Judge Rules To Temporarily Block Federal Fracking Regulations


Rules for fracking on federal land won’t go into effect Wednesday as planned, after a federal judge in Wyoming issued a temporary block of the rules late Tuesday. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl’s decision to issue a temporary stay on the rule wasn’t the full injunction that oil companies had called for in court. But the decision does mean that, while the stay is in place — which will be at least a month, the Casper Star Tribune reports — oil and gas permitting on public lands will go on under existing regulations, instead of under the new regulations. Skavdahl’s decision was based partially on the fact that the government hasn’t yet filed records on how the rule was created, so the judge wanted to give the government more time to do so. Afterward, he’d be able to adequately examine the oil industry’s legal argument. The Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas trade group, praised the judge’s decision, as did Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), who’s opposed to the federal rules. Oil industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, have claimed that the regulations will increase costs and delays on fracking projects. Environmental groups weren’t as happy, however. The Sierra Club called the judge’s ruling a “setback for our public lands.” “While these regulations didn’t go far enough to protect public health, they were a first and necessary step in reining in the dirty and dangerous oil and gas industry, and would begin to hold them accountable for the pollution they cause,” the group said in a statement. “Fracking needs more regulation, not less.” The argument that the fracking regulations, issued in March by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), don’t go far enough is common among environmentalists. The rule forces oil and gas companies to disclose all chemicals they use in fracking operations on public lands such as national forests. Companies are also prohibited under the rule from storing fracking wastewater in open pits on public lands, and periodic testing of well integrity — in an attempt to prevent pollution — will also be required. Some environmental groups acknowledged that the regulation was a good step, but others were more forthright in their opposition, saying that they would rather see fracking banned on public lands. “Our precious public lands have been sacrificed by the Obama Administration for the short-term profit of the oil and gas industry,” said Food and Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter in a press release that was co-signed by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other groups. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell defended the rules after they came out, saying that the regulations’ requirements that wastewater must be disposed of properly and chemicals must be disclosed were important for public safety. “It’s been four or five years in the making,” she said of the rules “It’s really important that the public be reassured that groundwater is protected, that frack fluids are disclosed in terms of whats in them, and their disposed of properly.” Lawsuits against the rule were filed almost immediately after the rule was released. The lawsuits that Judge Skavdahl ruled on this week were brought by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance. Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah filed a separate lawsuit against the rule, but the judge combined the two challenges in his ruling. The oil industry lawsuit argued that the BLM didn’t follow proper rule-making procedures in crafting the rule, and the states argued that the BLM doesn’t have the power to regulate fracking. The post Judge Rules To Temporarily Block Federal Fracking Regulations appeared first on ThinkProgress.


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