A proposal from the Trump administration could revoke Obama-era public land restrictions on fracking.
The suggestion comes from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and was published in the Federal Register earlier in the week.
According to The Hill, the repeal would entail a complete overhaul of 2015 standards on the ‘disclosure of fracking chemicals and integrity of well casings.’
The regulations were initially imposed by Obama officials as a way to curtail and control the increasingly popular – and controversial – practice of fracking for oil and natural gas.
Despite the popular criticism which fracking has attracted over the last decade, the move by the present administration should come as no surprise. Since assuming office, President Donald Trump has appointed and nominated a multitude of former oil and energy advocates to positions within the Environmental Protection Agency and without.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is pursuing a policy of deregulation, cutting the agency’s reach and jurisdiction over American waterways, industry, and emissions.
The Hill relayed the administration’s rationale: that continuing to enforce the Obama-era regulations on fracking is redundant, given existing state and tribal standards, and ‘would cost the oil and gas industry up to $45 million a year to comply.’
“Considering state regulatory programs, the sovereignty of tribes to regulate operations on their lands, and preexisting authorities in other federal regulations, the proposed rescission of the 2015 final rule would not leave hydraulic fracturing operations entirely unregulated,” wrote the Bureau of Land Management in its proposal.
The BLM’s challenge to restrictions on fracking isn’t the first – a federal judge in Wyoming had overturned it after hearing arguments that the Bureau of Land Management had no authority to govern hydraulic fracturing operations at all.
Environmental activists were predictably unenthused by the announcement.
“This is another cynical move by the Trump administration that sacrifices our public lands and public safety as a favor to the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice who has been fighting the rule’s overturn since 2016.
Oral arguments in the case were due to begin on Thursday – timing that Freeman didn’t find coincidental.
“The timing of this proposal is obviously linked to this week’s oral argument. It is part of the administration’s effort to circumvent the law by asking to stay this appeal while leaving the lower court ruling in effect. We oppose that request, and we’ll see the agency in court Thursday morning,” he said.
The attempt to free up opportunities for fracking is largely in line with Trump’s campaign promises to boost the United States’ energy independence by repealing regulations limiting the domestic production and use of fossil fuels.
The publication of the proposal opens a 60-day period during which the Bureau of Land Management will gather feedback and comments from the public prior to implementation.