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.
ring, or fracking, is taking more than its fair share of their groundwater, exacerbating the drought problems in an already parched region. The Guardian recently reported on the predicament facing a small town in Barnhart, Texas—which "appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking."
And fracking appears to play a role in many of these water shortages elsewhere in the state. Another 30 towns in the state are expected to run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. And about 15 million people are under some form of water rationing, prevented from watering their lawns and the like.
Beverly McGuire, a resident of Barnhart, told the Guardian that her wells ran dry soon after fracking started near her property two years ago. Another local rancher, Buck Owens, had to sell all of his 500 cattle and 90 percent of his goats, because he didn't have enough water to feed them after fracking contractors drilled 104 wells on his land.
nger allowed to ban fracking under a bill signed into law on Friday by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.
The new law prohibits localities from choosing whether or not to have oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions, with exceptions for “reasonable” restrictions like noise and traffic issues. Other than that, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will retain control over oil and gas drilling.
The state commission is run by three elected commissioners, all of whom are Republican. Chairman Bob Anthony is a member of the National Petroleum Council, a group that advises the U.S. Department of Energy on oil and gas industry interests. And Vice Chairman Dana Murphy is a geologist and attorney with “more than 22 years experience in the petroleum industry,” according to her bio page.
Fracking — the process of injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock and release oil and gas — is prolific in Oklahoma, andFallin said the new law would be necessary to prevent a “patchwork of inconsistent municipal regulations across the state.” In addition, Fallin said, allowing cities and towns to have control over whether fracking occurs could “damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers and largest taxpayers.”
Oklahoma is the second state to ban fracking bans. Last month, Texas became the first, when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to prohibit cities from banning the process.
That legislation was a major blow for the city of Denton, Texas, which had already passed a local fracking ban within city limits. Denton is now considering repealing that ban in the wake of Texas’ new law.
Oklahoma’s new ban comes amid warnings from the state’s own government that a recent dramatic spike in earthquakes is linked to wastewaterinjection, a key part of oil and gas activity and particularly fracking. To dispose of the immense amount of water used during fracking, companies inject it underground. Scientists increasingly believe the injections are disrupting faults and triggering quakes.
In saying oil and gas was likely responsible for the state’s earthquake epidemic, the state launched a website in April detailing why earthquakes are happening and what the state is doing to stop them. Letting localities ban fracking, however, is not one of the examples.
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.