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Judge Strikes Down Federal Fracking Rule

Fracking

The Western Energy Alliance announced Wednesday that it had won a major court case involving hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” On Tuesday, a District Court Judge in Wyoming struck down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rule.

In the decision, the judge said that the agency does not have the authority from Congress to regulate fracking, stating that “Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The BLM's effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”

In March of 2015, a lawsuit was filed by the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) against the BLM after the rule was announced. The suit alleged that the BLM’s rulemaking was “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.”

The BLM’s fracking rule required oil and natural gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process, and to follow specified storage protocols for recovered wastewater, cement barriers between wells and water zones, as well as disclose the locations of existing wells.

The suit requested that the BLM’s regulations be set aside, claiming that the administrative record in the issue did not have any factual, scientific or engineering data to justify the action. Suits were filed by the states of Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and Utah. The Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Tribe also filed suits.

Related: Shell’s Ambitious Plan To Topple Exxon

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance stated: “We're overjoyed with the ruling. The judge determined that the federal government lacks the authority to regulate fracking, period. He decided exclusively on statutory authority, so there's nothing to remand, no do over. He didn't even rule on our technical Administrative Procedures Act arguments, which we believe are still strong and represent another line of defense if BLM appeals to the circuit court.”

Sgamma added: “States have shown they’ve successfully regulated fracking with no incidence of contamination in the 70-year history. BLM failed to show any gap in state regulation. In fact, the agency couldn’t point to a single incident on public lands to justify the new rule.”

The Alliance anticipates that the Department of the Interior will appeal the ruling.

Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com

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