Obama seeks middle ground with EPA natural gas drilling rule

The Obama administration's decision on Wednesday to delay the toughest mandate in the first new federal regulation of of the natural gas boom won mixed reactions from industry and environmental groups.

The regulation would cut 95 percent of emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic chemicals from the hydraulic fracturing of shale -- but it would also delay until 2015 a requirement that operators capture gas released during drilling operations.

The decision was a partial victory for the oil and gas sector, and came as President Barack Obama seeks to encourage natural gas as an alternative to coal. The American Petroleum Institute and natural gas trade groups had lobbied intensely for more time to comply with the an earlier proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that operators immediately separate out pollution at well sites.

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