Judge Delays Obama Fracking Rule Until After Trump Takes Office


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A federal judge delayed President Barack Obama’s hydraulic fracturing regulation for two months, meaning President-elect Donald Trump will be responsible for its implementation.

Trump could nullify Obama’s rule by instructing the solicitor general not to defend it. The rule in question restricts fracking on public lands.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lawyers attempted to get the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to overturn a Wyoming court’s decision halting the agency’s fracking rules. The Wyoming court issued a stay against BLM last year and chastised the agency for regulatory overreach, saying it “does not believe Congress has granted or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate fracking.”

“We were fully prepared to defend the ruling and present our arguments on January 17th,” Neal Kirby, communications director for the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) which is party to the suit, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That said, the Tenth Circuit’s ruling can be interpreted as recognizing the important separation of powers arguments at stake in the appeal and the need to ensure that enough time is provided so that all parties’ perspectives are fully and fairly considered.”

BLM’s legal arguments perplexed the lawyers representing Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota and Utah. Those states all sued to stop the agency from implementing the rule. Other parties suing the government were the Ute Indian tribe and pro-industry groups like the Western Energy Alliance and IPAA.

“This is a positive sign that the rule may ultimately go away,” Chris Warren, a spokesperson for the free-market Institute for Energy Research (IER), told TheDCNF. “It means that the Trump administration can ask that the regulation be remanded to the Interior Department for reconsideration. Given President-elect Trump’s pro-growth and pro energy message, it’s very likely that his administration will take this in a much different direction.”

Environmentalists sided with BLM as part of a general push for federal regulations on fracking. Both The Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed a brief in support of the regulations.

BLM’s brief openly admits its assertion that fracking poses a risk to groundwater is “controversial”and goes against scientific evidence.

“We remain confident in the merits of our case,” Kirby continued. “The federal government’s efforts are duplicative and not needed. States are – and have for over 60 years been – in the best position to safely and effectively regulate hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Environmentalists have a long history of failing to stop fracking in court.

Environmental groups like The Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Earthworks vehemently supported attempts to ban fracking. However, Colorado’s Supreme Court struck down attempts by local governments to ban fracking in May, causing other state and federal courts to follow suit. These courts have repeatedly found that only state governments have the legal authority to regulate fracking, as any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.” The oil and gas industry has historically been regulated by state, not local, government.

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