By Michael Bastach
President Donald Trump’s administration will give a belated gift to American energy producers and repeal former President Barack Obama-era regulations for hydraulic fracturing operations on federal lands.
The Interior Department is expected to publish a repeal of the rule in the Federal Register on Friday, and already the oil and gas industry are celebrating. Producers challenged were locked in court battles over the rule since it was finalized in 2015.
“It was clear from the start that the federal rule was redundant with state regulation and politically motivated, as the prior administration could not point to one incident or regulatory gap that justified the rule,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement.
Interior will publish the repeal of the rule two days after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an attempt to revive the Obama-era regulation. The court gave Interior until mid-January to repeal the rule.
The Bureau of Land Management issued hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, regulations in March 2015. The Western Energy Alliance and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) sued the Obama administration to have the fracking rule overturned.
The industry groups argued federal regulations were burdensome and duplicative of state efforts. They were joined by four states and the Ute tribe in suing the government. The rule never went into effect.
Opponents argued Congress never gave Interior Department the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The Obama administration and environmentalists argued the fracking rule was essential to protecting public health and the environment.
Obama officials issued the rule as anti-fracking activism reached a fever pitch. Environmental groups aggressively pushed state and local anti-fracking measures, emboldened by Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in late 2014.
A federal judge issued an injunction against the fracking rule in Sept. 2015, keeping it from going into effect. The courts struck the rule down in June 2016, and a federal appeals court threw out an attempt by the Obama administration to resurrect fracking regulations one year later.
Now, the fracking rule is slated for full repeal. IPAA and the Western Energy Alliance expect the repeal to be public in Friday’s Federal Register.
“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,” IPAA president Barry Russell said in a statement.
The Interior Department did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.