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Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction to Block Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

frackingA federal district court in Wyoming has granted a preliminary injunction on the enforcement of the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Hydraulic Fracturing Rule. “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," explains U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl. The injunction will remain in effect while litigation is pending.

Earlier this year, the State of North Dakota joined Wyoming in a lawsuit that challenges the federal rule for hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands. Both States are home to substantial oil plays where hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is commonly used to extract oil. Wyoming and North Dakota leaders say the new regulations are unlawful because they interfere with regulations that are already in place in each State. "The BLM's Rule is another example of federal regulatory overreach with federal authorities attempting to exercise authority they do not have. It is important that regulation of fracking is conducted at the state level rather than a 'one size fits all' federal scheme," says Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota Attorney General. The Rule is being challenged by the States of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Utah, as well as the Ute Indian Tribe, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the Western Energy Alliance.

The BLM has said the Hydraulic Fracturing Rule includes a process to allow States and tribes to request variances from provisions when there is an equivalent or more protective regulation already in place. The BLM's Hydraulic Fracturing Rule includes these components:

  • Provisions to ensure the protection of groundwater by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes.
  • Companies required to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus, within 30 days of completing fracturing operations.
  • Increased standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water, and wildlife.
  • Requirements to submit more detailed information on the geology, depth, and location of preexisting wells with the goal of lowering the risk of cross-well contamination with chemicals and fluids used in the fracturing operation.

To view the BLM's Hydraulic Fracturing Rule, click here.

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