District judge suspends federal fracking rules

A U.S. District judge in Wyoming issued a temporary injunction Wednesday against Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rules regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) practices. The new rules were first issued in March and only apply to drilling on federally-owned land.

Two separate lawsuits challenged the Obama Administration’s authority to enforce fracking standards: one brought by the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Utah; the second by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance.

According to Bloomberg, plaintiffs in both cases claimed that BLM rules “duplicated state regulations and increased costs of extracting resources” from shale formations.  Interior Department lawyers countered that a lack of federal rules “could leave a regulatory gap” on fracking nationally-owned and Indian lands.

Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote in his ruling that “Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through congressional action that BLM can acquire this authority.”

Wednesday’s ruling effectively suspends the enforcement of federal fracking regulations throughout the States until the District Court for Wyoming hears legal merit arguments on both cases, expected to be heard later in 2015.

Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based trade association which represents over 450 oil and gas drilling companies with operations in the West, issued a statement after the ruling: “We are overjoyed that we are finally getting relief from the courts regarding the regulatory overreach of the Obama Administration.”

Today, nearly 90 percent of fracking is carried out on state and private lands.

The two cases are State of Wyoming v. U.S. Department of the Interior and Independent Petroleum Association of America v. Jewell.

 

[New York Times] [Bloomberg]