Oil Industry, North Dakota Blocked From Regulatory Squabble

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge showed industry interests the door in a case that challenges whether Uncle Sam has dropped the ball on regulating oil and gas waste.

Seven nonprofits brought the suit at hand earlier this year, voicing concern over how the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the disposal, storage, handling and transportation of oil and gas waste.

Led by the Environmental Integrity Project, the groups say EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has violated her statutory duty to periodically review and revise the 30-year-old regulations.

Though McCarthy is the only named defendant to the action in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the case has members of the oil and gas industry worried about burdensome new regulations.

Along with the American Petroleum Institute, the state of North Dakota and several other groups moved to intervene.

Jared Knickley, a litigation fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council, applauded the decision to block them from the case.

“The court correctly applied circuit precedent to hold that industry’s concerns about the costs of potential future regulations that might arise as a result of EPA complying with these duties are premature and irrelevant to the narrow issues in our case,” Knickley said in an email. “We are pleased with the court’s decision and now looking forward to the next phase in the case.

U.S. District Judge John Bates issued the ruling against the would-be intervenors on Nov. 18.

“Although movants plainly have much to say on that topic, the court does not think their input will be particularly helpful in achieving the just resolution of the narrower procedural question posed here,” that 16-page opinion states.

One of the movants in question, North Dakota, is home to the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline construction.

Bates acknowledged the state’s long history as a “home to a thriving oil and gas industry,” making it particularly vulnerable to additional implementing costs if the lawsuit spurs any new federal regulations.

North Dakota “claims that an EPA decision to regulate oil and gas wastes as ‘hazardous’ under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act would cost the state and its oil and gas industry tens of millions of dollars,” according to the ruling.

In addition to the Environmental Integrity Project and the NRDC, the other groups challenging EPA’s McCarthy are Earthworks, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the Responsible Drilling Alliance and the San Juan Citizens Alliance.