- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A federal judge has granted a request to merge two lawsuits that oppose upcoming new rules for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, among which is a requirement that petroleum developers disclose information about the chemical products they use during hydraulic fracturing.

Wyoming U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Thursday granted a consolidation request filed by both sides in a lawsuit filed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance against the Interior Department, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and their directors.

That lawsuit now is the lead case in the consolidated lawsuits. The other lawsuit against the same defendants was filed by the state of Wyoming, which has been joined by Colorado and North Dakota.

Meanwhile, six environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Earthworks and The Wilderness Society have joined both lawsuits on the federal government’s side.

The two lawsuits are similar. Both claim the federal rules would duplicate state regulations that have been effective and be burdensome for petroleum developers.

Interior Department officials announced the new rules in March. Set to take effect June 24, they include new standards for well construction and for disclosing information about chemical products used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

Fracking involves pumping large volumes of pressurized water mixed with fine sand and chemical products into wells to crack open deposits of oil and gas.

A variety of chemical products used during fracking serve different functions, such as helping sand flow into and prop open the fine cracks created by the process. Under the rules, ingredients in fracking chemicals would need to be reported in a nationwide database.

Skavdahl has scheduled a June 23 hearing on arguments for and against postponing the federal rules while the litigation proceeds.

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