The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and several states, including Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and the Ute Indian Tribe rejoiced when Wyoming federal judge Scott W. Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new hydraulic fracturing regulations.
“We are pleased to see Judge Skavdahl agrees with our request to first hear the merits of our case before this final federal rule goes into effect,” IPAA Pres. Barry Russell stated following the September 30 order.
The complaint was filed by IPAA and Western Energy Alliance on March 20 to challenge BLM’s final ruling regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. The other states listed above joined in the opposition against BLM. The plaintiffs objected to BLM’s “overreaching” authority, noting that BLM’s traditional authority was contained to the “conservation of surface resources.” This would allow BLM authority over any “additional surface disturbance,” but not the authority to “regulate the fracturing process itself.”
“BLM provided no evidence that its rule is necessary or that state regulation is not already protecting the environment. That is a significant finding for the oil and gas industry, since for several years, the environmental lobby has fomented fear in the public about an engineering process that has been safely regulated by states for decades,” Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance in Denver, stated after the injunction was issued
Judge Skavdahl blocked implementation of the rule, initially set to go into effect on June 24, after a hearing on the motions in anticipation of the administrative record. In finding support for the injunction, Judge Skavdahl predicted the plaintiffs would succeed in their challenge that BLM’s regulations were arbitrary and capricious. One critique was BLM’s limited consultation with the tribes before finalizing its regulation.
“While tribes were told they would have a seat at the table with federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management excluded them from the process of drafting a rule with a potentially devastating impact on their sovereignty, and their economies. Tribes were not afforded an opportunity to provide input on, let alone the time to analyze, the draft rule,” stated Don Young, Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman.
The preliminary injunction acts as notice to BLM that there must be stronger consultation efforts with the tribes and other plaintiffs. The case is Wyoming v. Department of the Interior et al., case number 2:15-cv-00043, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.