A group of senators and House members from the Northeast and Midwest have called on Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to restore an interagency working group on natural gas within 60 days.

In mid-September, “members of our staffs met with representatives from the department’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas regarding this [energy] crisis and the administration’s efforts to address rising prices. We were dismayed to learn that the administration decided to discontinue the interagency working group,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and 10 other lawmakers in a letter to Abraham earlier this month.

Abraham created the interagency working group in May, with FERC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Commerce, Interior and Agriculture departments serving as members.

Reinstating the working group “must be a priority for the administration to take a closer look at how [the] energy costs are affecting our communities as well as our country’s economic recovery,” they told the secretary.

“Today, the increasing use of natural gas for electricity generation and other uses is pushing the price of natural gas to painfully high levels. The U.S. now has the highest natural gas prices in the industrialized world, forcing companies to postpone plant expansions or to shift jobs overseas to countries with greater supply and lower energy prices. Natural gas prices have also driven up the costs for farmers…These higher prices are having an alarming effect on well-paying American jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and continue to cause economic strain on working families and seniors.”

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