a larger push by the Obama Administration to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. They are the most significant part of that plan, which is meant to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent over the next 10 years. The EPA also issued new regulations for power plants earlier this month, requiring companies to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

The regulations weren’t unexpected — many companies have already started installing new technology to stop methane leaks, according to the Times. The new regulations will cost the oil and gas industry about $420 million to implement by 2025, the Times quoted Janet McCabe, the EPA’s assistant administrator, as saying. The changes also mean captured methane can be reused in natural gas, McCabe said; that could save the industry as much as $550 million over the next decade.