'Father of fracking' backs US drive to cut methane emissions from oil wells

The Obama administration has won an unlikely ally in its drive to cut methane emissions from oil wells and gas processing facilities.

The philanthropic organisation that was a legacy of George Mitchell, the ''father of fracking,'' welcomed the proposal as a ''prudent regulatory strategy.''

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's take ran counter to oil and gas industry leaders' pitch that the rules would hike costs and throttle domestic energy development.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposal ''is a critical step in protecting health and the environment,'' the group said in a statement released late Wednesday.

The Texas-based foundation had funded research on methane emissions, and one of its four main grant-making programmes was in ''shale sustainability,'' supporting work with the potential to increase the sustainability of extracting oil and gas from dense shale rock formations.

The foundation however, had never made such a big pronouncement on public policy of the kind despite some requests to weigh in on other issues.

According to Marilu Hastings, vice president of the foundation's sustainability programme, the issue was so important leaders of the philanthropy felt it had to make a public statement.

The statement reflected Mitchell's belief that energy companies always had to ''take it one step above,'' and ''operators have to push technology beyond where we are now,'' Hastings said.