By James Murray / Source: BusinessGreen

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President Obama will today continue his recent push to strengthen US climate regulations with the announcement of tough new rules governing methane emissions from the country’s fast expanding oil and gas industry.

According to various reports, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will unveil plans to cut methane emissions 45 per cent against 2012 levels by 2025. The precise details of the new regulations are yet to be announced, but green groups immediately hailed the news as a further step forward for the Obama administration’s climate strategy.

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Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for nine per cent of US greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Experts fear that methane emissions from the US shale gas industry have been widely under-reported with some questioning whether some of the emission reductions achieved through the shift from coal to gas in the US energy mix have been lost as a result of methane leaks.

The proposed regulations would further strengthen Obama’s push to secure his climate change legacy, which has recently seen the President announce a new target to cut emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent by 2025, move forward with plans for new emissions standards for power plants and vehicles, and hint that he is sceptical about the economic case for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The administration now hopes to finalise the new methane emissions rules this summer and have them come into effect in 2016.

Obama plans to once again use his executive authority to push through the new rules, but he can expect a now familiar wave of attacks from Republicans and some business groups over the move.

There was a further reminder of the chasm between Democrats and Republicans on climate policy yesterday, as Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a Senate vote to approve the construction of Keystone XL could include an amendment on whether Senators agree climate change is impacting the planet and is exacerbated by human activity.

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