in issuing rules on fracking. He declared: "Congress has not delegated to the Department of the Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing [fracking]. [Its] effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law."
When the Fracking Rule was originally published by the BLM in March 2015, the Independent Petroleum Association of America immediately filed a suit, which was joined by the states of Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and Utah. Federal Judge Scott Skavdahl, the same judge who ruled on Tuesday, placed a temporary injunction on implementing that rule until he had time to review it in detail. That temporary injunction would have expired last Friday.
Skavdahl didn’t consider the Fracking Rule itself, which would have allowed government bureaucrats to swarm all over some 100,000 oil and gas wells on federal lands while checking for water and chemical leaks; inspecting piping and tubing; and making sure all the new paperwork was in order, which includes listing publicly the various chemicals used in the fracking process. Instead he got to the core issue: Did the Interior Department and its BLM have authority to issue such regulations in the first place?
He said no: "Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by [Obama’s] executive branch does not default authority to [that] branch to act independently, regardless of whether hydraulic fracking is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States."
He tossed out the argument offered by the government that although Congress had specifically deprived the Environmental Protection Agency of any powers to regulate fracking when it passed the Energy Policy (EP) Act in 2005, it said nothing about the Interior Department or the BLM. And so that agency just assumed authority under existing “land management rules." Wrote 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. The Court finds the intent of Congress is clear, so that is the end of the matter."
Not quite. The Obama administration announced the next day that it would appeal the decision. At a briefing on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was explicit: The government must intervene, regardless:
We’ll continue to make our case in the courts. We believe that we have a strong argument to make about the important role that the federal government can play in ensuring that hydraulic fracturing that’s done on public land doesn’t threaten the drinking water of the people who live in the area.
When the Fracking Rule was originally proposed, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the existing federal rules regulating fracking were out-of-date and that her agency had to step in and unilaterally update them: "Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old, and they have simply not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations."
The Rule expanded existing rules that would have forced fracking well operators to submit to government workers inspecting and validating the safety and integrity of the concrete barriers that line fracking wells. Operators would have to publish the chemicals used in their fracking process, meet new safety standards for how they may store chemicals used on site, and submit detailed information on each well’s geology to the BLM.
ndustry. The bans often put communities in direct conflict with states over the right to regulate the oil and gas industry. (See related story: "Health Questions Key to New York Fracking Decision, but Answers Scarce.")
an — known as offshore fracking — is unlikely to have a “significant” impact on the environment.
On Friday, both the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) jointly released an environmental study that looked at the impact of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on marine ecosystems. The report analyzed 23 offshore fracking operations that operated in California between 1982 and 2014, and found that the operations have a minimal impact on the quality of water and ocean health. To the fossil fuel industry, this signals a return to normalcy, as both the BOEM and BSEE will resume approval of offshore fracking permits that they had temporarily suspended while the environmental study was being conducted.
But for environmental groups, the report is a troubling development. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, oil companies have fracked at least 200 wells off the coast of California — and opponents of fracking worry that these operations could be putting both California wildlife, and California residents, at risk.
"Fracking is a really dirty and dangerous
practice that has no place in our ocean"
“I think it’s just absurd that the agency could look at the environmental of offshore fracking and make a finding that there is no significant environmental impact,” Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ThinkProgress.
According to Sakashita, fracking companies are currently allowed to discharge 9 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean each year — and that waste water can include toxic chemicals. There is no limit for the amount of chemicals that companies can discharge into the ocean, and companies are not required to disclose which chemicals they use in their operations.
Environmentalists worry that those chemicals could disrupt sensitive marine ecosystems and threaten ocean health. Nineteen of the 23 existing Pacific offshore fracking platforms in the Pacific are located in the Santa Barbara Channel, which is home to a wealth of marine life, including dolphins, sea lions, and Pacific grey whales. The coast of the Santa Barbara Channel was hit with a massive oil spill last year when a pipeline carrying crude from offshore platforms — some of which also had fracking operations — ruptured, spilling more than 105,000 gallons of crude oil along the beach.
The quake report, which coincided with the state’s announcement of some of the nation’s strictest limits on fracking near faults, marked the strongest link to date between nerve-rattling shakes and hydraulic fracturing -- the process of firing water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to eject oil and natural gas out of ancient rock.
Last month, Ohio indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, including one magnitude-3 temblor that awoke many Ohioans from their sleep.
TPS was created in 2011, in time for our first 9/11 Truth Marathon. Many thanks to Jim and SkyBlueEyes for helping with the background design and layout and Sky, BP, IC Freedom and others for all the hours spent in the Conference room for our Popcorn & Movie Topic Nights.