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Wyoming sues to stop federal fracking rule

Wyoming’s attorney general is going to court to challenge the federal Interior Department’s right to regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas.

The lawsuit in federal court joins one filed by two drilling associations against the rule, which was unveiled March 20.

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The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance filed their complaint less than an hour after Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its regulation for fracking on federal and American Indian land.

The state has its own rules on fracking that extend to wells on federal land, and it is particularly proud of the strength of its regulations.

Wyoming’s lawsuit filed Thursday contends that the BLM rule “exceeds the agency’s statutory jurisdiction, conflicts with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and unlawfully interferes with the state of Wyoming’s hydraulic fracturing regulations.”

Peter Michael, the state’s attorney general, argues in the complaint that the Safe Drinking Water Act gives authority over underground injection exclusively to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states, while the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts fracking’s underground injection from EPA’s regulations.

The law firm representing drillers against the rule said it was happy to see Wyoming sue as well.

“The state’s leadership in regulating oil and gas development, and particularly the process of hydraulic fracturing, disproves the myth of the regulatory gap upon which Interior’s final rule is premised,” Mark Barron, an attorney with BakerHostetler, said in a statement.

“Wyoming’s willingness to fight these regulations in federal court is evidence of the extent to which Interior’s action represents regulatory overreach and an untenable infringement on state sovereignty,” Barron said.

In unveiling the rule, Interior said states with regulations at least as strong as the federal ones will be able to obtain waivers for specific provisions of the standards.