U.S. judge halts fracking plan for
federal lands in California
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[September 08, 2016]
By Terry Wade
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on
Wednesday halted a plan to allow fracking on public lands in central
California, saying a federal agency's environmental plan should have
taken a "hard look" at the potential impact of the process.
The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald, was at least the
second setback in three years for fracking in California and came as the
Obama administration's rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands
have been tied up in another court.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM),
which periodically leases out land to private producers, offered a plan
that would have allowed fracking on about a quarter of new wells drilled
on some 1 million acres across central California.
The final outcome is not clear as Judge Fitzgerald asked both sides for
a further briefing on Sept. 21 as the case enters its remedy phase.
But it could be similar to that a 2013 case in which a federal judge
ruled that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act when
it issued oil leases in California's Monterey County without considering
the environmental dangers of fracking.
Since that ruling, the BLM has refrained from holding any lease sales in
that area until it completes an environmental review of the risks of
fracking, said one of the plaintiffs in the cases, the Center for
California has long had an oil and gas industry, but it has trailed
Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota in fracking. Industry experts say that
stems from regulatory uncertainty and more complex geology in
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A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale,
California, in this file photo dated April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy
Fracking, currently regulated by states, involves injection of large
amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to
extract oil or natural gas.
A federal judge in Wyoming in June struck down the Obama
administration's rules for fracking on public lands, holding that
Congress had not delegated to the BLM the authority to regulate it.
That ruling is under appeal.
The BLM's rules, issued in their final form in March 2015, required
companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing
and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on
federally owned land.
Environmental groups, while acknowledging that most fracking happens
on private lands, said the BLM rules should be stronger.
The case is No. CV-15-4378 in United States District Court, Central
District of California.
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