BLM Delay Further Postpones Fracking Rule

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on July 17, 2015 - 11:33am

Red Tape Nation HoopsFor once bureaucratic delay has worked in our favor! Last week, Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Skavdahl granted the government’s request for more time to file the administrative record on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rule. The new date is now August 28th, pushed back from July 22nd.

If you recall, the judge had stayed the rule from its original June 24th start date because the government had failed to provide the full administrative record from the nearly five-year rule-making process, thereby preventing him from making a fully informed decision on our preliminary injunction.

The request for more time raises the question of why BLM wasn’t prepared for such a high-priority rule, and the disarray indicates that BLM is overreaching as it tries to implement the fracking rule along with initiating new rulemaking on royalty rate and fee increases, measurement, flaring and venting while trying to finalize 68 Resource Management Plans. Clearly BLM should not have tried to rush this rule into place before it was ready to implement it, and of course, should not have duplicated what the states are already doing to ensure fracking is safe. The disarray is another example of why states are better prepared and equipped to regulate oil and natural gas development; the federal government should not be wasting its limited resources on duplicative red tape.

After BLM submits the full record on the 28th, our attorneys, along with the state attorneys, will have one week to cite to the record. The judge has given himself two weeks to review our fully cited briefs, meaning he will make an up or down determination on our preliminary injunction around mid-September. So the implementation of the rule has now been pushed back another month or so. Current Application for Permit to Drill (APD) regulations remain in place. And of course, all state wellbore integrity and fracking regulations, which have been protecting federal wells for years with exemplary safety and environmental results, remain in effect.

If the judge denies our preliminary injunction, a new timetable would be set by BLM for compliance with the rule, which could potentially go into effect the day after the judge makes a “no” decision. Of course, if he rules in our favor on the preliminary injunction, the timeline could be many months later, if at all, depending how long it takes the full case to be heard and decided on the merits.