By June 24, 2015 Read More →

Bureau of Land Management must delay new fracking rules – judge

Final ruling on Bureau of Land Management rules expected in August

New hydraulic fracturing rules from the Bureau of Land Management will not take effect today after a judge ruled against the federal government Tuesday.

Bureau of Land Management

Judge Scott Skavdahl of the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl granted a stay of the new rule after the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, joined by the Independent Petroleum Association (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance asked for an injunction.  Judge Skavdahl did not fully rule on the preliminary injunction because the Bureau of Land Management has not submitted the full administrative record.

Compliance with the rule has been delayed until early August. The government has until July 22 to submit the administrative record, essentially a paper trail showing the decision-making process, after which the judge will more fully rule.

Judge Skavdahl agreed that the arguments of the states, IPAA and the Alliance have merit and that the Bureau of Land Management should not implement the rule in a hurried manner when plaintiffs have a strong chance of prevailing, the Western Energy Alliance said in a release.

“BLM was ill-prepared to implement an extremely complex rule in a short period of time,” said Kathleen Sgamma, VP of government and public affairs.

“We highlighted how the BLM Washington Office has not given sufficient guidance to the state and field offices that are implementing the rule, and as a result they were issuing confused instructions to companies on how to comply. The judge agreed that it makes no sense to implement an ill-conceived rule which could ultimately be overruled in court.”

Until the matter is resolved, permits will be processed under existing criteria.

“While the matter is being resolved, the BLM will follow the court’s order and will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect well sites under its pre-existing regulations,” the BLM said in a statement.

The Department of the Interior issued the final hydraulic fracturing rule for federal and tribal lands on March 20th, prompting the Alliance and IPAA to file a lawsuit asking to overturn the rule because it is redundant with existing state regulation and would further discourage oil and gas development on federal lands.

The states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Utah also filed suit in Wyoming federal district court. The Southern Ute Tribe filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Colorado last week.

States have been regulating hydraulic fracturing and wellbore integrity for many years and continue to strengthen regulations as activity increases and technology improves.

In fact, 99.97% of the permits to drill approved last year by Bureau of Land Management were in states with recently updated fracking regulations, with just one well in a state currently updating its rules, according to the Alliance.

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