US finalizes rule to limit gas 'flaring' at drilling sites


WASHINGTON (AP) — With two months left in President Barack Obama's term, his administration issued a rule today intended to clamp down on oil companies that burn off natural gas on public lands.

The new rule seeks to reduce waste and harmful methane emissions as part of a strategy to address climate change. But a new Republican administration under President-elect Donald Trump could reconsider the rule or even scrap it, although any effort to do so would likely take months.

Trump has said he will seek to sharply increase oil and gas drilling on federal lands and said on the campaign trail that restrictions supported by Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would hurt energy-producing states such as Colorado.

Energy companies frequently "flare" or burn off vast supplies of natural gas at drilling sites because it makes less money than oil. A government report said an estimated 40 percent of the gas being flared or vented could be captured economically and sold.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the new rule updates 30-year-old drilling regulations to meet modern standards and ensure that natural gas is used to power the economy – not wasted by being burned into the atmosphere.

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