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President Obama forms working group to coordinate federal gas studies

President Barack Obama issued an executive order Friday to coordinate his administration's efforts to regulate domestic natural gas production.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: April 14, 2012

The federal government is moving to coordinate its oversight of the natural gas industry.

President Barack Obama on Friday created a working group to align his administration's efforts to ensure safe and responsible development of unconventional natural gas resources in the U.S.

“In 2011, natural gas provided 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Its production creates jobs and provides economic benefits to the entire domestic production supply chain,” the president's executive order said. “It is vital that we take full advantage of our natural gas resources, while giving American families and communities confidence that natural and cultural resources, air and water quality, and public health and safety will not be compromised.”

Industry groups praised the move, but Obama's order drew criticism from U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.

“President Obama now believes that his administration's efforts to regulate natural gas production have become so complicated and convoluted that he needs yet another government board to coordinate them,” Inhofe said. “While he makes disingenuous claims about how this working group is to increase natural gas production, we all know that the more layers of government involved, the greater the likelihood that he can stall efforts towards development.”

Inhofe said 10 federal agencies currently are looking into gas development and hydraulic fracturing, but Obama's new working group adds three more to the mix.

He said the Obama administration is doing everything it can to impede gas development, while pretending to support domestic production.

The American Petroleum Institute, which had urged Obama to rein in federal agencies looking into hydraulic fracturing, welcomed the president's order, but CEO Jack Gerard maintained regulatory oversight should remain with states.

“There are already strong state regulatory systems in place,” Gerard said. “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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