On hydrofracking, coordination
President Obama today signed an executive order that, if pursued diligently, could bring useful coordination to federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing used in natural gas production.
The executive order bears the title, "Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources." It creates an interagency working group to do the following:
- coordinate agency policy activities, ensuring their efficient and effective operation and facilitating cooperation among agencies, as appropriate;
- coordinate among agencies the sharing of scientific, environmental, and related technical and economic information;
- engage in long-term planning and ensure coordination among the appropriate Federal entities with respect to such issues as research, natural resource assessment, and the development of infrastructure;
- promote interagency communication with stakeholders; and
- consult with other agencies and offices as appropriate.
BRT-member CEOs discussed the federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing when they met with President Obama on March 6, with concern raised about duplicative, complicated, burdensome and unnecessary rules raising costs on the development of shale natural gas. In a statement today, BRT President John Engler acknowledged this new coordinating panel to be a "solid first step" toward improving oversight, commenting, "We hope this working group can cut through these complications and ultimately encourage further investment in the energy sector."
It does seem odd that the executive order is limited to unconventional domestic natural gas resources. Hydrofracturing is used in oil production, as well, notably in the Bakken Shale play. From Reuters, "NEW YORK, April 11 (Reuters) - Crude oil output in North Dakota reached a record high in February as a mild winter boosted activity in the Bakken shale prospect, bringing the state closer to overtaking Alaska as the second-largest oil producer in the country."
- The Hill, E2Wire blog, "Obama order coordinates federal oversight of 'fracking,' gas development"
- The Hill, E2Wire blog, "Industry groups applaud Obama's natural gas executive order"
- Politico, "Obama issues executive order on natural gas"
- Wall Street Journal, "Obama Forms Group to Coordinate Gas-Drilling Policy"
And a critique on the political rhetoric from The Atlantic Wire, "Obama Still Can't Bring Himself to Say 'Fracking'":
Obama does not often use the word fracking, even when he's talking about it, as The Atlantic Wire pointed out back in January. It just carries too much political baggage, especially since the EPA condemned the practice.
Officially, Friday's order is an "Executive Order Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources." The order says various federal bodies should work together to augment state regulators and oversee gas development on Indian land and other federally managed property. And since there aren't a whole lot of unconventional domestic natural gas resources other than shale reserves, which is where you use fracking to extract gas, this is clearly a fracking task force. Why not just call it that?