The question of whether the Bureau of Land Management was authorized to set rules for hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — was answered Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled the BLM did not have that authority, saying Congress has not authorized federal regulators to set rules for fracking.
Skavdahl asserted the job of the court is to interpret whether Congress has authorized the regulation of fracking, not to determine what is good or bad for the environment.
The rules would require the disclosure of ingredients used by the petroleum developers to improve the results of fracking.
In the ruling, Skavdahl wrote the Interior Department rule “is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”
Neal Kirby, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, was happy with the judge’s ruling.
“BLM did not have the authority to issue its rule in the first place,” Kirby said in a statement. “Today’s decision demonstrates BLM’s efforts are not needed and that states are — and have for over 60 years been — in the best position to safely regulate hydraulic fracturing.”
The new ruling is receiving criticism by environmental groups.
Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said, “While there is no way to ever make fracking safe, the oil and gas industry has repeatedly proven that it needs more standards to keep the public safe from the dangers of fossil fuels, not less.”
Speaker Paul Ryan commented on Skavdahl’s ruling Wednesday, saying, “Only Congress can write laws. Agencies acting without authority from Congress is simply illegal.”
The ruling issued by Judge Skavdahl delivers another blow to President Obama’s environmental control efforts. The Supreme Court, in a decision earlier this year, blocked the enforcement of the Clean Power Plan by the Environmental Protection Agency.