Trump administration to repeal Obama-era fracking rule

President Donald Trump as a candidate promised to unshackle the American energy industry by undoing most of the job-killing regulations created by the Obama administration.

In a court filing, Justice Department lawyers revealed that the new administration is planning to repeal the Obama hydraulic fracturing rule, which placed severe restrictions on the process of getting oil and natural gas from shale. Earlier yesterday, the administration said they would roll back some of the automobile emissions standards and curtail other Obama administration environmental rules on water and coal leasing.

The Hill:

Trump has ordered the EPA to consider repealing Obama's Clean Water Rule, and will soon seek to undo the Clean Power Plan, the coal leasing moratorium for federal land and other climate and environmental regulations.

Attorneys said the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have been reviewing rules as part of a White House directive on reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

"As part of this process, the department has begun reviewing the 2015 final rule … for consistency with the policies and priorities of the new administration," lawyers wrote. "This initial review has revealed that the 2015 final rule does not reflect those policies and priorities."

Attorneys said that Interior would formally propose to repeal the rule within 90 days. That will start a process, likely to take a year or more, of undoing a rule that was a high priority for Obama and took many years to write.

Greens slammed the Trump administration's decision Wednesday.

"This disturbing decision highlights Trump's desire to leave our beautiful public lands utterly unprotected from oil industry exploitation," Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "Backing away from these modest rules is doubly dangerous given the administration's reckless plans to ramp up fracking and drilling on public lands across America."

What a crock.  The tiny portion of federal lands that would be open to energy development would not leave "our beautiful lands unprotected."  There are already strict rules in place to protect the environment from irresponsible drillers. 

As for safety issues with fracking, two separate EPA studies have failed to prove that the process contaminates drinking water, although the results were inconclusive.  Further study is needed, as is a closer look at the correlation between "shallow" earthquakes and fracking.  Not every fracking site experiences these mild quakes, but many do, and even oil companies want more information about possible min-faults that, if disturbed, could lead to an outbreak of temblors such as those experienced in Oklahoma and West Texas.

Unfortunately, easing restrictions on coal leasing probably comes too late for the industry.  The abundance of natural gas – largely because fracking has been so successful – has driven down the cost of coal to make it uncompetitive.  It's an open question whether the Trump administration can revive the moribund coal industry, which has seen tens of thousands of jobs disappear during the Obama years.

Repealing or scaling back these regulations will make it more profitable to drill for oil and open up huge new areas for exploitation. The energy industry, already booming, will likely see significant growth in the next few years.