The Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to wipe out environmental regulations governing energy and other industries continued this week with a decision by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to rescind a 2015 fracking rule.
That rule, drafted by the Obama administration, added regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal and Native American land. It was applauded by environmentalists and immediately attacked by energy industry lobbyists.
According to The Hill, the rule “focused mainly on three areas: mandating that companies disclose the chemicals they use to frack, requiring them to cover surface ponds that house fracking fluids and setting standards for the construction of the wells.”
However, a federal judge in Wyoming halted the rule before it took effect and then overturned it in 2016. That ruling was under ongoing appeal. But according to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) notice on Thursday, which will become official after being published in the Federal Register on Friday, the rule now will be permanently rescinded, regardless of the court battle.
In its decision, the BLM claimed that the Obama-era rule duplicated many state regulations and voluntary actions by private fracking companies. Environmentalists dispute this claim.
The notice also pointed out that an executive order issued by President Donald Trump last March called on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review four specific rules, including the 2015 rule. The next day, Zinke issued his own order that “directed the BLM to proceed expeditiously in proposing to rescind the 2015 rule.”
“The BLM believes that it is not only better policy to rescind the 2015 rule to relieve operators of duplicative, unnecessary, costly and unproductive regulatory burdens, but it also eliminates the need for further litigation about BLM’s statutory authority,” the notice stated.
In a statement published by The Hill, Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said, “The rescinding of this burdensome rule, which was never enacted due to IPAA and Western Energy Alliance’s ongoing legal challenge, will save our member companies and those operating on federal lands hundreds of millions of dollars in compliance costs without any corresponding safety benefits.”
Environmentalists have a different take. According to Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, “The Trump administration is endangering public health and wildlife by allowing the fracking industry to run roughshod over public lands,” The Hill reported.
Read more about the Obama-era rule and the BLM’s decision here.