Trump Fracking Action Prioritizes Polluters over People

Directional drilling rig in Wyoming

U.S. Bureau of Land Management/Wyoming

President Trump's sweeping Executive Order aimed at crippling the U.S. response to climate change included a directive to the Interior Department to withdraw common sense rules for fracking operations on public and tribal lands.  In issuing that directive, the Trump administration is attempting to hand the nation’s public lands over to the oil and gas industry without adequate controls or limitations, and is endangering the health and prosperity of the communities adjacent to those public lands.

The rules Trump seeks to withdraw were finalized under the Obama administration in 2015 but have been stayed in federal court. The rules were issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public land.  Neither President Trump nor the Department of Interior can repeal the rules without going through a public process that can be challenged in court.  The process of dismantling the rules is just as arduous as that of creating them. The Executive Order is just the opening shot in what will be a long battle over the rules.

The rules were designed to fix a broken and outmoded system that was incapable of protecting lands or the public.  The BLM’s rules had been almost completely silent on hydraulic fracturing. Its rules governing other key aspects of oil and gas extraction had not been updated in over 20 years, despite the increasingly widespread use of well "stimulation" techniques like high-volume fracking. BLM itself acknowledged that its old rules didn’t address the real environmental and public health threats from oil and gas drilling.

While the rules Trump wants to undo fell far short of what’s needed to reduce impacts from fracking, they would provide some modest steps to improve well integrity, reduce the impact of toxic wastewater, and increase transparency around chemicals used in the fracking process.

The rules represent the culmination of a more than three-year-long process to help ensure that oil and gas resources are more responsibly developed in ways that reduce threats to public health and the environment and that respect the quality of life in local communities. We and our partners will fight the administration at every step to ensure that America’s clean air, clean water, wildlands, and human health are protected.

This is just one more example of where President Trump’s loyalties lie: polluters, not the people.

About the Authors

Briana Mordick

Senior Scientist, Land & Wildlife and Climate programs
New Rules for Fracking on Public Lands Fall Short
Time for the BLM to switch paths on the forked road to fracked oil and gas

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