A Wyoming judge has struck down the Obama administration’s regulations on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” ruling that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doesn’t have the power to set rules over the industry on federal and Indian lands.
Free Confidential Lawsuit Evaluation: If your home or community was affected by air or water contamination caused by fracking, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.
What’s the Problem?
June 22, 2016 – U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl said in the ruling (PDF) that Congress hadn’t granted the Bureau of Land Management authority over fracking, and had instead ruled to specifically exclude the process from federal regulation, according to NPR.
“The issue before this Court is not whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States,” Skavdahl said. “The question, instead, is whether Congress has delegated to the Department of Interior legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. It has not.”
The regulations at issue include a requirement that drilling companies disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process. They also specify storage procedures for reclaimed fracking wastewater, cement barriers between wells and water zones, and the disclosure of well locations.
“The rules attempted to address a boom in the industry,” said Giles Snyder of NPR. “But opponents, including the states of Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, argued the administration overstepped its bounds.”
Those 4 states, along with the Ute Indian tribe brought the issue before the court, and the judge agreed that the BLM and Department of Interior had never been granted the power to regulate the fracking industry.
Prior to 2005, that would have been the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is authorized to protect underground water sources.
EPA didn’t considered fracking to be within its regulatory jurisdiction until the late 1990s, when a court ruled that the agency was responsible for regulating it. Then Congress passed the bipartisan Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PDF), which “expressly and unambiguously” excludes fracking from the oil and gas production industries that EPA has control over, according to Skavdahl. The only exception is fracking using diesel fuel, which is still regulated by the agency.
The cumulative result is that fracking is regulated by the states, and because Congress specifically revoked federal authority to oversee the industry, lawmakers weren’t interested in another federal agency stepping in and taking on the role, according to Skavdahl.
“The BLM has attempted an end-run around the 2005 EP Act; however, regulation of an activity must be by Congressional authority, not administrative fiat,” Skavdahl said. “The Court finds the intent of Congress is clear, so that is the end of the matter.”
Do I Have a Fracking Lawsuit?
The Class Action Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in fracking lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new air and water contamination cases in all 50 states.
Free Confidential Case Evaluation: Again, if were harmed by the hydraulic fracturing process, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.