White House appealing US courts fracking decision as debate swirls over impact

White House says will continue to defend legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands

fracking

Long Beach fracking opposition

Environmental groups and the Obama Administration say they plan to appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn Bureau of Land Management’s fracking rules.

A ruling an attorney for these groups said the ruling will have far-reaching impacts over future regulation of US oil and gas operations.

The ruling could make many of the existing regulations over fossil fuel production illegal and could severely hinder any future oversight of oil and gas operations, according to Mike Freeman, a Colorado-based attorney with Earthjustice, as reported by Platts.

“We fully anticipated an appeal. Federal regulation of fracking has been a major goal of this administration and environmental groups, and we didn’t expect them to just accept the district court ruling and go home,”  said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs, Western Energy Alliance.

“However, the ruling is extremely strong, and it will be hard for the circuit court to deny the logic. Even if it does, we have another line of defense, which is our arguments challenging procedural failures.”

Sgamma says the district court judge “didn’t even touch our arguments” about the Bureau of Land Management failing to justify the rule and follow regulatory procedures because he was “so convinced by the overriding lack of jurisdiction. Those arguments are strong and remain ripe for judicial review.”

The rules  included new chemical disclosure, and well construction and fluid disposal requirements for fracking operations on federal and Indian land.

Production on those lands only accounts for about 5 per cent of total US oil supply, so the vast majority of fracking is on private land and wouldn’t be affected by the new rules, according to Reuters.

Freeman represents several environmental groups, The Sierra Club, Western Resource Advocates and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who filed notice Monday with the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit for appealing Skavdahl’s ruling.

The ruling comes as many environmental groups have called for a domestic ban on both fracking and oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

frackingHillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has said she would tighten federal regulations on fracking and would only support it under certain conditions, including chemical disclosure requirements.

Mark Barron, who represented industry in the case, says that environmentalists were overstating the scope of Skavdahl’s ruling.

He said the ruling was “fairly narrow” and would not have a broader impact on regulation of the oil and gas sector.

“The Judge could not have been more clear when he ruled, ‘Congress has not directed the BLM to enact regulations governing hydraulic fracturing. Indeed, Congress has expressly removed federal agency authority to regulate the activity, making its intent clear.’ We’re pleased to see the Judge set aside the Interior Department’s final rule as it does not have congressional authority to police this already strictly-regulated practice,” said IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell.

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