On Friday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that increases Federal involvement in the oversight of unconventional methods for mining natural gas.
The order establishes a working group that includes various White House offices such as the Council on Environmental Quality and National Economic Council, along with other cabinet departments and agencies like the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
The order comes just after many Republican lawmakers have chided agencies working on regulations for the industry — specifically related to hydraulic fracturing — saying they are hampering growth.
Some proponents of the Presidential order applaud the action, saying that it could streamline the oversight process of the natural gas industry in the United States.
American Petroleum Institute head Jack Gerard said his organization is “pleased that the White House recognizes the need to coordinate the efforts of the Federal agencies that are reviewing, studying or proposing new regulations.” He does, however, call for the Federal government to work closely with State regulators.
Others say that the President has effectively taken over the industry.
A portion of the order states:
Because efforts to promote safe, responsible, and efficient development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources are underway at a number of executive departments and agencies (agencies), close interagency coordination is important for effective implementation of these programs and activities. To formalize and promote ongoing interagency coordination, this order establishes a high-level, interagency working group that will facilitate coordinated Administration policy efforts to support safe and responsible unconventional domestic natural gas development.
Some critics argue that because the order states the importance of protecting long-term supplies, it gives the Federal government the power to shut down gas production at will under pressure from environmentalists, while claiming the need to protect reserves.