Following a Wyoming federal court’s order temporarily halting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on public lands, Sierra Club and several other environmental groups requested the court enter final judgment and delay proceedings while they pursue an appeal through the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Our complete coverage of this case is available here.) The BLM indicated it did not oppose the environmental groups’ request for entry of final judgment, but did not want to delay the district court’s proceedings pending an appeal; industry groups and the North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah state governments all opposed the request in favor of litigating their rule challenge to finality before an appeal goes forward.
Yesterday, the Wyoming court denied the environmental groups’ motion. It found the motion was procedurally improper, and that pausing the district court proceedings in favor of an appeal would prejudice the industry groups and state governments because they do not have the benefit of the BLM’s entire administrative record. The court also found the outcome of the case is not limited to purely legal questions and that it must still consider factual evidence related to the BLM’s regulatory practices before it can issue a final judgment on the merits of the rule challenge.
Undeterred, the environmental groups have proceeded to seek review by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and filed a notice of appeal in November. This means that the environmental groups will pursue an appeal of the district court’s decision to preliminarily delay implementation of the BLM’s final rule as it relates to fracking on public lands, while the parties simultaneously continue to litigate the final rule in the district court.
Mineral Law Blog will continue to monitor and report on these legal challenges to the BLM’s new public lands hydraulic fracturing rule as they move forward.