Federal judge sets aside BLM’s attempt to regulate fracking on public lands

CHEYENNE -- U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl has made permanent his temporary injunction issued in September against the Obama administration’s comprehensive set of 2015 regulations regarding fracking on some 700 million acres of public lands.

Judge Skavdahl was responding to a legal challenge from the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Western Energy Alliance, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and four states -- Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming – arguing that the measure duplicated local drilling requirements and increased the cost of oil and gas production from federal lands.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rules would have required oil and gas companies to reveal the chemicals they inject, to meet construction standards in drilling wells and to safely dispose of contaminated water. Industry groups say such rules would impose costs leading to delays in production.

BLM officials are consulting with federal attorneys and the Department of Justice about the injunction, agency spokesman Jeff Krauss said. “While the matter is being resolved, the BLM will follow the court’s order and will continue to process applications for permits to drill and inspect well sites under its pre-existing regulations,” he said.

“Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing," Skavdahl wrote in his opinion. "The BLM’s effort to do so through the fracking rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law."