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Smart Steps on Natural Gas

The Department of Interior proposes a rule that will require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian trust lands.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

As part of that effort, the Administration has focused on expanding production of natural gas. After all, we have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And this Administration will continue to take steps to develop this energy resource in a way that can help fuel our economy and, according to industry experts, support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

Last year, U.S. natural gas production grew by more than 7 percent in 2011 – the largest year-over-year volumetric increase in history – and easily eclipsed the previous production record set in 1973. As we produce more of this resource in the years ahead, its potential to power everything from our trucks to our factories only grows, while at the same time reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

At the same time, it’s imperative that we develop our natural gas resources in a safe and responsible way. For the Administration, this is a top priority.

So today – following through on a promise that the President made in his State of the Union address – the Department of Interior (DOI) has proposed a rule that will require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian trust lands.

This is a sensible, common sense step that incorporates feedback from the public, industry, tribal representatives, and other key stakeholders andaligns with standards already in place in certain states. Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal, tribal and Indian trust lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to increase oil and gas production. Accordingly, this proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities to ensure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow industry best practices.

Separately, the EPA announced today new draft permitting guidance for using diesel fuel in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing. This guidance is designed to improve compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and strengthen environmental protections consistent with existing law.

These steps build on a series of recent actions to promote prudent natural gas development in the United States. Just last month, the President issued an Executive Order to create a new Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources, which will coordinate the efforts of federal agencies responsible for overseeing domestic natural gas development.

Moving forward, we will take full advantage of our natural gas resources, while giving American families and communities the confidence that natural and cultural resources, air and water quality, and public health and safety will not be compromised.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change