Trump Administration to Reverse Rule That Keeps Public Water Sources Clean

By Ayana Byrd Jul 25, 2017

The Trump Administration just took a definitive step closer to repealing an Obama-era rule that protects public water sources from contamination.

Yesterday (July 24), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) submitted a reversal to eliminate a policy that required companies to disclose the chemicals used for fracking on public and tribal lands. The disclosure is a precaution against polluting water sources.

“The BLM is now proposing to rescind the 2015 final rule because we believe it is unnecessarily duplicative of state and some tribal regulations and imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other unjustified costs on the oil and gas industry,” reads the new, proposed rule. BLM officials also believe that state regulations to disclose chemicals are sufficient and there is no need for additional federal oversight.

In March 2015, then-President Barack Obama took steps to regulate fracking on federal lands via new regulations. Those regulations were the first set of federal rules regarding the hydraulic fracturing process, which is used to recover oil and gas from underground shale deposits. Fracking, as it is more commonly known, is controversial because, during the process, large amounts of chemical-and sand-laced water are injected into rock formations at high pressure, which can cause earthquakes, air pollution and water contamination.

The Obama-era rule focused on federal, public lands—including tribal territory—while allowing states to oversee state-owned and private land. Though passed in 2015, the rule never went into effect; it was contested in federal court after Wyoming argued it interfered with their state jurisdiction to regulate fracking.

As Colorlines previously reported, on January 4, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver ruled to delay a decision, meaning the case would be argued by the Trump Administration, rather than under Obama. Before the Trump White House made its scheduled oral arguments in court, the Interior Department said the federal government had changed its position and withdrawn from the lawsuit.

"As part of this process, the department has begun reviewing the 2015 final rule (and all guidance issued pursuant thereto) for consistency with the policies and priorities of the new administration," the motion says. "This initial review has revealed that the 2015 final rule does not reflect those policies and priorities."