US oil, gas lobby reports better relations with administration

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 8, 2013 6:51pm EST

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WASHINGTON Jan 8 (Reuters) - The sometimes chilly relations between the top oil and gas lobbying group and the Obama administration have warmed considerably over recent months, the head of the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday.

The group's president predicted that the industry and federal government would be able find areas of agreement at a time when the United States is expected to continue its drive toward energy independence.

Since Obama was re-elected in November, the API has been meeting with administration officials on at least a weekly basis, said API president Jack Gerard.

"The dialogue has produced some changes in some of their regulatory approach," Gerard said, without offering specifics. "Some of that is a better realistic understanding of who the industry is and what it takes to produce the energy."

Gerard was one of the most outspoken critics of energy policy during President Barack Obama's first term.

Oil and gas drillers had complained the White House was too focused on renewable energy, to the detriment of fossil fuels. They pointed to the choice of renewables advocate Steven Chu as energy secretary.

The API took special exception to the administration's restrictions on offshore drilling and its decision to opt for a more lengthy review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"I believe moving forward that we will be able to find some common ground," Gerard told reporters after giving the group's annual address on the state of American energy.

In the run-up to November's presidential election, the White House stressed its support for the America's booming shale oil and gas development.

Obama's "full throated" endorsement of oil and gas production on the campaign trail was an acknowledgement of how the rapid expansion of shale development has changed the U.S. energy outlook, Gerard said.

The administration made some concessions to oil and gas industry concerns in 2012, giving drillers more time to comply with clean air rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and proposing rules that would not require drillers on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing until after they complete the drilling process.

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