WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration says 41 energy companies have agreed to voluntarily reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations to help combat climate change.

WASHINGTON (AP) The Obama administration says 41 energy companies have agreed to voluntarily reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations to help combat climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday unveiled its Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, capable of trapping 25 times more heat than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

The announcement of the government-industry partnership comes after the worst methane leak in the nation's history was finally plugged last month at an underground storage facility owned by Southern California Gas Co. The months-long disaster required the evacuation of 6,400 families and released the climate-warming equivalent of the annual pollution from more than a half million cars.

EPA aims to reduce methane emissions by at least 40 percent over the next decade.