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Natural Gas Lobbyist Takes on Obama on Fracking

The new head of a U.S. natural gas trade group said he will seek to raise the industry’s visibility as the Obama administration considers regulations that may limit hydraulic fracturing for the fuel.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which includes Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. among its members, today named Marty Durbin as chief executive officer. Durbin, 47, is the nephew of Richard Durbin, the second-ranking U.S. Senate Democrat.

Durbin takes over the Washington-based group as President Barack Obama’s administration considers rules for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas on federal lands. The process forces water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock gas trapped in shale-rock formations, and helped to drive down prices last year to a decade low. Environmentalists say fracking poses pollution risks.

The energy industry has backed state regulations as sufficient to limit the risks, Durbin said.

“The good news about the administration is it recognizes the benefits of natural gas,” Durbin said in an interview.

He said he also expects to promote exports of liquefied natural gas as lawmakers including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, consider limiting the amount sold overseas.

Durbin became executive vice president of government affairs for the American Petroleum Institute in December 2009. He joins the gas group, which represents 27 independent natural gas producers, on May 1.

The administration has delayed issuing proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing.

ANGA spent $2.65 million on lobbying in 2012, less than $7.21 million reported by the American Petroleum Institute, which represents companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

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