Obama, Trudeau target methane emissions in new agreement

By KEVIN FREKING - Associated Press ,

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President Barack Obama jokingly reacts as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credits him with good weather during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama jokingly reacts as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credits him with good weather during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed on Thursday to curbing methane emissions by reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors by at least 40 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels.

It's a goal the Obama administration had cited previously, and it rolled out regulations in August that were focused on emissions from new and modified oil and natural gas wells.

But U.S. officials said better data indicate more regulation is needed. And Canada has agreed with that assessment.

"To get all the way to that goal, we're going to have to tackle emissions from existing sources," said Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The agreement also commits Canada to regulating methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas production. Environment and Climate Change Canada intends to publish its initial proposals by early next year.

The oil and gas industry has objected to the Obama administration's efforts targeting new and modified wells. The American Petroleum Institute said additional regulation could discourage the shale energy revolution that had lowered costs for consumers while also reducing emissions.

"The administration is catering to environmental extremists at the expense of American consumers," said Kyle Isakower, a vice president at the institute.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. While methane's lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide, the EPA said it's much more efficient at trapping heat from the sun. McCarthy said methane is upward of 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

With his presidency drawing to a close, Obama has been in a hurry to propose and then finalize sweeping regulations targeting greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The regulatory process will begin by requiring oil and gas companies to provide information that helps the EPA identify the most significant sources of pollution and how technology can be applied at the most reasonable costs, McCarthy said.

Canada's joining in the effort to cut methane emissions comes after disagreement between the Obama administration and Canada's previous government over the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude from Canada's vast reserves of oil sands through the U.S. The administration rejected the project last year.

Trudeau has repeatedly emphasized his desire to use clean energy to grow the economy.

Gene Karpinski , the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said that "after many years in which Canada moved in the wrong direction on climate change, it's especially exciting to see Prime Minister Trudeau swiftly correct course and set Canada back on track toward a clean energy future."

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