US Judge Rejects Fracking Ban on Public Land

  • Robert Lucian Crusitu/ShutterstockRobert Lucian Crusitu/Shutterstock

A US federal judge in the state of Wyoming has struck down an regulation of the administration of President Barack Obama dating from March 2015 that would ban fracking for oil and gas on publicly owned lands. The regulation was due to take effect on Jun. 24 this year and would have required companies to comply with federal safety standards in the construction of fracking wells, as well as disclosing the use of some chemicals in the fracking process.

It was a ruling designed to appease opponents of shale gas exploration wanting to at least protect national parks from the drill. Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, however, said the Interior Department lacked the authority from Congress to issue the regulation. He added that fracking is already subject to other regulations under state and federal law.

If put into place, the administration’s rule would not make a large dent in US fracking activity altogether, as 90% of the drilling takes place on state or private land. The administration is appealing the Wyoming decision to federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, Colorado.

In a statement, the Interior Department said: “It’s unfortunate that implementation of the rule continues to be delayed, because it prevents regulators from using 21st century standards to ensure that oil and gas operations are conducted safely and responsibly on public and tribal lands.”

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which had brought the suit challenging the administration’s regulation over the rule, argued that decisions involving shale exploration are best left to the states.

Both Colorado and Wyoming are fracking-friendly states, as is Wisconsin, the home state of Paul Ryan, speaker of the US House of Representatives and a member of the opposition Republican Party.

Ryan also expressed satisfaction with Judge Skavdahl’s ruling: “Hydraulic fracturing is one of the keys that has unlocked our nation’s energy resurgence in oil and natural gas,” he said, “making the United States the largest energy producer in the world, creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and lowering energy prices for consumers.

Yet the Obama administration has sought to regulate it out of existence. This is not only harmful for the economy and consumers, it’s unlawful – as the court has just ruled.”

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