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EPA walking the edge on methane regs

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Both Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama have made tackling climate change part of their agendas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Environmental Protection Agency is walking a fine line in arguing the need for new methane regulations for the oil and natural gas sector, especially as its partner in the rules, Canada, appears to be wavering.

"Moving on [methane emissions] will reaffirm our leadership on climate," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in Ottawa, Canada, on Thursday. But that's not all. She says the rules would benefit fossil fuels, although the industry says the rules are duplicative and unnecessary.

McCarthy, while visiting Canada, said the rules would "make sure that our ability to continue to rely on fossil fuel will be done in a way that is sustainable." She was there to discuss the creation of a joint framework to cut methane in both countries.

At the same time, her Canadian counterpart says Canada may have to slow walk climate change regulations to prevent the country from becoming too divided.

"We can't have everyone in the oil sector lose jobs," said Catherine McKenna, Canada's environment minister, during a joint press conference with McCarthy. McKenna said her country "didn't get into fossil fuels overnight and we're not going to get out of them [overnight], but we absolutely need to go in that direction."

The EPA's proposed methane rules represent President Obama's last major push for climate change regulation during his final year in office.

"When you leak methane you are highly inefficient, not just highly polluting. We have to get the methane out of the system. We're going to do it together, and we're going to do it on oil and gas," McCarthy said.

The administration aims to cut methane emissions up to 45 percent in the next decade, using new regulations that direct drillers to cut emissions from new oil and gas wells that are due out later this spring. Many scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions for driving manmade climate change.

In addition, Obama announced a proposed rule last month to cut methane emissions from all existing wells. He made the announcement when new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House.