Fracking gets the Obama treatment

  • Published on April 13th, 2012

fracking graphic Some rights reserved by darthpedriusNatural gas fracking is spreading wildly, with very little oversight – especially in states like Pennsylvania, which was pretty much bought outright by the energy industry in the 2010 election.

Now, President Obama appears to be making moves to take up some of that slack. He signed an executive order today that sets up a high-level task force to coordinate some supervision of this activity across the various federal agencies involved.

The goal, according to the order:

“[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.”

On the one hand the order says the government will encourage gas use and research “improving the safety of natural gas development and transportation activities”; on the other, it calls for “setting sensible, cost-effective public health and environmental standards to implement Federal law and augment State safeguards.”

So this isn’t exactly a tree-hugger move – Interior coordinated with the American Petroleum Institute, the American Gas Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.

And the announcement was praised by Business Roundtable president John Engler (the former GOP governor of Michigan), who added,

“Business Roundtable CEOs recently discussed with the President how federal handling of this technology threatened to become burdensome, with overlapping authorities and unnecessary and duplicative rules. We hope this working group can cut through these complications and ultimately encourage further investment in the energy sector.”

Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute also praised the panel: “We’ve been expressing major concern and he heard us. The message is we’re going to do it thoughtfully, but we’re serious about development of this vast resource. This is an acknowledgement that his team understands what we’ve been talking about.”

But that didn’t stop Erika Johnson at from firing her full bank of photon torpedoes at the President:

It must be the optimist in me, but I thought that maybe, just this once, the Obama administration might actually do something mildly intelligent in their energy policy and just leave natural gas be… But I underestimated the environmental lobby’s capricious influence over government policy, and now the Obama administration is trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

… It’s a conniving bit of strategery and, I might add, completely unapproved by Congress. But when has that pesky ol’ legislative branch ever deterred Obama from using his divine right — er, I mean — executive fiat?

To my mind, the camel’s back is officially broken.

Just imagine what she would have said if the Business Roundtable and the API hadn’t been on board….

fracking graphic Some rights reserved by pingtingA few of the steps that are coming:

  • The EPA is scheduled to release new regulations on fracking wells to cut air emisisons.
  • The Interior Department is putting together rules for fracking on public lands, including Indian trust lands.
  • The EPA is conduction a study on public health impacts of the toxic soup of volatile liquids used as part of the fracking process.

According to The Hill,

The task force is being run through the Domestic Policy Council and will be chaired by White House energy adviser Heather Zichal. Members will include “deputy-level representatives” from the Defense Department, Energy Department, Interior Department, Commerce Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other federal agencies.

It will also include reps from the Council on Environmental Quality and National Economic Council.

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(Creative commons images AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by darthpedrius and pingting.)


About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.