President Barack Obama established a group of top administration officials to coordinate “safe and responsible” drilling for natural gas, as he moved to implement a pledge to boost energy development in shale formations.
Obama in an executive order issued today said his administration would encourage greater use of natural gas in transportation, support research and set “sensible, cost- effective” public-health and environmental standards.
“With appropriate safeguards, natural gas can provide a cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels,” Obama said in the order. The interagency group on natural gas will be led by Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, Cecilia Munoz, and include officials from eight Cabinet agencies, including the Defense, Interior and Energy.
The growth in natural gas production from shale in states such as Pennsylvania has pushed down natural gas prices by more than 60 percent over the past two years and led to a spurt in employment and manufacturing.
At the same time, local residents and some environmental groups complain that the process of hydraulic fracturing to free that gas has led to contamination of water wells, contaminated wastewater seeping into streams and rivers and increased local air pollution.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will present their findings at a conference next week linking the injection of wastewater from fracking to a spurt in earthquakes.
The Obama administration is also considering regulations on air pollution at gas wells and water treatment requirements that industry argues will impose an unacceptable burden on them. With the announcement today, industry urged Obama to rethink those new rules.
“There are already strong state regulatory systems in place,” Jack Gerard, the president of the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. “Adding potentially redundant federal regulation could stifle the kind of investment that has led to lower energy prices for consumers, more American jobs, and increased energy security.”
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