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US BLM moves to rescind Obama-era fracking rule

The US Department of the Interior moved quickly Thursday to rescind anObama-era rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian landsafter a court declined to hear further appeals filed by Native American andenvironmental groups to try to keep the rule in place.

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On Thursday, Interior's Bureau of Land Management released a notice of itsintent to publish a final rule in the Federal Register Friday, formallystripping away the fracking rule. The rule had been scheduled to go intoeffect in 2015, but was never implemented because of court challenges byenergy industry groups and several oil- and natural gas-producing states.

"With this final rule, the BLM is rescinding the 2015 rule because we believeit imposes administrative burdens and compliance costs that are notjustified," the BLM notice said.

As part of his policy to reduce regulations on the energy industry, PresidentDonald Trump vowed to rescind the rule, which would have updated the BLM'sregulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands for the first time in 30years.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appealsdenied a request by the Indian tribes and environmental groups to have thefull court hear their appeal of a lower court's decision to reject the case.

Groups representing the exploration-and-production industry, who had longopposed the proposed fracking rule as burdensome and unnecessary, were quickto laud the decision to rescind it.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western EnergyAlliance, which had sued to block the implementation of the rule, issued ajoint statement Thursday.

"We applaud the Interior Department decision to completely rescind theObama-era rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands," IPAA CEOBarry Russell said.

"It was clear from the start that the federal rule was redundant with stateregulation and politically motivated, as the prior administration could notpoint to one incident or regulatory gap that justified the rule," WesternEnergy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said.

Shortly after the BLM released its final rule in March 2015, IPAA and WEA,along with the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and Utah, and the UteIndian Tribe, challenged the rule in the federal district court of Wyoming.

In September 2015, a US district court judge granted the energy groups' motionfor a preliminary injunction on the rule and the following June the judgestruck down the final rule.

In June 2016, the Obama administration and environmental parties appealed thedistrict court ruling and in September 2017, the appeals court dismissed thecase, citing the intention of the new administration to rescind the rule inany case.

The appeals court decision not to hear any further appeals effectively endedall litigation surrounding the rule.

The appeals court gave the Trump administration until January 12, 2018 torescind the rule, but Thursday's action by BLM renders that deadline moot.

--Jim Magill, jim.magill@spglobal.com--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com