The long-discussed possibility of a merger between the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) is now a reality, with the organizations announcing Wednesday that they would combine into a single trade association effective Jan. 1.

As anticipated, ANGA would fold into API but would continue to represent and promote the nation’s independent natural gas producers. Under the agreement, approved by both organizations’ boards, ANGA’s mission would be handled by a new market development group at API led by current ANGA President Marty Durbin. ANGA members who are not already a part of API would become full members.

“There is a natural synergy between our organizations,” said API CEO Jack Gerard. “As a single organization, the combined skills and capabilities bring an enhanced advocacy strength to natural gas market development — ANGA’s primary mission — and the combined association’s expanded membership will provide additional lift to API’s ongoing efforts on important public policy issues.”

Rumors of an ANGA-API merger emerged in September (see Shale Daily, Sept. 10). Another source that works closely with ANGA told NGI’s Shale Daily at the time that merger rumors had swirled for years. However, a plunge in oil prices in 2014 and a more sustained decline in natural gas prices, which began around the time ANGA was formed in 2009, made the merger a necessity, sources had said.

The merger comes at a time of industry retrenchment as producers have been slashing budgets, cutting their workforces and searching for ways to stretch cash and credit, pinching discretionary spending for things like public advocacy. At one point, ANGA had more than 20 members, but that number has since fallen to 17.

Durbin, who became ANGA CEO in 2013, previously worked as API’s executive vice president for a short time under Gerard. Gerard also previously served as CEO of the American Chemistry Council at a time when Durbin was that organization’s vice president of federal relations.

“Marty will be essential to our continued, and now combined, efforts to advance natural gas market development,” Gerard said.

The merger also allows ANGA and its members an opportunity to access an older and more established organization with a network that extends throughout the country to nearly all corners of the oil and gas industry. API, which has more than 625 members at large integrated companies that include producers, refiners, marketers, midstreamers and supply firms, was founded in 1919 and wields significant power on Capitol Hill and through its affiliates in states across the country.

Since its inception, ANGA has focused heavily on liquefied natural gas exports, transportation, power generation and supply reliability, a mission that crosses with some of API’s focus. The organizations said they’ve long collaborated on environmental, economic, energy and consumer issues.

“ANGA was founded in 2009 at the beginning of the shale energy revolution, and its members were visionary regarding the benefits natural gas would bring to our energy supply and our economy,” Durbin said. “Combining these two associations continues that vision by recognizing how best to organize for maximum effect.”