WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy industry groups and states that oppose new U.S. rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands are headed to court this month to try to block the regulations a day before they are to take effect.
Foes of the regulations will go before a federal judge on June 23 to seek a preliminary injunction. The Interior Department rules, slated to take effect on June 24, would require companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally owned land.
This is the “first tranche in this battle,” said Dan Naatz, senior vice president for government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), one of the groups seeking the injunction.
Fracking involves injection of large amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to extract fuel. Environmental groups and some neighbors of oil and gas wells have linked fracking to water pollution and some have linked it to increased earthquake activity.
Industry and oil- and gas-producing states have long opposed federal rules on fracking. Preferring to keep regulation in state hands, IPAA and the Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming challenging the rules minutes after they were issued in March.
The groups said the rules were “arbitrary and unnecessary” burdens for drillers.
Wyoming and Colorado soon followed with their own lawsuit, arguing that the rules would infringe upon their sovereign authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. North Dakota also intervened in the case against the regulations.
The groups and the states argue that allowing the rules to move forward before the resolution of the legal challenges would harm industry and waste state resources.
Mark Barron, an attorney with Baker & Hostetler who is representing the oil groups, said he expects the judge will issue a decision on the injunction during the June 23 hearing, although this is not a requirement.
After that decision is handed down, Barron said it could take anywhere from four months to more than a year to wrap up arguments in the case.
The Interior Department does not comment on pending legal matters. In its brief opposing the injunction, the department argued that companies would only be affected by the rules if they choose to engage in fracking on federal lands.
Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio