A federal judge in Wyoming has temporarily blocked implementation of new rules governing fracking on federal lands. They stated the focus of the rules was to provide disclosure to the public of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, strengthen regulations related to well-bore integrity, and address issues related to water produced during oil and gas operations.
The judge agreed with their argument that Congress has not given the federal Bureau of Land Management the authority to regulate fracking, the process of injecting a mixture of water, chemicals and proppant, such as sand, into shale deep underground.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction, halting the Interior Department’s ability to carry out the rules. “And they are among the most environmentally protective in the country”. During the Bush administration, fracking was largely exempted from federal regulation unless diesel fuel was also being pumped into the ground, though the extent of that exemption remains the subject of debate.
“Today’s decision essentially shows BLM’s efforts are not needed and that states are – and have for 60 years been – in the best position to safely regulate hydraulic fracturing”, Eshelman said.
“Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through Congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority”, he wrote. The judge’s ruling means the BLM’s rules won’t take effect while litigation is pending.
“While the matter is being resolved, the BLM will follow the court’s order and will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect well sites under its pre-existing regulations”.
“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”.
“That translates into increased costs for energy consumers”.
“When the Department of the Interior released its fracking rule last spring I called for the agency to allow states like North Dakota, whose statewide regulations already respect local geological and environmental concerns, to opt out as blanket federal rules don’t always govern best, and can create expensive and time-consuming redundancies”.
The judge’s ruling will be observed by the BLM while the case plays out in court, the Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over the BLM, told the Hill newspaper. Western Energy Alliance was among challengers of the rule, and is an organization that represents more than 4,000 energy companies in the Rocky Mountain Region.