I mentioned earlier today that the President issued an executive order to create an interagency working group to oversee hydraulic fracturing, the process used in extracting natural gas. This order creates no regulations on fracking on federal lands, or on the development of environmental and public health standards associated with fracking generally. It just coordinates the “Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources,” between 13 different federal agencies and headed up by the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
None of those 13 federal agencies included the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a division within the Office of Management and Budget (which is one of the agencies on the working group) headed up by Cass Sunstein, whose job is to review all federal regulations. I’ve written about Sunstein and OIRA in the past. They have become a bottleneck stopping regulatory advancements in the Obama Administration.
So it’s not surprising that, on the same day as this executive order, here comes Cass Sunstein, meeting with industry trade groups about fracking and natural gas development. What is surprising is that I didn’t find out about this from a Freedom of Information Act or a secret investigation. No, the White House released a readout on the meeting:
Today, OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate policy Heather Zichal convened a White House meeting with key stakeholders, including representatives from the American Chemistry Council, the American Gas Association, the American Natural Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers, to discuss the recently issued Executive Order supporting safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources. The new Executive Order establishes a deputy-level interagency working group to coordinate policy and to promote sensible, cost-effective approaches.
So the very first thing done in the wake of this interagency working group is that Cass Sunstein gets in a room with the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and every other lobbyist with a tenuous connection to fracking. And they’re downright proud of it! They’re loudly announcing it in press releases!
You know who I didn’t see in that meeting? The Natural Resources Defense Council. The Sierra Club, Water Defense, Josh Fox. Strangely enough, their concerns have nothing to do with the “safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources.”