Federal Judge Strikes Down Fracking Rule on Public Lands

Last night, a judge in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has no authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands. According to Judge Skavdahl’s ruling:

“The Court, having considered briefs and materials submitted in support of the petitions and the oppositions thereto, including the Administrative Record, and being otherwise fully advised, FINDS that the Bureau of Land Management lacked Congressional authority to promulgate the regulations.”

The ruling continues:

“The Constitutional role of this court is to interpret the applicable statutory enactments and determine whether congress has delegated to the Department of Interior legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. It has not.”

Under the fracking rule, regulations on several aspects of oil and natural gas development would have increased – and thus increased cost of development – even though regulations in these areas already exist at both the state and federal level. As the ruling notes:

“The Fracking Rule’s focus is on three aspects of oil and gas development – wellbore construction, chemical disclosures, and water management ( 16,128 & 16,129) – each of which is subject to comprehensive regulations under existing federal and/or state law.” (emphasis added)

States have effectively regulated fracking within their borders for years, crafting laws and rules to meet the unique resources and situations in each state. Barry Russell, President and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), summarized this point best in his statement about the ruling:

“Independent producers are good stewards of our lands. We recognize that every energy-producing area has different needs and requirements, which is why the states are far more effective at properly regulating hydraulic fracturing than the federal government.”

This ruling will undoubtedly come as a blow to anti-fracking activists in the “Keep It In The Ground” (KIITG) movement, who have been staging increasingly extreme demonstrations in their efforts to ban fracking on federal lands.  But as IPAA also noted, this decision “demonstrates BLM’s efforts are not needed and that states are—and have for over 60 years been—in the best position to safely regulate hydraulic fracturing.”


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