It’s the same sort of tone the Obama administration has been sounding for awhile now — Obama’s new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has been saying that natural gas can be an important “bridge fuel” as we wend our way to the cleaner, greener technologies of the future — but I’ve still got one eyebrow cocked wondering exactly what it is that “responsible” development is supposed to mean. It’s a slightly more approachable code word for regulation, obviously, but the extent of whatever regulations they have planned (or will eventually invent) is still unclear.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said natural-gas production — with the right safeguards — is a major piece of Obama administration efforts to combat global warming.

“Responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change and support a robust clean energy market at home,” she said Wednesday at a speech in Colorado, according to prepared remarks.

The comments are part of a wider administration effort to cast the U.S. gas production boom as a way to help slow global warming.

They come two weeks after Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz rejected claims that natural gas isn’t helping in the fight against warming due to releases of the potent greenhouse gas methane at wells, transport and processing sites.

The EPA’s attempts at linking groundwater contamination with hydraulic fracturing and subsequently provide excuses for more regulations hasn’t been going too well, and it definitely does sound like they’d like to cautiously market the (ahem, very free-market driven and carbon emission-reducing) shale-gas revolution and not get in its way as part of their (otherwise wimpy, expensive, and top-down) climate strategy, but I’d never put it past the Obama administration to come up with new ways to retard the growth of a burgeoning and economically successful drilling industry — inadvertent or otherwise.

For instance, the DOE did finally approve a third export permit for liquified natural gas last week (companies are required to obtain special permission for exporting LNG to countries with whom the U.S. doesn’t already have certain free-trade agreements), but the general process is moving achingly slowly at the expense of some very real opportunity costs. Via Reuters:

The Obama administration on Wednesday approved natural gas exports from a third U.S. facility, the second permit issued in about three months, triggering debate over whether the review of a long backlog of export applications is picking up steam.

The export terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was given a conditional license from the Department of Energy to ship liquefied natural gas to all countries. The terminal is backed by BG Group Plc and Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Southern Union Co. …

The decision came nearly three months after Freeport LNG’s Quintana Island, Texas, terminal got the go-ahead. This exceeded the eight-week wait that an Energy Department official recently suggested might be necessary between each of the nearly two dozen pending applications. But it still may set the stage for a more predictable review process going forward.

“I think over the next several months we will see the administration move forward with further approvals, particularly now that there is a new energy secretary in place, and the pace at which this happens could also pick up,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former adviser to President Barack Obama.

One would hope so.