Federal judge strikes down Obama’s effort to regulate fracking

Photo: Associated Press
1 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Mike Shuster, left, and Lisa Zaccaglini, both of Sharon Springs, N.Y., hold signs during a rally against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the M
2 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
This is one of Chesapeake Energy's hydraulic fracturing operations over the Eagle Ford shale formation near Carrizo Springs, Texas. Hydraulic fracturi
3 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Dust permeates the air at a Chesapeake Energy Co. fracking operation at a well site near Carrizo Springs, Texas Thursday May 5, 2011. The site is over
4 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
An oil worker walks pass the manifold (right) and frac pumps (left) at a Chesapeake Energy hydraulic fracturing operation near Carrizo Springs, Texas
Photo: Associated Press
5 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
A natural gas well operated by Northeast Natural Energy on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. The well is the subject of a dispute over a drilling ban recently
6 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Helge Lund (left), CEO of Norwegian energy company Statoil, speaks with Statoil Joint Venture Manager Cesar Alvarez (facing away) and Talisman Energy
7 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
An oilfield employee works at a Talisman Energy fracking site near Cotulla, Texas. Talisman Energy is working with Norwegian energy company Statoil to
8 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Sandstone is washed and tumbled and put through a series of screens and sieves Wednesday August 31, 2011 until it is broken down into sand particles a
Photo: Associated Press
9 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Protestors scale a shale gas rig at Banks, near Southport, England bringing a halt to work at the Cuadrilla Resources site Wednesday Nov. 2 , 2011.
Photo: staff
10 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
In western New York state near the Pennsylvania border, many signs can be found expressing support for both sides in the hydraulic fracturing debate.
Photo: Associated Press
11 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
FILE - In this April 22, 2008 file photo, a natural gas well pad sits in front of the Roan Plateau near Rifle, Co. The director of the Colorado Oil an
Photo: Associated Press
12 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
FILE- In this photograph taken April 15, 2009, an unidentified worker steps through the maze of hoses being used at a remote fracking site being run b
Photo: Associated Press
13 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
In this July 27, 2011 photo, Range Resources workers stand near the rig that drills into the shale at a well site in Washington, Pa. The company is o
Photo: Associated Press
14 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
In this July 27, 2011 photo, Range Resources site manager Don Robinson stands near the well head by the drill that goes into the shale at a well site
Photo: Getty Images
15 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also
Photo: Getty Images
16 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: New York Senator Tony Avella speaks at a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, i
Photo: Associated Press
17 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
In this photo made on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, a worker walks through a maze of pies connecting storage tanks and pumps in the hydraulic fracturing p
Photo: Associated Press
18 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
In this photo made on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, a worker shovels the powder used to make a mixture with water used in the hydraulic fracturing process
Photo: Albany Times Union
19 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Daniel Morrissey of Latham leads anti-fracking demonstrators organized by Occupy Albany protest in front of the DEC building in Albany,NY Thursday, Ja
Photo: Albany Times Union
20 of 20 | fracking-and-natural-gas-drilling
Abram Loeb of Afton dressed in a decontamination suit joins anti-fracking demonstrators organized by Occupy Albany protest in front of the DEC buildin

A Wyoming federal judge has struck down the Obama administration’s attempt to regulate how oil and natural gas drillers conduct hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

In a ruling Tuesday U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl found found Congress had specifically exempted from federal regulation the practice of fracking, in which water, chemicals and sand are pumped underground at high pressure to release oil and gas from miniature fissures, in a 2005 energy law.

“The issue before this Court is not whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment,” Skavdahl wrote. “The constitutional role of this court is to interpret the applicable statutory enactments and determine whether Congress has delegated to the Department of Interior legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. It has not.”

The Department of Interior did not indicate whether it planned to appeal the ruling. But a spokesperson said the agency disagreed with the judge’s ruling.

“It’s unfortunate that implementation of the rule continues to be delayed because it prevents regulators from using 21st century standards to ensure that oil and gas operations are conducted safely and responsibly on public and tribal lands.”

The department’s Bureau of Land Management released the fracking rule this past March after a four-year review that drew more than a million comments from the public.

In western states like Colorado and Utah, huge swaths of oil and gas deposits are covered by federal lands. As hydraulic fracturing techniques have advanced over the past decade, drillers gained access to shale deposits long though too costly to drill. Ninety percent of oil and gas drilling on federal lands in 2013 involved hydraulic fracturing, the court said.

The fracking regulation had also drawn criticism from politicians, who argued it was likely to hurt an oil and gas boom that had enriched many western states, along with the oil and gas companies operating there.

“Hydraulic fracturing is an integral part of the American energy renaissance and its technological advances have dramatically enhanced America’s energy security,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco, said in a statement. “States have been safely and effectively regulating hydraulic fracturing on both government and privately owned lands for decades.”

The rule’s provision on the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process along with standards on how wells were to be fracked drew immediate industry opposition when it was released in March.

After Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and North Dakota, along with the Ute tribe, sued, Skavdahl granted a motion to temporarily block the government from implementing the rule, a ruling that was made final Tuesday.