Alliance Wins as Court Strikes Down Federal Fracking Rule

June 22, 2016
  • Federal judge finds BLM has no congressional authority to regulate fracking
  • Court sides with lawsuits filed by Western Energy Alliance, IPAA, states and the Ute Tribe
  • Decision a rebuke of overreaching regulations from Obama Administration

DENVER - The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rule has been struck down by U.S. District Court of Wyoming’s Judge Skavdahl, who found the agency lacks authority from Congress to regulate the process. The court agreed with the lawsuit filed by Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and others brought by western states and tribes in a rebuke of overreaching regulations by the Obama Administration late in its final term.

The following is comment from Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance:

“We're overjoyed with the ruling. The judge determined that the federal government lacks the authority to regulate fracking, period. He decided exclusively on statutory authority, so there's nothing to remand, no do over. He didn't even rule on our technical Administrative Procedures Act arguments, which we believe are still strong and represent another line of defense if BLM appeals to the circuit court.

“States have shown they’ve successfully regulated fracking with no incidence of contamination in the 70 year history. BLM failed to show any gap in state regulation. In fact, the agency couldn’t point to a single incident on public lands to justify the new rule.” 


Western Energy Alliance and IPAA filed a joint suit against BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule on March 20, 2015, after the final rule was announced by the agency. The complaint filed by both trade groups characterized BLM’s rulemaking as “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns” and requested the regulations be set aside because BLM’s administrative record lacked the factual, scientific, or engineering evidence necessary to sustain the agency’s action.

Shortly thereafter, additional suits were filed by the states of Wyoming, ColoradoNorth Dakota, Utah, as well as the Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Tribe

On September 30, 2015, Judge Skavdahl granted a preliminary injunction on the rule, halting its implementation. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and environmental interveners appealed the preliminary injunction to the 10th Circuit Court.

On June 21, 2016, the judge issued his final ruling, citing, “Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The BLM's effort to do so through the Fracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.” 

Judge Skavdahl’s ruling renders the DOI’s appeal of the preliminary injunction moot. Western Energy Alliance believes DOI will likely appeal.

# # #