Federal judge halts enforcement of BLM fracking regulations
Federal judge halts enforcement of BLM fracking regulations

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Wyoming [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, pdf] on Wednesday prohibiting the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) [official websites] from enforcing regulations applying to hydraulic fracturing, also knows as “fracking.” The regulations [text, PDF] at issue purport to govern fracking on federal and Native American tribal lands, and pertain mostly to wellbore construction, chemical disclosures, and water management in oil and gas development. Motions seeking the injunction were filed by Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance [organization websites], as well as the states of Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. In the order, Judge Scott Skavdahl found that Congress did not explicitly grant the BLM the power to regulate fracking and that an administrative agency does not inherently possess any powers without clear Congressional authority or statute. Ambiguity, the court said, is not enough to grant powers to the BLM.

Fracking [JURIST backgrounder] is a controversial method of tapping natural gas deposits with highly pressurized fluids. The method, commonly used in Marcellus Shale deposits, has raised environmental and public health concerns. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) banned [JURIST report] fracking in the state in June. In March, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill [JURIST report] to place a 3-year moratorium on fracking in the state. Also in March US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell [official profile] announced [JURIST report] the publication of the rules at issue in this case. In January Scotland announced [JURIST report] a moratorium on the granting of permits for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking amid environmental and health concerns. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration issued a report in December affirming their intent will block hydraulic fracturing across the state.