The Obama administration is attempting an "end run" around Congress with new rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to groups fighting the rules in federal court.
States and industry groups filed initial court briefs late Friday backing their lawsuits against the Department of Interior's fracking rules that went into effect last year. The groups argue that the agency's Bureau of Land Management is overstepping its authority in regulating the drilling process on federal land.
They are asking a federal court in Wyoming to rescind the fracking regulatons, which apply to federal and American Indian lands that are leased to energy companies for oil and gas extraction. The groups argue that states should have primacy when it comes to regulating fracking.
"The BLM cannot make an end run around Congress' clear intent and infringe upon North Dakota's unmistakable sovereign interest in regulating hydraulic fracturing," says North Dakota's brief. The state says that in 2005, Congress prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fracking and that rule should be applied to all federal agencies. North Dakota has become one of the largest new producers of shale oil in the country in just a few years.
The state argues that the Bureau of Land Management says "for the first time, that it has the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands." But "absent a specific grant," the agency "cannot demonstrate congressional intent to alter the more specific provisions of the [laws] or the longstanding balance of power under which North Dakota has primary responsibility over land and water use," North Dakota said.
The court has halted the rules until it has time to review the merits of the case and make a decision. The briefs were submitted as part of the court's formal review process.