Judge Blocks Obama Admin’s New Fracking Regulations


Efforts by the government to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing suffered another blow when a federal court judge blocked the Obama administration’s tougher fracking restrictions.

The preliminary injunction was issued by Judge Scott Skavdahl of the US District Court of Wyoming on Wednesday. He ruled that the department responsible for the new fracking regulations, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), did not actually have the authority to implement them.

In a 54 page decision, the judge wrote: “Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority”

The injunction will come as a blow not just to the Obama administration, but also to environmentalists who have launched aggressive campaigns against fracking.

RT reports: The BLM rules were intended to govern fracking operations on federal land in order to ensure that the oil and gas exploration process does not contaminate water sources. They also required energy companies to inform the public about what kind of chemicals they used during their fracking operations.

According to Skavdahl, the BLM had not been previously involved in regulating the fracking industry and expressed doubt over the agency’s claim that it could do so, particularly since Congress had previously revoked the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory abilities. He said that as a result, “it is hard to analytically conclude that … Congress intended to vest it in the BLM.”

Additionally, the judge said it was likely that opponents of the regulations would succeed in court, fulfilling another reason for the granting of an injunction.

The judge’s ruling will be observed by the BLM while the case plays out in court, the Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over the BLM, told the Hill newspaper.

  • Me Who

    Ogj.com WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 1 10/01/2015 By Nick Snow OGJ Washington Editor

    Sponsors of US Senate and House bills to repeal the 40-year-old ban on exports of US-produced crude oil expect their measures to move ahead soon. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), said the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee planned to mark up her bill, S. 1372, on Oct. 1. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), meanwhile, said his measure, HR 702, could reach the House floor the following week.

    Congress could complete work on a final bill and send it to the White House by yearend, both federal lawmakers told a Sept. 30 Trans-Atlantic Energy Security Forum hosted by LNG Allies. “Stay tuned. I think this issue is moving,” Heitkamp said.

    She noted that she remains the main Democratic cosponsor and a strong supporter of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alas.) bill, S. 2011, which also aims to repeal the crude export ban.

    But Heitkamp said her own bill might stand a better chance because it does not contain provisions which require additional federal offshore oil and gas leasing and address other matters. “That could change as it goes through markup and reaches the Senate floor,” she added. “People in this town say, ‘I get it—but what do I get for it?’”

    Her bill would remove presidential authority to restrict exports not just of crude, but also coal, petroleum products, natural gas, or petrochemical feedstocks; as well as materials and equipment necessary to explore, produce, transport or refine these forms of energy.

    Licenses in special cases

    It also would require a license from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security for crude exports to a country if it is subject to sanctions or trade restrictions imposed by the US; the president or Congress has designated the country to be excluded for national security reasons; or the export concerns withdrawal of crude from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

    Heitkamp said her bill also would give the president authority to ban exports of US-produced crude during a national emergency for up to a year (which could be renewed for additional 1-year periods) if certain circumstances exist. The committee held the markup on Oct. 1, and approved the measure.

    “We’ve been getting a lot of messages from the White House, and I think they’re keeping their powder dry,” Heitkamp said on Sept. 30. “But they also have a growing number of people who get this and understand it has more to do with economics than the environment.”

    Barton, who is chairman-emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which forwarded his measure to the House floor on Sept. 25 along with the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the number of Democrats supporting HR 702 in a House floor vote will be crucial. “There will need to be enough to override a presidential veto if necessary,” he said.

    “We’re in play, and on schedule,” Barton said. “The next step would be the Senate, where at least five Democrats would be needed to even get it considered. I know I’m not supposed to say ‘I told you so,’ but I did a year ago when I said a crude oil export ban repeal bill would clear the House in 2015. People said then that I was crazy, but it looks like it’s going to happen.”