The Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior have announced a partnership to coordinate and align research of unconventional natural gas and oil research. Here are the details.
* According to the Department of Energy, technological advancements such as hydraulic fracturing have allowed the expansion of oil and gas development since 2008. Because of that continuing expansion, "it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place -- guided by the best available science," the department stated.
* The Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources was formed by a Memorandum of Agreement in response to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama on Friday.
* The three agencies will create a steering committee to coordinate activities for unconventional oil and gas research, with two members of the committee coming from each agency. In addition, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will also appoint a member to the committee.
* Within six months of its formation, the steering committee will present a draft research plan for public comment. It will also issue an annual public progress report and budget, complete with the status of research under way.
* The steering committee will publish a formal, multiyear research plan within nine months of its formation that will analyze and prioritize research topics relevant to the safety and environmental sustainability of unconventional oil and natural gas exploration and production, the agreement stated.
* According to the agreement, the Department of Energy will provide expertise in the areas of wellbore integrity, flow and control; green technologies; and systems engineering, imaging and materials.
* The Department of Interior -- through the United States Geological Survey -- will provide its expertise in resource assessment; geology and hydrology; and land use, wildlife and ecologic impact from activities associated with shale gas and tight oil production.
* Through the partnership, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to conduct research regarding the environmental and human health risk; air and water quality aspects of unconventional natural gas and oil exploration and production.
* According to a White House blog post, a key part of President Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy strategy is expansion of America's energy resources, which includes the safe development of domestic natural gas resources that hold "unique promise to fuel our energy sector, fuel our vehicles, as well as job growth - all while reducing harmful emissions."