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Energy Secretary Lauds 'Practical' Fracking Report

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu described an initial report on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as "practical, thoughtful and insightful," and said he would work with other officials in the Obama administration to set a course for future shale gas development.

In a 41-page report issued Aug. 11, the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Natural Gas Subcommittee encouraged regulators and the industry to develop and enact a "best practices" strategy on fracking in order to allay public fears of the practice and for shale gas development to be successful (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12).

Chu formed the subcommittee in May following a policy speech by President Obama calling for both increased development and scrutiny of natural gas (see Shale Daily, May 9; April 4; March 31).

"As the president has said, natural gas will continue to play an important role in our nation's energy portfolio, helping create jobs, stimulate the economy and reduce our dependence on imported oil," Chu said. "But the president's commitment to continuing to leverage this abundant domestic fuel source -- and increasing energy independence, creating jobs, and building our 21st century clean energy economy -- is built on our ability, working with industry, to improve the environmental performance of the processes that have allowed us to take full advantage of this important resource."

The subcommittee report, which took 90 days to complete, essentially advocates creating a national culture of continuous technological improvement in the shale gas industry, and having those improvements put into place either at a state or regional level. The report said air and water quality issues were integral to any plan outlining the industry's best practices.

"What we can do now to increase safe and responsible production of natural gas is directly connected to our long-term ability to develop this fuel source," Chu said. "I will be working closely with my colleagues in the administration to review the recommendations and to chart a path for continued development of this vital energy resource in a safe manner."

Other recommendations made by the subcommittee include requiring companies to disclose the chemical contents of fracking fluids, reducing the use of diesel fuel, improved communication between state and federal regulators, minimizing drilling impacts on communities and providing more information on shale gas to the public.

The subcommittee will spend the next three months developing a timeline for federal and state regulatory agencies to implement the recommendations contained in its initial report (see Shale Daily, Aug. 17). A final report is due Nov. 18.

Industry groups were largely supportive of the SEAB subcommittee's report, but the American Petroleum Institute (API) said that many regulatory and industry successes on fracking were overlooked (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18). The API also criticized the makeup of the subcommittee, a grievance it shares with some environmental groups (see Shale Daily, June 7; May 11).

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