Liberal opponents of hydraulic fracture, better known as fracking, continue to attempt to make this a wedge issue in the upcoming election. So firmly are they fixated on the idea that this highly successful technology is the great evil of our time that the Democrats are considering making a ban on fracking part of their platform at the convention this year. Their efforts are becoming increasingly futile however, and these green warriors suffered another blow this week in court. The Department of the Interior attempted to impose a fracking ban on federal lands a couple of years back, but now a federal judge has ruled that Interior has no say in the matter and needs to stay in their own lane. (Washington Times)
Judge Scott Skavdahl of the District Court of Wyoming already had put a hold on the regulations last year, and in a decision released late Tuesday, he ruled that Congress did not give Interior the power to regulate hydraulic fracturing, indeed it had expressly withheld that power with some narrow exceptions.
“Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing,” Judge Skavdahl wrote in deciding a lawsuit brought by industry groups and a number of Western states. The “effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”
This was a fairly crazy claim to begin with. The Department of the Interior had been attempting to argue that their oversight of public lands gave them the authority to impose such a ban in the interest of the public good, but the judge has dismissed that claim as a vast overreach of their power. (It’s worth noting that Judge Skavdahl is an Obama appointee, by the way.)
The judge went on to specify that it’s Congress, not the executive branch, which holds such broad authority, and the fact that the legislative branch has failed to do something that the White House wants does not automatically give them the right to usurp those powers.
“Congress‘ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States,” wrote Judge Skavdahl…
Let’s face it… if there was going to be such an order coming from the executive branch, it would most probably have to come from the EPA. But the green warriors may find even more difficult terrain going that route. As Morning Consult recently reported, even the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that fracking is safe.
API Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito pointed to two separate reports: a 1999 Energy Department report finding advanced oil and gas production technology, including hydraulic fracturing, provides environmental benefits such as lower waste volumes and fewer wells drilled; and a 2015 EPA report which concluded fracking could potentially impact drinking water resources, but “did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
“The evidence gathered for EPA’s study confirmed what previous agency administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and many others had already acknowledged and what the oil and gas industry has known: Hydraulic fracturing is being done safely under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices,” Milito told reporters. “Yet, since releasing the report, the EPA continues to face a barrage of politically based attacks attempting to tamper with scientific conclusions.”
Opponents of fracking have been peering into every bit of data they can find as obsessively as scientists at the Large Hadron Collider looking for the Higgs boson particle and repeatedly come up empty. This lack of scientific support hasn’t stopped fabulists such as Josh Fox from producing fictional accounts of the dangers of fracking in the form of pseudo-documentaries, but the evidence has stacked up against them to the point where even the Democrats have had to take notice.
For the time being, the Department of the Interior will need to go back to their normal job of overseeing parks and wilderness areas and leave energy exploration questions to those better suited to handle them.