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Environmental Blog

  • 24
  • June
  • 2016

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Federal Judge in Wyoming Rejects BLM Fracking Rule

In a June 21 ruling, the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming set aside the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) comprehensive hydraulic fracturing regulations, holding that BLM lacks the statutory authority to regulate the hydraulic fracturing process. BLM promulgated a final rule in March 2015 that regulated wellbore construction, chemical disclosure, and water management for hydraulic fracturing operations on federal and Indian lands. The rule was scheduled to take effect in June 2015. States and industry groups challenged the rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act, and the court stayed the effective date of the rule before it went into effect. 

BLM had claimed “broad authority” to regulate all oil and gas operations on federal and Indian lands under a bevy of statutes, but the court concluded that BLM’s authority under these statutes did not extend to “the kind of comprehensive rulemaking” aimed at the process of hydraulic fracturing embodied in its March 2015 rule. Rather, the court held that the Safe Water Drinking Act (“SWDA”) originally vested the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) “with the authority and duty to regulate hydraulic fracturing on all lands, federal state and tribal,” but that Congress, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, explicitly removed non-diesel hydraulic fracturing from EPA regulation under the SWDA. Pursuant to the court’s holding, BLM is now without the statutory authority to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, though it may appeal the court’s decision; indeed, the government had already appealed the court’s stay of the rule’s effective date to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the opinion in full here.

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Author

Jay Rothrock

Jay Rothrock Senior Associate