The Obama administration is expected to propose the first-ever federal regulation to cut methane emissions by the oil and natural-gas industry, officials familiar with the plan said today.
Methane has been blamed as a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming,
Under the proposed rule, methane emissions are sought to be reduced by 40 to 45 per cent over the next decade from 2012 levels, according to the officials.
The proposal had been in the offing, after the Environmental Protection Agency said in January such a plan was being worked out.
The new rules form part of Obama's broad push for regulations aimed at cutting emissions of planet-warming gases from different sectors of the economy.
This month, Obama unveiled the centrepiece of that plan, a regulation aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, a move that could transform the way the US produced and consumed electric power.
According to commentators, the new rules could put in place a tougher regulatory scheme as regards the nation's fossil fuel production, especially, on the way that companies extracted, moved and stored natural gas.
Environmental advocates had long called on the Obama administration to crack down on methane emissions.
Greenhouse gas pollution in the US mostly came from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas.
Methane, which leaks from oil and gas wells, made up only 9 per cent of the nation's greenhouse gas pollution but it was over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even in small amounts it had a big impact on global warming.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in January that methane emissions could rise by over 25 per cent by 2025 even though the industry cut methane emissions 16 per cent since 1990.
The oil and natural gas production in the US had raised concerns about leaks and venting of methane throughout the production process – from wells to transmission and programmes aimed at preventing those leaks had been voluntary.
Though methane is the main component of natural gas, it becomes a potent greenhouse gas when it is released into the atmosphere.
''The challenge is very large, but the opportunity to make a difference is equally large,'' said Mark Brownstein, a vice president of climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, Reuters reported.
He added, however, that 99 per cent of industry had failed to participate in voluntary programmes.