For Fracking's Sake, Another 'Burdensome' Environmental Regulation Repealed

The first and only federal regulation overseeing the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands has been withdrawn upon orders issued by Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior.

March 20, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

The Trump Administration informed an appeals court on March 15 that it is rescinding a landmark Obama-era rule that ensured that fracking for oil and gas on federal and Indian lands was done in an environmentally responsible manner.

As posted in March 2015 after the "Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands Rulewas approved, the energy industry immediately filed suit against the landmark rule. They were particularly upset with the disclosure aspect of the new rule. At the same time, environmental groups were disappointed that the disclosure aspect wasn't made public enough

The two energy industry groups prevailed in June 2016 in U.S. District Court of Wyoming. A judge ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management doesn't have the authority to establish rules over fracking on federal and Indian lands. The Justice Department, on behalf of BLM, appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, but the court hearing was delayed until March, when the Trump administration would be in charge.

On March 15, the Trump administration informed the court that it wanted to withdraw the appeal as it is rolling back the fracking rule, reports the Associated Press. However, it's not that easy to just dismiss the appeal, even if the appellant is no longer interested in contesting the district court outcome.

"A panel of judges granted the administration's request to put off oral arguments but denied its motion to put the case on hold indefinitely," reports Ellen M. Gilmer for E&E News. "Instead, the court will order the parties to file supplemental briefs and will reschedule oral arguments after those are filed."

Environmental lawyers hope the court allows them to continue defending the fracking rule even if Interior no longer supports it.

As far as repealing the rule itself, the Justice Department "said that Interior would formally propose to repeal the rule within 90 days," reports Timothy Cama for The Hill. "That will start a process, likely to take a year or more, of undoing a rule that was a high priority for Obama and took [over three] years to write."

The fracking rule is not the first the interior secretary has rolled back. On his first day in office, Zinke ordered the rescission of guidance issued by the Fish & Wildlife Service under the Obama Administration to phase out the use of toxic, lead ammunition on federal lands.

Friday, March 17, 2017 in E&E News [Subscription]

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