March 12, 2019 / 5:12 PM / 12 days ago

Shell urges Trump White House to tighten methane leak rules

FILE PHOTO: The Shell logo is seen at the 20th Middle East Oil & Gas Show and Conference (MOES 2017) in Manama, Bahrain, March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell urged U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday to tighten restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas production, instead of weakening them as planned.

Breaking from a decades-old tradition of avoiding criticism of U.S. government policies, Shell’s U.S. Country Chair Gretchen Watkins called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten rules to plug methane leaks, a potent greenhouse gas.

“It is a big part of the climate problem and frankly we can do more,” Watkins said in an interview with Reuters at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston.

“We don’t usually tell governments how to do their job but we’re ready to break with that and say, ‘Actually, we want to tell you how to do your job.’”

She urged the EPA “to put in a regulatory framework that will both regulate existing methane emissions by also future methane emissions.”

The Trump administration in September proposed weakening requirements for repairing leaks of the greenhouse gas in drilling operations in a step to roll back an Obama-era policy intended to combat climate change.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, leaks from oil and gas wells during drilling. It accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions but has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere. 

Shell has internally set targets to maintain its methane emissions by 2025 to below 0.2 percent of production, far exceeding current EPA regulations.

(The story corrects HIS Markit’s to IHS Markit’s in paragraph 3, )

Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Gregorio

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