Obama Issues Executive Order on Hydraulic Fracturing

The White HouseOn Friday, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) called “Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources” (a copy of the EO is embedded below). The new EO is being touted as Obama’s EO on fracking—an attempt by Obama to coordinate the efforts of many federal agencies so the federal government will  speak with one voice on the topic of hydraulic fracturing.

Some have speculated that with the Environmental Protection Agency about to release new air pollution regulations for shale gas drillers, and with the Department of Interior about to release new hydraulic fracturing regulations for drilling on public lands, the Obama administration made a move in an election year to tone down the activist tendencies of executive branch—at least until the election is over.

The new EO creates a working group of 13 executive branch departments or agencies, with the option to throw in anyone else they deem necessary. This working group will coordinate policies between the departments and agencies, share research and information on fracking, and in general ensure the federal government speaks with one voice on the issue of hydraulic fracturing.

The American Petroleum Institute immediately issued a press release supporting the move:

The American Petroleum Institute (API) welcomed President Obama’s executive order establishing an interagency working group to “facilitate coordinated Administration policy efforts to support safe and responsible unconventional domestic natural gas development.”

“We’re pleased that the White House recognizes the need to coordinate the efforts of the ten federal agencies that are reviewing, studying or proposing new regulations on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing,” said Jack Gerard, API president and CEO, after attending a White House meeting on the executive order today. “We have called on the White House to rein in these uncoordinated activities to avoid unnecessary and overlapping federal regulatory efforts and are pleased to see forward progress.”

Gerard also cautioned that we need to look first to the states as the historic regulators of natural gas before applying additional layers of federal regulation from Washington.

“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.”

Gerard added that the natural gas boom, as well as the oil development in North Dakota and other tight oil areas, would not be possible without hydraulic fracturing technology.

“The president’s support of natural gas reminds us that we are reliant on technologies developed by the industry that make it possible to develop this energy resource,” Gerard said. “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.”

“API and its members remain committed to the safe and reliable production of American’s vast natural gas resources and look forward to working with the administration and continued coordination with the states to meet America’s growing energy demands,” Gerard said.*

In a move that was coordinated with The White House, the Departments of Interior and Energy, along with the EPA, issued press statements announcing a memorandum of understanding that their three departments have formed a formal research partnership, a subgroup if you will, under the banner of the new EO (see this MDN story).

So is the new Obama EO on fracking a good thing, or a bad thing for landowners and those who want to see our country benefit from this bountiful resource? MDN will comment on that in another post.

*American Petroleum Institute (Apr 13, 2012) – API welcomes White House move to coordinate hydraulic fracturing reviews