The Obama administration once again has been adjudicated a rule of law scofflaw. And this time, it’s by one of its own.

In a long-awaited ruling, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming ruled Tuesday that the Department of Interior has no congressional warrant to regulate fracking on federal lands and tribal lands. That’s the practice of hydraulic fracturing used to break up shale rock to extract natural gas and oil.

Four western states, the Ute Indian tribe and the energy industry challenged the federal regulations. They claimed the overreach created rules that conflicted with the states’ and harmed competitiveness. Judge Skavdahl, named to the bench by President Obama in 2011, delivered a tutorial in the constitutional separation of powers to a president who fancies himself a constitutional scholar.

“Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently,” Judge Skavdahl wrote in a 27-page skewering, accusing the government of an “attempted end-run.”

Honoring the Framers’ separation of powers doctrine “is essential to the preservation of liberty,” the judge concluded. “(R)egulation of an activity must be by congressional authority, not administrative fiat.”

How shameful that the Obama administration keeps trying.


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