Wyoming Judge Temporarily Blocks Federal Fracking Regulations

Sep 30, 2015

Halliburton fracking equipment at a Colorado oil and gas site.
Credit Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

A federal judge in Wyoming has temporarily blocked implementation of new rules governing fracking on federal lands.

The new rules would require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more mechanical integrity testing for wells, among other things. But U.S. District Court judge Scott Skavdahl argues in the injunction that federal agencies cannot regulate fracking.

"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," he wrote. 

Attorneys for the states and industry groups suing over the rules say existing state regulations governing fracking are enough to protect the environment.

“[Our] membership is arguing for smart regulation, and regulations that are not duplicative of what is already existing under state and local law,” said Mark Barron who represents the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance in the case. “This does not mean that all of a sudden operators are bounding around the country, drilling oil and gas wells absent regulation."

The Interior Department said in a statement that it will comply with the Court's order and "will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect well sites under its pre-existing regulations."

Skavdahl's final decision on whether to block the rules permanently will likely come later this year.