By Andrew Restuccia - 04/13/12 07:15 PM EDT
Industry groups largely praised the task force, the details of which were outlined Friday afternoon in an executive order signed by the president. The groups said they hope the task force will ensure that regulations being developed by several federal agencies don’t overly burden the natural-gas industry.
“President Obama highlighted the benefits of natural gas in his State of the Union address, and has been promoting responsible production and broader use of this domestic, abundant, affordable, clean and reliable energy source,” American Gas Association President Dave McCurdy said in a statement.
“We are pleased to see this action today, which will help promote consistency between the Administration and policies that are put in place.”
The White House used the announcement of the new task force Friday to tout its support for expanded natural-gas development, amid growing attacks on the president’s energy policies from Republicans.
“Since taking office the President has made clear that he believes this important, abundant domestic resource holds unique promise to fuel our energy sector, fuel our vehicles, as well as fuel job growth — all while reducing harmful emissions,” Zichal said in a blog post on the White House website.
But Republicans nonetheless bashed the executive order Friday.
“We don’t need another working group, or any more bureaucracy,” Kevin Smith, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “We need a president who will work in a bipartisan way on expanding American energy production to lower gas prices and create more jobs.”
The task force, which will be run through the Domestic Policy Council and chaired by Zichal, will ensure that rapidly growing efforts to tap vast natural gas supplies in the country’s shale formations are “safe and responsible.”
The Obama administration is taking new steps to increase federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling method that has helped usher in a natural-gas boom but brought with it environmental concerns.
The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to unveil final oil-and-gas air pollution regulations next week that would cut smog-forming and toxic emissions from wells developed with fracking. Separately, the Interior Department will soon float rules for fracking on public lands.
Industry groups maintain that fracking should be regulated on the state level and have raised concerns about the effects of the upcoming regulations.
Read more about the executive order here.