President Barack Obama. Image courtesy of Pete Souza/The White House.

A U.S. federal court in Wyoming has blocked new fracking rules issued by the Obama administration earlier this year that aim to tighten drilling rules on federal lands.

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl granted a preliminary injunction on Wednesday against new rules issued by the Interior Department in March.

Those rules require upstreams to disclose information about chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing and provide more information about wells.

In the order, Judge Skavdahl ruled that federal agencies can only regulate fracking when diesel fuel is used and questioned whether the Interior Department can justify its new rules.

“The (Interior Department) has neither substantiated the existence of a problem this rule is meant to address, identified a gap in existing regulations the final rule will fill, nor described how the final rule will achieve its stated objectives,” the judge wrote.

The Interior Department told Reuters it’s consulting with the Justice Department about the ruling.

A spokesman for the Interior Department added that the Bureau of Land Management will abide by the judge’s order and continue processing drilling permits and inspecting wells sites under pre-existing regulations.

The order is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance along with Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, and Utah to stop the new standards from being implemented.

The new rules require the validation of well integrity and “strong” cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones the wellbore passes through and also creates higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids.

Drillers also have to provide the Bureau of Land Management with more detailed information about wells and drilling sites to lower the risk of cross-well contamination and  publicly disclose chemicals used during fracking to the Bureau of Land Management through the FracFocus website within 30 days of completing fracturing operations.

The rules only apply to public and tribal lands.

There are more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands with over 90 percent of those wells using hydraulic fracturing, according to the Department of Interior.


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