A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit over the validity of a hydraulic-fracturing regulation instituted by the Obama administration.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a lawsuit over the rule is unnecessary because the Trump administration is working to repeal the rule.
The court also vacated a lower judge’s ruling that the Bureau of Land Management had overstepped its bounds by trying to regulate fracking.
The court ruled that it would not consider the merits of the rule — and instead overturned a lower court’s decision to do so — because the government is working to undo it.
“Our proceeding to address whether the District Court erred in invalidating the BLM’s fracking regulation when the BLM has now commenced rescinding that same regulation appears to be a very wasteful use of limited judicial resources,” the court ruled on Thursday.
It is a victory for environmentalists as the lower court's ruling would have made it difficult for future administrations to write new fracking regulations.
The fracking rule was an Obama administration effort to update oil and natural gas drilling regulations on federal land. The 2015 rule won support from environmentalists, but drilling interests and some Western states said it would be costly to implement and create duplicative regulations.
A District Court judge in Wyoming ruled against the regulation in 2016, saying Congress had previously blocked Interior from regulating fracking.
The Obama administration appealed that ruling, but Trump administration lawyers revealed in a court filing earlier this year that it would repeal the regulation rather than defend it.
The Bureau of Land Management formally proposed repealing the rule in July.