Judge Blocks Obama Admin’s New Fracking Regulations

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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.

Niamh Harris
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