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California, advocacy groups, sue Trump on fracking laws

The Trump administration overturned a rule from 2015 that, among other things, called for the disclosure of the potentially harmful chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

By Daniel J. Graeber
California, advocacy groups, sue Trump on fracking laws
In separate lawsuits, California and advocacy groups sued the Trump administration for dissolving federal rules that govern hydraulic fracturing. File photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- In separate filings, California and a coalition of environment and tribal groups sued the Trump administration for repealing rules on hydraulic fracturing.

President Donald Trump enforced a repeal, effective Dec. 29, dissolving the Bureau of Land Management's 2015 rule on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The BLM, which regulates oil and gas development on federal and Native American tribal lands as part of the Interior Department, said rescinding the rule was part of Trump's plan to do away with regulations that impede economic or energy sector growth.

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The 2015 regulation called on energy companies to disclose what chemicals they used in the fracking process, at a minimal cost to operators. Some of the chemicals used in the process are potentially hazardous to public health.

"The Interior Department's own factual record shows that the risks to our health and environment are real," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "So, once again, the California Department of Justice will get in the way of another reckless Trump violation of our laws."

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Repealing the rule lifted regulations on more than 700 million acres of public and tribal lands. Targeted in court by the oil and gas industry, environmental and tribal groups said the White House under Trump was catering once again to the fossil fuels sector. In a lawsuit filed in California, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and nine other groups called for the government to reinstate the rule.

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"This is another case of the Trump administration putting our public lands and water at risk to pad the bottom line of the oil and gas industry," Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman said in a statement. "The agency has abdicated its responsibility under federal law to manage these lands for the good of the public, not just for fracking companies."

In proposing the overturn last year, the Department of Interior said its aim was to be "better business partners," adding a department review under Trump found that states with federal oil and gas leases have regulations of their own that address hydraulic fracturing. Since the rule was published under President Barack Obama, meanwhile, oil and gas companies have started using databases like FracFocus to reveal the chemicals used in fracking fluid.

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The Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas trade association, said the 2015 rule was redundant and discouraged investments in states in the region with shale reserves.

The alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming in 2015 contesting the rule, calling it "the product of a procedurally deficient rulemaking process." IPAA and WEA also objected to the required "disclosure of confidential information."

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