President Donald Trump's administration is rescinding proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing and other oil- and gas-drilling practices on government lands, government officials announced Thursday.
The rules developed under President Barack Obama would have applied mainly in the West, where most federal lands are located. Companies would have had to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, which pumps pressurized water underground to break open hydrocarbon deposits.
The rules to be rescinded Friday were supposed to take effect in 2015 but a federal judge in Wyoming blocked them at the last minute. In September, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver declined to rule in that case because the Trump administration intended to rescind the rules.
The long-awaited change drew praise from industry groups including the Washington, D.C.-based Independent Petroleum Association of America and Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, which sued to block the rules.
They claimed the federal rules would have duplicated state rules, putting unnecessary and expensive burdens on petroleum developers.
"States have an exemplary safety record regulating fracking, and that environmental protection will continue as before," Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said in a release.
Fracking has been so successful in boosting production over the past decade it has become almost synonymous with oil and gas drilling. In many areas, it would be rare nowadays for a gas or oil well to not be fracked.
The process requires several million gallons of water each time. Environmentalists say the potential risks to groundwater require regulation.
"Fracking is a toxic business, and that's why states and countries have banned it. Trump's reckless decision to repeal these common-sense protections will have serious consequences," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an email.