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White House Turns Eye to Working Gas Group

White House Turns Eye to Working Gas Group

After months of being bedeviled by high oil prices, the White House has turned its attention to developing an interagency working group to coordinate government's efforts to help industry achieve a 30 Tcf natural gas market by the 2010-2015 period.

"It kind of got off to a slow start because of the oil price problem, but now they're turning to it.....Their charter is to look at the demand and supply of natural gas for the near-term future to see if we have the resources and infrastructure in place to address the expected need," said Drew Malcolm, a spokesman for the Department of Energy (DOE).

The federal government's action is in response to a study by the National Petroleum Council (NPC) in December, which called for the creation of the working group under the auspices of the White House's National Economic Council (NEC).

The NEC working group should create a strategy at the highest level for natural gas in the nation's energy portfolio, the NPC study proposed. It will be "at least six months" before the group unveils such a strategy, Malcolm said.

So far, government agencies that are members of the working group include the Environmental Protection Agency, Treasury Department, Agriculture Department, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and DOE, he noted. The working group also "would like to have industry representation."

Among its key objectives, the working group "wants to look at standardizing the environmental review process" for various gas projects to "reduce delays, overlaps" between federal agencies and between federal and state agencies, according to Malcolm. The group also plans to study gas pipeline access to determine whether there's sufficient existing capacity to deliver production to market.

Susan Parker

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