California sues Trump administration over fracking rule
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s attorney general sued the Trump administration yet again Wednesday, this time for rolling back a fracking rule that the state says is designed to protect public health and the environment.
The suit challenges the federal Bureau of Land Management’s move against the rule that requires drilling companies to disclose what chemicals they’ve used for fracking.
It’s the latest in a series of legal actions by Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra against the federal government during his first year as California’s top law enforcement official.
Becerra has butted heads repeatedly with the Trump administration on the environment, immigration and other issues.
Last week, he warned California employers that a new state law means they could face fines of up to $10,000 if they share employee information with federal immigration agents without a warrant or subpoena.
That has drawn fire from Republicans and criticism that employers might be confused about how they should follow seemingly conflicting state and federal laws.
Becerra downplayed that criticism Wednesday, saying employers should use common sense to evaluate whether a federal agent has the proper paperwork to ask for private information.
In the latest lawsuit, Becerra said the Trump administration broke the law in rolling back the fracking rule by not following required procedures including getting public comment. He said the move also contradicts federal environmental laws and was arbitrary and capricious.
“They didn’t let the law or the facts get in their way in their zeal to repeal what was a commonsense measure,” Becerra said.
The rule was adopted in 2015 under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama requiring companies to disclose what chemicals they use to crack open underground oil and gas deposits in combination with pressurized water and sand.
BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said the bureau does not comment on current or pending litigation.
The fracking measure was put on hold in 2016 by a Wyoming judge who said the BLM had no authority to set such a rule. That decision was appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where the administration asked the judges to delay a decision because it intended to roll back the rule.
The BLM oversees more than 15 million acres in California, or nearly 15 percent of the state including some tribal land.
Becerra said his office has filed 25 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Courts have ruled in Becerra’s favor in a number of the cases — some of which were filed in collaboration with other states.
Becerra said the state’s innovations and technology achievements have helped make it the world’s sixth largest economy and are “worth fighting for.”
“We’ve had a number of victories that involve purely state matters and certainly a number of victories where it comes to making sure that the federal government doesn’t try to overreach and keep California from moving forward,” he said.
Earlier this month, Becerra’s office won a temporary ruling blocking the Trump administration’s decision to end protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.
The administration is appealing that ruling to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said it would seek a U.S. Supreme Court review even before an appeals court issues a decision.
Becerra also has defended the Affordable Care Act and a woman’s right to get birth control as well as transgender individuals who wish to serve in the military.
Becerra is up for re-election in November, facing a number of challengers including Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.