When the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its new rule on hydraulic fracturing, the release was met with mixed reactions. In March, Wyoming and Colorado filed suit in a Wyoming federal court to challenge the new hydraulic fracturing regulations issued by the BLM. North Dakota and Utah also joined Wyoming and Colorado in the lawsuit. Recently, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe also joined the lawsuit to challenge the fracking rules. Conversely, several environmental groups have joined the lawsuit to support the BLM. The petitioners filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, requesting that Judge Scott Skavdahl stay the effectiveness of the fracking rule until the case is decided.

Judge Skavdahl agreed to stay the effectiveness of the fracking rule until August. The hearing for the injunction lasted longer than six hours. The court is waiting for the BLM to file its administrative record, and the parties have an opportunity to use the record to bolster their arguments. Originally, the BLM was required to file its administrative record with the court in July; however, the court has extended the BLM’s deadline until August. Thereafter, the parties will supplement their arguments with the information in the records, and the court will issue its decision granting or denying the motion for preliminary injunction. While the case is still pending, the BLM will adhere to its prior standards for processing drilling permits and well inspections.

The oil and gas industry has categorized the court’s ruling as an indication of support. According to the oil and gas industry, since the issuance of the new hydraulic fracturing rule, the BLM has been unable to provide proper guidance to state and local officials implementing the rule. The challengers to the fracking bill have argued that the rule infringes on state regulatory authority and unduly inhibits the use of fracking. Similarly, the Ute Tribe has argued that the fracking rule violates tribal sovereignty and would cause significant economic harm. The BLM has countered that it has the authority to manage and regulate public lands. Moreover, the environmental groups have argued that the costs of implementing the rule are minimal and do not warrant staying the effectiveness of the fracking rule. The environmental groups have also argued that the petitioners have failed to show that the rule would cause irreparable harm.

Read the court’s order.