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API Head: Fracking Subcommittee Needs Industry Perspective

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has joined a chorus of critics calling for greater oil and natural gas industry representation on a federal panel charged with reviewing the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) used to develop shale gas.

The producer group further claims that the panel chosen by Energy Secretary Steven Chu would duplicate the efforts of industry, which API said already has developed a blueprint for natural gas and fracking activities. It invited Chu to meet with the oil and gas industry to review existing and recently developed industry guidance documents related to fracking.

Chu announced last week his picks for the seven-member panel, which was heavily weighted in one direction -- mostly scientists and environmentalists who are opposed to fracking (see Shale Daily, May 9). "I was disappointed late last week to learn that the final list of subcommittee participants lacks sufficient industry representation," wrote API President Jack Gerard in a letter to Chu.

The members "provide solid expertise in a number of key areas, but none of them is directly engaged in exploration and production operations -- and certainly not part of the natural gas development in regions like the Marcellus shale, the Barnett shale or the Fayetteville Shale," he said.

"It is important to include the viewpoints and technical expertise of all stakeholders, particularly those in the industry who have already stepped up and created robust standards and best practices for natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In a recent public interview you [Chu] encouraged leaders in our industry to step forward with the best practices to minimize harm to the environment, especially in water supply."

API in February completed a series of industry guidance documents specific to fracking, which Gerard says provide the blueprint for the environmentally sound development of natural gas.

In late March President Obama promoted natural gas as a way forward for the United States and directed Chu to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states and environmental experts to improve the safety of fracking (see Shale Daily, March 31).

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, earlier this month also called on Chu to broaden the membership of the panel to include the oil and gas industry (see Shale Daily, May 11).

Moreover, Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, advocated industry representation on the subcommittee. "It would be helpful if there was more industry experience," and it "might be useful to have some state regulators since they're most familiar" with fracking.

The panel will form a subcommittee of the secretary of energy's advisory board to conduct the review and will identify within 90 days any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of fracking. It will also develop within six months advice to the agencies on practices for shale gas extraction to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.

John Deutch, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, has been named chairman of the group. Other members are Stephen Holditch, head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund; Kathleen McGinty, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Susan Tierney, managing principal at Analysis Group; Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates; and Mark Zoback, professor of geophysics at Stanford University. The group does not include any industry members, as was initially expected.

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