President Obama Intends to Strengthen Federal Oversight of Hydraulic Fracturing Process

This post was written by Christopher Rissetto and Ariel Nieland

On April 13, the White House released an Executive Order calling for the creation of an "Interagency Working Group" (Working Group) charged with "overseeing the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources." The Order defines the functions of the Working Group to include: (i) coordination of agency policy activities; (ii) coordination of the sharing of scientific, environmental, and technical and economic information; (iii) engagement in long-term planning with respect to research, natural resource assessment, and infrastructure development; (iv) promotion of interagency communications with outside stakeholders; and (v) consultation with other agencies and offices. The Working Group will be comprised of members from 13 different high-level agencies and departments, including, among others, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Order was issued approximately two months after the American Petroleum Institute requested that the Administration designate an agency to take the lead in coordinating federal policy and regulation efforts with regard to unconventional oil and gas. According to news reports, the unconventional gas policy group will be led by President Obama's top energy and climate advisor, Heather Zichal.

The Administration's efforts precede issuance of rulemakings by the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency that will also impact oil and natural gas production.

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