Federal Fracking Rule Stayed by Court

June 23, 2015

U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Skavdahl today granted a stay of BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule. The state of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Independent Petroleum Association (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance showed a credible threat of irreparable harm from the agency’s rule, but the judge did not fully rule on the preliminary injunction because the federal government had not yet submitted the full administrative record.

Compliance with the rule, which was originally intended to go into effect on June 24th, has been delayed until approximately early August. The government has until July 22nd to submit the administrative record, after which the judge will more fully rule. Judge Skavdahl agreed that the arguments of the states, IPAA and the Alliance have merit and that BLM should not implement the rule in a hurried manner when plaintiffs have a strong chance of prevailing.

“BLM was ill-prepared to implement an extremely complex rule in a short period of time,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs. “We highlighted how the BLM Washington Office has not given sufficient guidance to the state and field offices that are implementing the rule, and as a result they were issuing confused instructions to companies on how to comply. The judge agreed that it makes no sense to implement an ill-conceived rule which could ultimately be overruled in court.”

Background

On March 20th, the Department of the Interior issued the final hydraulic fracturing rule for federal and tribal lands. Immediately following the announcement of the rule, the Alliance and IPAA filed a lawsuit to overturn the rule because it is redundant with existing state regulation and will further discourage responsible development on federal lands. The states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Utah also filed suit in Wyoming federal district court. The Southern Ute Tribe filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Colorado last week.

States have been regulating hydraulic fracturing and wellbore integrity for many years and continue to strengthen regulations as activity increases and technology improves. In fact, 99.97% of the permits to drill approved last year by BLM were in states with recently updated fracking regulations, with just one well in a state currently updating its rules.

BLM cannot point to a single incident on public lands to justify the new rules. Even the Environmental Protection Agency agrees hydraulic fracturing does not pose significant risks to groundwater that aren’t already being managed by state, as it lays out in its recent report.