Judge considers request to suspend federal oil and gas rules

MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press

Judge considers request to suspend federal oil and gas rules

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Four states and petroleum industry groups were asking a federal judge Tuesday to suspend new rules for hydraulic fracturing and other petroleum industry practices on federal land.

Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and the industry groups are suing the U.S. Interior Department, saying the rules, which go into effect Wednesday, are unnecessarily burdensome for oil and gas developers. They include rules to disclose chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing.

The four states, the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America want to suspend the rules pending the outcome of their lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl set aside up to six hours for Tuesday's hearing and would need to act quickly if he were to suspend the rules before they take effect.

The rules would require petroleum developers to disclose the chemical products they use to facilitate fracking through a national online database. Fracking involves pumping large volumes of water mixed with fine sand and chemicals into wells to crack open deposits and aid the flow of oil and gas. The states claim they already have effective regulations for oil and gas drilling.

"Developers will flee Utah as a simple cost-avoidance measure, both during the weakened oil market and after," attorneys for Utah argued in court documents.

The rules would cost the oil and gas industry an additional $11,000 to $97,000 per well, according to the filing.

Six environmental groups sided with the federal government in the case, arguing strong standards are needed protect water, wildlife and federal lands.

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