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Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: Federal Working Group Charged with Oversight of Natural Gas Production

By Sharon Flanery and Armando Benincasa

President Obama has issued a new Executive Order requiring a host of federal agencies to coordinate efforts to oversee natural gas development. The new working group will be headed by White House Energy Advisor Heather Zichal, and will include representatives from a dozen federal agencies, including the Departments of the Interior, Transportation and Energy, as well as a representative from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The order comes as industry criticism of federal agencies continues to increase as duplicative and excessive regulation threaten to stymie a natural gas boom that the President has stated is vital to the security of the nation.

Jack Gerrard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, welcomed the formation of the group and hoped that this would be the beginning of efforts to rein in the activities of the various agencies which are resulting in often unnecessary and overlapping regulation. Dave McCurdy, CEO of the American Gas Association, hoped the group would help promote consistency among the various agencies.

Regardless of the new announcement, it is anticipated that highly stringent new USEPA rules regarding air emissions from hydraulic fracturing and Interior Department rules regarding natural gas drilling on public lands will be issued in the coming weeks again bringing into question the position of the administration with regard to development of natural gas in the United States and the balance it is trying to strike between development and environmental protection.

Click here to read the Executive Order 

Sharon Flanery concentrates her practice in the areas of energy and natural resources law and leads the firm's Energy Team which is primarily focused on assisting developers working in emerging shale plays. As a petroleum engineer with both an operating and legal background in the industry, she brings real world experience to her practice.

Armando Benincasa concentrates his practice in the areas of energy law, environmental law, environmental litigation and administrative law. His practice consists of cases involving permitting and regulatory requirements for solid waste, water resources and voluntary remediation, and the drafting of rules and statutes related to the environment.

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