Date ArticleType
6/22/2016 Member News
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: U.S. Court Sets Aside Obama Administration Fracking Rules for Public Lands

U.S. court sets aside  Obama administration fracking rules for public lands

  • By David Bailey • Reuters

    A federal judge in Wyoming has set aside new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a victory for oil and gas producers who vehemently opposed the rules.

    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management lacked congressional authority to set the rules that cover the practice on federal and Indian lands, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming ruled on Tuesday.

    The Interior Department's rules, issued in their final form in March 2015, required companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally owned land.

    Skavdahl put the rules on hold a year ago to weigh requests from energy industry groups and four states to stop them from being implemented. He issued a preliminary injunction against the rules in September and made it permanent in Tuesday's decision.

    Skavdahl said the issue before the court was not whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad, but whether Congress gave the Interior Department legal authority to regulate the practice. "It has not," he said.

    "The BLM's effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law," he said.

    Proponents say regulations are needed to reduce potential pollution from fracking, which involves injection at high pressure of water, sand and chemicals underground. Opponents say fracking has helped drive a boom in U.S. oil production, lowering energy costs and providing jobs.

    The government's appeal of last year's injunction is pending at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan praised the ruling for acknowledging lawmakers' powers and protecting "the energy revolution from the heavy hand of big government."

    In a statement, Ryan said: "Only Congress can write laws. Agencies acting without authority from Congress is simply illegal."

    The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance were joined by Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in seeking to block the rules.

    "We're overjoyed with the ruling," said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance.

    Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said the group believed the bureau had the authority to make the rules and remained hopeful the appeals court would uphold the rule.

    Representatives for the Interior Department and the White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York.