In a blow to environmentalists calling on the Obama administration to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a judge on Tuesday struck down as unlawful the new rule meant to regulate fracking on federal lands.
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The decision from Judge Scott Skavdahl of the District Court of Wyoming “is a major loss for the administration, which worked for years to update its oil and natural gas drilling regulations to account for dramatic increases and innovations in fracking,” The Hill reports.
The rules released in March 2015 were blasted at the time as “toothless” and “nothing more then a giveaway to the oil and gas industry.” But Skavdahl, siding with industry groups and some western states, said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—which resides within the federal Department of the Interior—lacked the authority to implement even these loophole-ridden rules.
“Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing,” Skavdahl wrote in his opinion (pdf) published late Tuesday. “The BLM’s effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”
Previously, Skavdahl placed a temporary injunction on the fracking rule, which remains under review by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
And that is where Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, believes the final determination will be made. Describing Skavdahl’s ruling as “illogical” and “absurd” Snape told Common Dreams the fracking rule “will prevail” before the three judges of the 10th Circuit.
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