White House Strips Fracking Regulations From Federal Lands

December 29, 2017

As posted in the Federal Register, the Trump administration has rescinded the 2015  rule meant to standardize safety and environmental regulations on all federal lands where oil and gas extraction production takes place.

The need for standardized regulations is readily apparent. Of the 32 states where hydraulic fracturing on federal land takes place, only California, Montana and Wyoming require a permit for fracking operations. Oklahoma and Colorado need only to notify authorities before beginning operations, and New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas and Utah are not required to tell anyone what they are doing.

On Thursday, the US Department of the Interior moved to rescind an Obama-era rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands after a three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by the Indian tribes and environmental groups to have the full court hear their appeal of a lower court's decision to reject the case, declining to her further appeals.

Following that, the Interior's Bureau of Land Management released a notice of its intent to publish a final rule in the Federal Register Friday, formally stripping away the fracking rule. The rule had been scheduled to go into effect in 2015, but was never implemented because of court challenges by Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, along with the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah.

"With this final rule, the BLM is rescinding the 2015 rule because we believe it imposes administrative burdens and compliance costs that are not justified," the BLM notice said.

According to the BLM's own findings, the 2015 rule would have added $9,690 to the cost of drilling a well - about 0.1 percent of the total of drilling a new well.

Opponents to the final rule are expected to sue. “The Trump administration is endangering public health and wildlife by allowing the fracking industry to run roughshod over public lands,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said Thursday. “Fracking is a toxic business, and that’s why states and countries have banned it. Trump’s reckless decision to repeal these common-sense protections will have serious consequences.”

Earlier this week, the Trump administration moved to remove the word 'safe' from offshore oil and gas drilling requirements. Trump’s Interior Department is also moving to expand drilling not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but eventually in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. 

image: United Nations Radio