Oil and Gas

Federal court blocks Obama administration's fracking rules


A federal court on Wednesday blocked an Obama administration rule putting stricter standards on hydraulic fracturing on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the Interior Department did not have the legal authority to issue the rule. The controversial practice, also known as fracking, directs a high-pressure mixture of water and chemicals into rock to release gas.

David McNew | Getty Images

The tactic has unlocked new sources of oil and gas in pockets of the United States, particularly in Western states. That growth, though, was accompanied by concerns about environmental and health effects like earthquakes and drinking water contamination.

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Prominent oil and gas groups had filed suit after the rules were proposed earlier this year. States including Colorado and Wyoming also challenged the regulations.

The Obama administration rules would require public disclosure of chemicals used during fracking on federal lands and better containment of waste fluid. Federal land produces 11 percent of the natural gas and 5 percent of the oil consumed in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Bureau of Land Management, a branch of the Interior Department, said in a statement that it will "follow the court's order and continue to process applications for permit[s] to drill and inspect well sites under pre-existing regulations."

In a statement Wednesday, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said the regulations would "cause major harm to states, industry, and the American people if implemented."

Some environmental groups and Democrats, on the other hand, had previously criticized the rules for not going far enough.