Recently, there have been several court decisions that have gone against the EPA in the agency’s efforts to enforce environmentalregulations. Now, in anpther matter, EPA has withdrawn its claim even before a court has had the chance to make a ruling.
Range Resources had begun drilling for natural gas in Parker County, Texas; based on neighbors’ complaints, the EPA concluded that the drilling may have resulted in underground contamination of the water supply and had ordered Range to stop the drilling and to provide uncontaminated drinking water to the affected residences. Range challenged the order in the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
While the litigation was pending, however, the EPA withdrew its demands, saying that resolving the litigation with Range “allows EPA to shift the agency’s focus in this particular case away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction….” EPA and Range are now jointly going to study the situation and attempt cooperatively to institute remedies, if any appear necessary.
Since the 5th Circuit is one of the more conservative federal appellate courts, EPA may not have wanted to have risked yet another adverse court decision. The withdrawal of the claim adds to the impression that, for the first time in the agency’s approximately 40-year existence, the courts are elevating their scrutiny of the agency’s actions.
From my column, "Legal News You Can Use", published inm the Valley News Group (San Fernando Valley California) newspapers.