Federal judge blocks enforcement of fracking regulations
Federal judge blocks enforcement of fracking regulations

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Wyoming [official website] ruled [order, PDF] Tuesday that the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “lacked Congressional authority to promulgate” regulations concerning fracking on federal and Indian lands. The court came to this conclusion by applying the test, as formulated in Chevron USA Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. [opinion], which asks whether Congress has “directly spoken to the precise question at issue.” Upon a negative answer “a reviewing court must respect the agency’s construction of the statute so long as it is permissible.” In this case, the court found that the BLM’s attempt to regulate fracking was “in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.” It is expected that the government will appeal the ruling.

Fracking [JURIST backgrounder], or hydraulic fracturing, 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. In October the same judge issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] prohibiting the Department of the Interior and the BLM from enforcing regulations applying to fracking. US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced [JURIST report] the publication of the rules at issue in this case in March of last year. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation banned [JURIST report] fracking in the state last June. In March of last year the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill [JURIST report] to place a three-year moratorium on fracking in the state. In January 2015 Scotland announced [JURIST report] a moratorium on the granting of permits for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking amid environmental and health concerns.