Trump Administration Proposes Repealing Obama-Era Fracking Law

Published September 13, 2017

President Donald Trump’s Department of the Interior has proposed repealing a 2015 Obama-era rule governing hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands.

The new rule would hand over the regulation and enforcement of fracking on federal and Indian lands from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to state and tribal governments.

The 2015 regulation set standards for fracking-related activities, including the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process and standards to maintain the integrity of well casings. Trump administration officials say the regulation largely duplicates existing state and tribal standards and imposes as much as $45 million in annual compliance costs on the oil and gas industry, inhibiting domestic exploration and development.

Regulatory Redundancy

According to BLM, the oil and gas the industry is already well-regulated on public land by state and tribal authorities, making additional federal regulation unnecessary.

“Considering state regulatory programs, the sovereignty of tribes to regulate operations on their lands, and the preexisting authorities in other federal regulations, the proposed rescission of the 2015 final rule would not leave hydraulic fracturing operations entirely unregulated,” wrote BLM in its July 25 rule.

The 2015 rule has been on hold since a federal judge in Wyoming overturned it in July 2016, ruling BLM lacks the authority to regulate fracking. The Obama administration appealed that decision, and the case is now on hold while the Trump administration reconsiders the rule.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to repeal regulations unnecessarily limiting the domestic production and use of fossil fuels. As part of his “America First Energy Plan,” Trump signed an executive order in March specifically naming the BLM fracking rule as one of the regulations needing a formal review.

‘Public Will Benefit’

Gary Stone, vice president of engineering for Five States Energy, says the Trump administration’s proposal to return regulatory control over fracking to the states and tribes will save money and improve regulation.

“States have historically proven to be more efficient and thorough in regulating oil and gas activity than the federal bureaucracy,” Stone said. “The public will benefit from cost savings at the state level and from hands-on state regulations.”

James Taylor, president of the Spark of Freedom Foundation, says the fracking revolution has improved U.S. energy independence while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental activists’ attempts to restrict fracking through a new layer of federal regulations would reverse that progress, he says.

“Those who seek to restrict fracking are defying environmental science, working to reverse America’s growing energy self-sufficiency, and ironically working to increase America’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Taylor said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.