Court says BLM lacks authority to regulate fracking
By: Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E reporter, EnergyWire: Thursday, October 1, 2015
The Obama administration does not have authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a federal judge decided yesterday.
In a major blow to the Bureau of Land Management and environmentalists who support stricter fracking oversight, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming enjoined BLM's years-in-the-making fracking rule, blocking enforcement of the new regulation while the court considers industry and state challenges.
"One of the fundamental questions presented in this case is whether Congress granted or delegated to the BLM the authority or jurisdiction to regulate fracking," Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote, adding later: "At this point, the Court does not believe Congress has granted or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate fracking."
The decision sent shock waves through the Interior Department and environmental community. The rule's backers have consistently argued that BLM has broad authority to regulate oil and gas production on federal land and that increased fracking regulation is crucial to ensure safety and environmental protection.
"BLM has well-established authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and other downhole aspects of drilling on federal lands," said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. "The requirements in this rule are amply supported by the administrative record."
The rule, released in March, would set new requirements for well construction, water management and chemical disclosure for fracked wells on public and tribal lands. BLM said it is consulting with the Department of Justice to determine how to respond to the preliminary injunction.
Freeman told EnergyWire that the environmental groups who intervened to help BLM defend the rule will continue fighting to ensure it takes effect. An appeal would go to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.