Federal Court Blocks Obama Administration Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal Court Blocks Obama Administration Fracking Rule.

WASHINGTON—A federal judge in Wyoming on Wednesday blocked an Interior Department rule setting stricter standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, the second major Obama administration rule rebuked by the courts in as many months. Bureau of Land Management overstepped its authority to implement new fracking rules on federal land. “An administrative agency derives its existence and authority to regulate from Congressional authorization or delegation,” U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the regulation, saying the Interior Department lacks the authority to issue the rule.

He issued the injunction because he decided the states and industry groups suing against the rule proved it would harm their operations and that their lawsuit is likely to succeed on its merits. In his summary of the issues, Skavdahl wrote the Department of Interior’s BLM had worked for a year collecting comments and research in developing regulations they regarded as necessary to oversee hydraulic fracking used in drilling for oil and gas on federal lands. On March 26, they issued their final version of the the regulations dealing with wellbore construction, chemical disclosures and water management, which were already subject to federal regulations.

The rules look to regulate well design and set requirements for the disposal of fracking wastewater, as well as require drillers to disclose what chemicals they use in their operations. When they announced the rule, Interior Department officials said it was meant to protect the environment and update old federal standards in light of new fracking technologies. They said the BLM was overstepping its regulatory authority by wanting to duplicate the states’ own work in regulating fracking, which in turn would lead to more bureaucracy and could cut mineral tax revenues. In June, Skadvahl blocked the rule hours before it was scheduled to take effect so he could later rule on the injunction request against it. “We are overjoyed that we are finally getting relief from the courts regarding the regulatory overreach of the Obama Administration,” said Kathleen Sgamma, the vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance. “The United States has experienced a regulatory onslaught from an administration that acts as if it is not bound by the limits of the law.

In late August, another federal judge blocked an Environmental Protection Agency rule that seeks to put more bodies of water and wetlands under federal protection. The BLM also fell short of showing environemental harm from fracking, the judge wrote. “The BLM fails to reference a single confirmed case of the hydraulic fracturing process contaminating groundwater.” The petitioners showed they likely would suffer irreparable harm because the regulations would infringe on the states’ and the tribe’ sovereignty and their own regulations of fracking, Skavdahl wrote.

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