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Bureau of Land Management to cancel Obama-era fracking rule

The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management finalized its reversal of a 2015 rule from the Obama administration that would have put extra controls on oil and gas hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands.

"With this final rule, the BLM is rescinding the 2015 rule because we believe it imposes administrative burdens and compliance costs that are not justified," the BLM said in a notice for publication in the Dec. 29 Federal Register. The notice said it would be effective immediately on the date of publication.

In a separate news release Dec. 28, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke listed the accomplishments of the department under President Donald Trump. These included creating a conservation legacy "second only to Teddy Roosevelt" and striking a regulatory balance that "initiated 21 deregulatory actions, saving the economy $3.8 billion over time."

In March, Trump issued an executive order asking the secretary of the interior to review four rules, including the 2015 rule, and if appropriate to suspend, revise or rescind those rules. In the review of the 2015 fracking rule, the BLM found that eliminating it would reduce compliance costs for oil and gas producers by up to $9,690 per well, or about $14 million to $34 million per year in total, according to the notice.

The 2015 rule was stayed by a federal district court before it could go into effect, and the court later set aside the rule, saying it was outside BLM statutory authority. On Dec. 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit denied a request by Native American tribes and environmental groups to have the full court hear their appeal of the lower court's decision to reject their case. The 10th Circuit judges said the issue was moot because the Trump administration intended to withdraw the rule.

Among its many provisions, the 2015 rule required oil and gas producers to obtain BLM approval before conducting fracking operations, list chemicals with the BLM and to the public FracFocus website, include information about water sources for fracking so that the BLM could perform a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, store recovered fluids in rigid tanks until they have a disposal plan, locate nearby wells to prevent leaks of fluids, verify and test wells and well casings, monitor fracking operations and file reports after operations.