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Wyoming v. United States Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20184
Nos. 2:15-CV-043, (D. Wyo., 09/30/2015) (Skavdahl, J.)

A district court preliminarily enjoined BLM from enforcing its hydraulic fracturing rule for federal and Native American lands. Various industry, state, and Native American petitioners challenged the rule, arguing that BLM exceeded its authority in promulgating the regulations, and the court agreed. BLM asserted authority under various statutes, including FLPMA, the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, and the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982. But none of these statutes authorize BLM to regulate hydraulic fracturing. In fact, when Congress amended the SDWA via the Energy Policy Act of 2005, it clearly expressed its intent that non-diesel hydraulic fracturing be removed from the realm of federal regulation. Congress, therefore, has directly spoken to the issue, and the authority to regulate fracking activities lies with the states and tribes. Even if BLM had the authority to promulgate the rule, it lacks evidentiary support and is likely arbitrary. In addition, BLM failed to consult with Native American tribes on a government-to-government basis in accordance with its own policies and procedures. The petitioners are therefore likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. And because the rule infringes on the states' and tribes' sovereign authority and interests in administering their own regulatory programs and policies on hydraulic fracturing, they will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction. The industry petitioners will also likely suffer irreparable harm due to the imposition of compliance costs and disclosure of trade secrets and confidential information. Lastly, the court concluded that the issuance of an injunction poses little more than an inconvenience to BLM's interests. The court, therefore, granted petitioners' motions for a preliminarily injunction. (Plaintiffs’ counsel included Poe Leggette of BakerHostetler in Denver, Colo.).