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Southern Ute tribe challenges new federal fracking law

DURANGO, Colo. — The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s new hydraulic fracturing rule because tribe members say they have the right to decide their own land-use policies.

The rule, which is set to go into effect Wednesday, also is the subject of lawsuits filed earlier this month, including a joint suit by the states of Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota, as well as another filed by the Western Energy Alliance and Independent Petroleum Producers on behalf of 46 trade associations and royalty-owners groups.

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. Fracking has been a contentious subject. Concerns include groundwater contamination, leakage from wells and an increase in earthquakes in areas where the technique is used extensively.

The rule requires a federal permit on public and tribal lands, in addition to the state permits already required. It applies to about 750 million acres of public and tribal lands, as well as private lands where the minerals are federally managed.

In related news, new North Dakota oil tax law may threaten accord with tribes.

The Southern Ute lawsuit, filed in federal court in Denver, says the rule conflicts with the Indian Mineral Leasing Act, the Durango Herald reported.

The rules will have a real effect on the tribe’s ability to provide services to its members, Southern Ute Chairman Clement Frost said. “Tribal lands should be treated differently than federal lands. Some of the provisions in this new rule are just burdensome regulations that are not tied to an environmental benefit,” he said.

The tribe has its own hydraulic-fracturing and chemical-disclosure rules.

Six conservation groups represented by EarthJustice are defending the rule, saying that while it may not achieve everything they had hoped, it is a step in the right direction.

“Our public lands belong to all Americans,” EarthJustice staff attorney Michael Freeman said. “They should be managed under strong national standards that protect our water, land and wildlife — not just to benefit oil and gas companies.”

Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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