By Andrew Restuccia – 04/13/12, The Hill
President Obama signed an executive order Friday establishing a high-level task force charged with coordinating federal oversight of domestic natural-gas development.
The task force is charged with ensuring that rapidly growing efforts to tap vast natural-gas supplies in the country’s shale formations, which require advanced drilling techniques including “fracking,” are “safe and responsible.”
The order seeks to find a balance between encouraging expanded domestic natural-gas development, a position Obama has touted in a series of speeches in recent months, and ensuring that the administration protects the public.
“[I]t is vital that we take full advantage of our natural gas resources, while giving American families and communities confidence that natural and cultural resources, air and water quality, and public health and safety will not be compromised,” the order says.
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.