Obama Administration Forms Natural Gas Interagency

Obama Administration Forms Natural Gas Interagency

WASHINGTON - The White House announced Friday the formation of a high-level working group designed to coordinate the government's oversight of natural-gas drilling and the much-scrutinized drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing.

The formation of the working group--which aims to coordinate the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department, among others--comes at a time when multiple federal agencies are cranking out rules and studies to address potential safety risks.

Scientists, environmental groups and government regulators have raised concerns about natural-gas production's potential to contaminate water, emit air pollution and contribute to seismic activity.

Oil and natural-gas companies, already bound by rules and standards imposed by state officials, recently started to criticize the Obama administration for having nearly a dozen different agencies looking into possible risks. Coming under particularly intense scrutiny is the process of hydraulic fracturing--or "fracking"--in which water, sand and chemicals are injected underground at high pressure to release trapped natural gas.

The American Petroleum Institute, the main lobbying arm for the energy industry, was particularly critical and urged that Obama administration to streamline its efforts.

Friday's announcement won praise from various segments of the oil and natural gas industry, with prominent trade groups like the American Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America saying it showed the president is committed to promoting natural-gas development in the U.S.

Less than a decade ago, the U.S. was expected to begin importing greater amounts of natural gas. But a recent boom in production, made available by advances in drilling technology, have flooded the U.S. market and supplied domestic businesses and consumers with cheap natural gas.

While also applauding the White House's new working group, API President Jack Gerard cautioned against excessive regulation resulting from both state and federal oversight.

"We have one of the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world, and we need public policies based on sound science in order to develop this affordable source of energy," Gerard said in a statement.

In an executive order issued Friday, President Barack Obama said "it is vital that we take full advantages of our natural gas resources" in part because the industry creates jobs and boosts the economy. He added, however, that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure drilling and production are being done safely. 

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Ernie Arrenegado | Apr. 16, 2012
Is the great one awaking from his deep sleep like Rip Van Winkle.

HSE Man | Apr. 16, 2012
It is all a political ploy. He is trying to get re-elected. If he really cared about the oil and gas industry in the U.S., he would stop throwing money at Brazil to help them boost production and spend it here. Get ready to start harvesting "pond algae".

keith | Apr. 16, 2012
Oh great another agency probably duplicating the work of the other 2

Ron | Apr. 16, 2012
He is injecting himself into the energy fray because he knows that his green energy policies are a HUGE FAIL. The oil & gas production has increased in SPITE OF HIM, and now he wants to get in on it just so he can take credit for ALL OF THE PROGRESS. Obama is anti oil & gas and now he wants to regulate another area of Americans lives with his cronies. He is Americas enemy, the sooner we get him out of office the sooner we can bring charges against the domestic terrorist.

Chris | Apr. 16, 2012
Gasman - I think you are the only one who gets it. This is the first step in Os plans to nationalize. There is absolutely no need for this Oversight group. Lets not fall for the false sense of security thinking this administration is coming around and getting on board.

Philippe | Apr. 16, 2012
The Obaminable administration is not friendly to any fossil fuel. Although setting up a central office to over see the Fracking drilling industry, it must be manned by impartial members or at least 50/50 proponent verses environmentalists. I have great doubt that this is the intent!

David Cole | Apr. 16, 2012
Someone should demand the presence of the CTO of ESPH to be on the panel to overcome the lack of understanding current clean water technnology that does not require chemicals and safe for the environment.

Bruce Allen | Apr. 16, 2012
Give the president a chance to prove himself with a proven industry like American natural gas. This is not like solyndra "pie in the sky technology" it has been around a while.

joe | Apr. 15, 2012
sounds like our president for the moment might want to get on board or is it more politics as usaul because he has been backing the wrong people up till now.drill baby drill

ernie Arrenegado | Apr. 13, 2012
Thats great but we will after the King gets his crown for another four years first and we all can walk down the Obama yellow brick road.

gasman | Apr. 13, 2012
Looks like Obama is taking the first step in nationalizing the petroleum industry. Considerings Hussains track record , does anybody really believe anything good will come out of this so called OVERSIGHT"group. Does the petroleum industry really need a group of people that have no clue about the industry and how it works. I could say more but whats the use.

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