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US Proposes Sharp Cut in Methane Emissions

FILE - Messages on methane gas and carbon dioxide emissions are projected onto the United Nations building ahead of the climate change talks that will take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 20, 2014.

The Obama administration is proposing a requirement to force the energy industry to cut dangerous methane emissions nearly in half over the next decade.

The White House said Wednesday it will offer rules under the country's clean air law in the coming months that would trim the emissions by 40 to 45 percent below their 2012 level.

Methane emissions are only a small part - perhaps two percent - of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions threatening the world's climate. But methane is more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The United States is now the world's biggest oil and natural gas producer. The White House said the methane emissions have been cut from 1990 levels. But it said the emissions would increase by 25 percent by 2025 if new restrictions are not imposed.

The new rules, which would take effect in 2016 before President Barack Obama's White House term ends, would cover new drilling equipment and old and new production located on public lands.

But thousands of existing wells owned by private companies would be exempt.

Obama, a Democrat, in recent months has proposed numerous new environmental regulations that have often drawn protests from Republican lawmakers in Congress, the energy industry and business interests. They say the rules are not needed, are too costly to implement and an over-reach by Obama's use of executive authority.

An industry group, the American Petroleum Institute, said Wednesday the proposed methane regulations could hinder the country's advance as a major world oil and gas producer and that the industry had already cut the emissions significantly.