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N. Dakota Joins Wyoming’s Fracking Lawsuit

April 1st, 2015

North Dakota’s attorney general announced that he was joining with his Wyoming counterpart in a fracking lawsuit against the federal government. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Wyoming Attorney General Peter K. Michael have filed a fracking lawsuit alleging that the Bureau of Land Management overstepped its jurisdiction by establishing new federal regulations. The new rules require that companies engaged in the controversial drilling method disclose the chemicals they use in the procedure.

Underground Wells Spark Fracking Lawsuit

In recent years, oil companies have used hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to access previously untapped petroleum and natural gas reserves. The process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, chemicals and abrasives into underground shale deposits. The high-pressure mixture breaks up the shale and allows drillers to extract the needed resources. The fracking lawsuit from the states alleges that BLM does not have jurisdiction to regulate these underground injections, even if the wells run under federally-controlled land.

Chemical Lists Provoke Fracking Lawsuit

Another impetus behind the states’ fracking lawsuit comes from federal requirements calling for oil companies to list the chemicals used in their fracking wells. A 2010 bill passed in Wyoming also requires oil companies to submit a list of chemicals in their fracking wells to state licensing authorities. A 2012 North Dakota law contains similar language. The fracking lawsuit alleges that the federal regulations could add “months or even years” to the permit approval process.

Fracking Lawsuit and “States’ Rights”

The core dispute put forth in the states’ fracking lawsuit stems from the fact that some fracking wells run horizontally as well as vertically. The horizontal wells can run under federally-owned land. The BLM and the Interior Department maintain that, even if a single inch of pipeline runs under federal land, the well should fall under the federal rules. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple told reporters that the state filed the fracking lawsuit “to protect our rights.”

Fracking Lawsuit and State Economies

Attorney General Stenehjem said that the claims in his state’s fracking lawsuit parallel those in the Wyoming suit, so joining forces made financial sense. Since the advent of fracking, North Dakota has surpassed every state except Texas in oil production. Energy companies in both states claim that the federal laws could delay the drilling of thousands of wells and create a duplication of effort. Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said that the federal regulations “duplicate what this state and other states have already done.”

Source: ABC News

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