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UPDATE 1-Trump administration to relax methane limits at oil and gas operations

Timothy Gardner

operations@ (Updates with details, comment from environmental group)

WASHINGTON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Thursday will propose rolling back Obama-era limits on emissions of methane at oil and gas operations on Thursday, a government source said, relaxing standards on one of the main pollutants scientists link to climate change.

President Donald Trump insists he is an environmentalist, but the move is his administration's latest easing of environmental rules, including many put forth by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. Environmental groups pledged court action to try to block the repeal of the limits.

Trump has also relaxed rules on carbon emissions from vehicles and intends to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency will announce the proposal on Thursday morning, the source said. The rule change will be subject to a public comment period before being finalized. The proposal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

In 2016, Obama's EPA had issued the first rule limiting methane emissions from new oil and gas fracking operations including transport equipment. Thursday's proposal is expected repeal those regulations and exempt existing oil and gas operations from methane limits.

The oil and gas business is the largest single source of methane emissions, a major factor in global warming. The gas has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere, scientists say.

Environmentalists vowed to sue the administration over the proposal. "We simply cannot protect our children and grandchildren from climate catastrophe if EPA lets this industry off scot-free," said David Doniger, a climate and clean energy specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If EPA moves forward with this reckless and sinister proposal, we will see them in court." (Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Humeyra Pamuk)