UPDATE: Quickly following on the heels of the Wyoming federal district court’s order striking down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing rules, the state governments of North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah have now moved to dismiss the pending Tenth Circuit appeal of the district court’s preliminary injunction order. Those state government indicated in their brief that they had unsuccessfully attempted to reach out to counsel for the BLM and the environmental groups who filed that appeal, but expected those parties will oppose the dismissal motion.
Separately, the BLM and the intervening environmental groups each filed notices seeking to directly appeal the district court’s June 21 order and judgment striking the BLM’s rules to the Tenth Circuit. While it remains unclear exactly how this matter will now proceed on appeal, it seems likely that the Tenth Circuit will combine or consolidate all of these appeal issues in one way or another.
As we’ve previously reported, a Wyoming federal court issued a preliminary injunction order last year that temporarily halted the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Since that time, the case has split into two proceedings: the Wyoming court moved forward with conducting a full legal analysis of the BLM’s final rule, while several environmental groups who had intervened in the lawsuit appealed the preliminary injunction order to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. This week we received some clarity on one of those proceedings, while the other remains pending.
District Court Strikes Down BLM Final Rule
On June 21, the Wyoming court struck down the BLM’s final rule, finding the agency lacked the legal authority to promulgate those regulations.
In his order, Judge Scott Skavdahl premised his opinion on whether Congress delegated requisite authority to the BLM to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands, and “not whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States.” Ultimately, Judge Skavdahl held, a federal agency “may not exercise its authority in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure that Congress enacted into law.”