- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming filed a lawsuit Thursday contesting new federal rules for oil and gas drilling on public land, alleging in part that they interfere with Wyoming’s state rules.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Wyoming also claims the U.S. Bureau of Land Management overstepped its statutory jurisdiction with the rules and that they conflict with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

A key part of the federal rules is regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the process of cracking open deposits of oil and gas by pumping high volumes of pressurized water mixed with fine sand and chemicals into wells.

The federal rules announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last week will require companies to report the chemicals they use during fracking. Wyoming has had similar rules in place since 2010.

“It’s a concern to me because Wyoming was the first state to get into the business of regulating hydraulic fracturing. It seems to me it’s a disincentive for states to be proactive, to be responsible and to take leadership in an area where they have, we think, exclusive legal authority,” Gov. Matt Mead said.

“We are hopeful that whatever happens in the case that there is a recognition that states like Wyoming should be rewarded for their leadership, not punished by having additional layers of regulation.”

States that already have strong regulations for oil and gas development, such as Wyoming and Colorado, could be given room under the federal rules to enforce their own stipulations, Jewell said at a March 20 news conference.

Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw cited agency policy not to comment on pending litigation and declined to comment on the lawsuit. But she said states and tribes will be able to request variances from the rules, and Interior might grant them if they met or exceeded federal standards.

“In terms of states being able to move forward with protections specific to operations under their watch, should they be more stringent than what the federal rule requires, yes, we stand by that part of the rule,” Kershaw said by email.

Two petroleum industry groups, the Western Energy Alliance and Independent Petroleum Association of America, filed a separate but similar lawsuit over the rules in Wyoming federal court last week.

The federal and Wyoming rules for disclosing the ingredients in fracking chemical products differ significantly in that Interior will require reporting to FracFocus, an online database run by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Wyoming requires disclosure through filings with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that regulates petroleum development.


Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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