- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Six environmental groups asked a judge Tuesday to be allowed to side with the federal government in opposing two lawsuits that contest new rules for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, among which is a requirement that companies report information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Casper plans to hear arguments June 23 for and against postponing the rules set to take effect June 24. The hearing applies to both cases.

The U.S. Department of Interior announced the rules in March, prompting the lawsuits filed in Wyoming federal court. Both lawsuits against Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management claim states such as Wyoming and Colorado already have good rules for regulating oil and gas drilling and the federal ones would be redundant and burdensome.

Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado are the plaintiffs in one lawsuit. The Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance are the plaintiffs in the other.

Now, the Sierra Club, Earthworks, Western Resource Advocates, Conservation Colorado Education Fund, The Wilderness Society and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, seek to join both lawsuits on the federal government’s side.

“Our public lands belong to all Americans. They should be managed under strong national standards that protect our water, land and wildlife, not just to benefit oil and gas companies,” Michael Freeman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups, said in a statement.

Skavdahl didn’t immediately rule on the groups’ requests to intervene.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping large volumes of water mixed with fine sand and chemical products at high pressure into wells to split open deposits and improve the flow of oil and gas. Worries that fracking chemical products could contaminate groundwater have prompted efforts to require petroleum developers and oilfield service companies to better inform the public - or at least government regulators - what goes into those products.

Wyoming has had a fracking chemical disclosure rule in effect since 2010. Gov. Matt Mead spokesman Seth Waggener said Mead isn’t surprised environmental groups want to join the litigation but maintains that Wyoming has led the way in fracking regulation.

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