BLM Hydraulic Fracturing Rule
The Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released on March 20, 2015 its final rule regulating hydraulic fracturing activities on federal lands. As written, this precedent-setting rule would be difficult and costly for industry to comply with and would likely discourage U.S. investment and job creation in the West. IPAA and Western Energy Alliance, along with the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah, and the Ute Indian Tribe, immediately challenged the rulemaking in court, characterizing the federal government’s rulemaking as unsubstantiated and duplicative of states’ efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing operations. States have successfully regulated more than 1.2 million hydraulic fracturing operations for 70 years and many states have recently strengthened their regulations as production has increased and technology has improved. This rule is unnecessary and would add another layer of burden for America’s independent oil and natural gas producers already struggling to navigate the complex and confusing regulatory program governing federal lands.
On September 30, 2015, a judge for the U.S. District Court of Wyoming granted IPAA and Western Energy Alliance’s motion for a preliminary injunction of the rule, stating, “Congress has not authorized or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through Congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority.” On June 21, 2016, shortly after the preliminary injunction appeal case was fully briefed, the District Court judge struck down the BLM final rule. The judge agreed with industry that BLM does not have the congressional authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.
As expected, the Obama administration and environmental parties on June 30, 2016 filed an appeal to the District Court’s ruling with the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. In September 2017, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case, protecting producers from the business uncertainty of having to potentially comply with a regulation that is certain to be revoked by the Trump administration. The Tenth Circuit Court gave the U.S. Department of the Interior until January 12, 2018 to finish repealing the 2015 BLM hydraulic fracturing rule. Then on December 29, 2017, the BLM published a repeal of the 2015 rule that took immediate effect and made the Appeals Court deadline and subsequent appellate case moot.