Obama administration’s new fracking rules blocked by U.S. judge in Wyoming

New federal fracking regulations were blocked by a U.S. judge in Wyoming who said the government’s Bureau of Land Management lacks the authority to control hydraulic fracturing.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl puts on hold the most closely-watched effort by the Obama administration to ensure that fracking doesn’t contaminate water supplies. While the rules apply only on federal lands, they are designed to spur states to toughen their safety protections as well.

Skavdahl had issued a provisional order putting the regulations on hold on June 23, the day before they were scheduled to take effect. His decision comes in a pair of lawsuits, one pursued by the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Utah, and another by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance.

They argued that the regulations duplicated state rules and increased costs of extracting resources from oil-rich shale formations in the U.S.

“Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority,” Skavdahl said in a 54-page decision.

The lead case is State of Wyoming v. U.S. Department of the Interior, 15-cv-43, U.S. District Court, District of Wyoming (Casper).

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