Obama lawyers may appeal ruling overturning fracking rule

Obama administration lawyers filed notice that they may appeal a court decision from earlier this week that overturned the Interior Department’s regulation on hydraulic fracturing.

The Justice Department’s notice, filed Friday in federal court in Wyoming, said it is asking the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to reconsider the case.

{mosads}An Interior spokeswoman said that the attorneys filed the notice only to protect their right to appeal within the time frame allowed, but that the department has not actually decided whether to move forward with the appeal.

Judge Scott Skavdahl, a President Obama appointee, ruled late Tuesday that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which wrote the rule, does not have the authority to regulate fracking on federal land because Congress specifically denied it that authority.

“Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing,” Skavdahl wrote. “The BLM’s effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”

The ruling was a major loss for Obama, his environmental agenda and his first attempt at national fracking standards.

The oil industry and congressional Republicans applauded the ruling and held it up as an example of Obama trying to blatantly ignore Congress’s instructions.

In briefs in the Wyoming court, lawyers argued that the conservative states and oil companies challenging the regulation relied on misreadings of the law, and the ability to regulate fracking is inherent in the laws giving the federal government control over its own lands.

“The Rule properly implements BLM’s long-standing authority under the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to regulate oil and gas development on federal lands,” the government wrote in an April filing.

“BLM’s authority has not been curtailed by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Rule does not improperly intrude on any authority reserved to the states.”

The regulation has three main provisions. It sets standards for construction of well casings, safe storage of wastewater fluids and disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process.


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