Photo via YouTube screencap
As the old saying goes, “You win some, you lose some,” and no one knows this better than President Barack Obama.
In his continued efforts for environmental preservation, the President recently chalked up a big win for himself when Supreme Court justices voted to uphold a list of mercury emission laws set forth nearly two years ago. Unfortunately, it was too early to break out the champagne, as his attempt to limit fracking on public lands was later struck down in a federal court.
The decision comes by way of Judge Scott W. Skavdahl in Wyoming, and blocks a 2015 rule regulating construction standards for oil and gas wells on federal acreage. The rule would have also required companies to seal off water-waste pollution and disclose underground chemical data. The Interior Department says the decision “prevents regulators from using 21st century standards to ensure that oil and gas operations are conducted safely and responsibly on public and tribal lands.”
Skavdahl is proving a hard nut to crack, having put a hold on the same measure early last year. Environmentalists are particularly unhappy, saying the mandates wouldn’t cost much, and could ultimately limit chemicals spills, wildlife deaths and further groundwater contaminations.
“While there is no way to ever make fracking safe, the oil and gas industry has repeatedly proven that it needs more standards to keep the public safe from the dangers of fossil fuels, not less,” explains Sierra Club director Lena Moffitt.
This is the second major blow to Obama’s ecological streak in just the last four months, following a February Supreme Court decision to block the President’s “Clean Power Plan,” which would have ultimately cut carbon emissions from power plants. SCOTUS also found itself gridlocked regarding Obama’s recent immigration plan, so executive and judicial powers appear to be evenly matched.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing as it’s formally known, is the process of pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to extract oil and gas. According to conservation groups, fracking is not only a source of groundwater contamination, but can lead to spikes in earthquake activity. While the loss comes as a heavy blow, Obama is refusing to back down, and an appeal is likely underway.
“We’ll continue to make our case in the courts,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “We believe that we have a strong argument to make about the important role that the federal government can play in ensuring that hydraulic fracturing that’s done on public land doesn’t threaten the drinking water of the people who live in the area.”
But not everyone is opposing. House speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin believes that further regulation of a billion-dollar industry like fracking could ultimately affect the job market and hike up energy bills for most Americans. He says the ruling is one of economic justice and praises Skavdahl, an Obama-appointed judge, for taking a stance against his “employer.”
“Hydraulic fracturing is one of the keys that has unlocked our nation’s energy resurgence in oil and natural gas, making the United States the largest energy producer in the world, creating tens of the thousands of good-paying jobs, and lowering energy prices for consumers,” he says. “Yet the Obama administration has sought to regulate it out of existence. This is not only harmful for the economy and consumers, it’s unlawful – as the court has just ruled.”