10th Circuit Considers BLM Authority in Fracking Case

Federal instructions could moot the case, regardless of court outcomes

In late July, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a case challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s authority to promulgate rules that would regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. And even if the BLM wins, the rule will likely be left toothless with direction from the Trump administration.

The case pitted industry groups, a group of Western states and the Ute Indian Tribe in opposition to the BLM and environmental groups with arguments focused on the BLM’s authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing in the first place.

The rule in question took five years to come to the court, through challenges to the administrative process and multiple rulemaking processes, and, once promulgated, quickly faced a preliminary injunction enjoining the rule and a change of presidential administration promising a quick change for the BLM. The rule regulates hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands by setting standards for how fracking waste could be stored and for the safety and integrity of the wells themselves.

According to several states, though, the rules infringe on their ability to govern themselves and in some cases, would severely harm their economy.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 7, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.