Both sides claim win with fracking ruling

Court overturned a previous ruling on federal oversight, in part because the Trump administration may get rid of the regulatory process altogether.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Sept. 22, 2017 at 8:10 AM
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Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Both sides in the debate over hydraulic fracturing claimed victory with a federal appeals court in Denver ruling on federal powers.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's ruling on overreach challenges against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which wanted regulatory oversight from the states. Environmental groups said the ruling meant regulations developed under former President Barack Obama would now take effect.

"The 10th Circuit vacated the lower court's ruling, which means the rule will now take effect," Michael Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice, said in a statement. "These are long-overdue protections for our public lands, water and public health."

While appeals were pending, however, U.S. President Donald Trump took office and began the process of rescinding the rules altogether, which in part led the circuit court to vacate the lower court's opinion. Because of the changing circumstances, the appeals court said the matter was "prudentially unripe."

For that reason, industry supports took the ruling as a victory. Kathleen Sgamma, the president of the industry's Western Energy Alliance, said it's time to put the matter aside.

"Just as the court recognizes that it is not worthwhile to expend judicial resources on a rule that is being overturned, it is clear that implementing the rule in the short term is likewise a waste of industry and government resources," she said in a statement.

The long list of petitioners in a case pitting federal authority over state law included shale-rich states like Colorado and North Dakota. Colorado accounts for about 3 percent of total U.S. crude oil production in large part from its Niobrara and Denver-Julesberg shale basins. North Dakota is the No. 2 oil producer in the country, behind Texas, because of its Bakken shale reserve.

The Trump administration has a tendency to side in favor of the oil and gas industry, though its stance on environmental measures like the Paris climate agreement has been fluid.

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