Last week President Obama signed an executive order to coordinate the Administration’s activities on natural gas development. The order will convene the Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources, and will bring together at least 13 federal agencies. The working group will coordinate interagency policy, work to share scientific, environmental, technical and economic information, and engage in long term planning with regards to research, natural resource assessment, and the development of infrastructure.

The order states that “States are the primary regulators of onshore oil and gas activities,” but that “the Federal Government has an important role to play by regulating oil and gas activities on public and Indian trust lands.” The Department of the Interior is set to release rules on well casing, wastewater disposal and fracking fluid disclosure, and the EPA is expected to issue new air standards for gas operations.

Industry groups expressed support for the Administration’s executive order, particularly its acknowledgment of the role of states in regulating natural gas production. Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute, said “There are already strong state regulatory systems in place. Adding potentially redundant federal regulation could stifle the kind of investment that has led to lower energy prices for consumers, more American jobs, and increased energy security.” A statement from Regina Hopper, President and CEO of America’s Natural Gas Alliance noted that “each state has different geological conditions and state regulators have the on-the-ground presence and expertise to promulgate and oversee unique operating requirements.”

House Speaker John Boehner saw the executive order as a step in the wrong direction, saying “We don’t need another working group, or any more bureaucracy.”

What’s the proper role of the federal government in overseeing natural gas production? Is this executive order a step in the right direction?