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Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the Nation's leading legal centers fighting environmental overkill and the use of so-called environmental statutes to achieve other public policy objectives. MSLF believes, not only in a sensible, science-based balance between environmental goals and economic growth, but in making people part of the environmental equation. MSLF has achieved a number of important legal precedents in its 25 year fight for reasonable environmental policy.

Wyoming v. U.S. Department of the Interior

Why We Fight:

Despite that, for over 60 years, state agencies regulated hydraulic fracturing as used in oil and gas development with no ill effects, the federal government illegally adopted a redundant regulatory scheme.

Summary:

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management promulgated hydraulic fracturing regulations for public and Indian lands despite that Congress never granted it the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

Legal Question:

Whether the BLM should be allowed to drastically increase the regulatory burden faced by operators on federal oil and gas leases based only upon speculative and unsubstantiated public concerns regarding environmental effects caused by hydraulic fracturing?

Petitioners

Independent Petroleum Association of America, Western Energy Alliance, State of Wyoming, State of Colorado, State of North Dakota, State of Utah, and Ute Indian Tribe

Respondents

Sally Jewell, In Her Official Capacity as Secretary Of the U.S. Department Of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department Of The Interior; and Neil Kornze, in his official capacity as Director of the Bureau of Land Management

Amicus Curiae:

Petroleum Association of Wyoming, represented by MSLF

Court:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

 

None.  On September 21, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal and remanded the case with directions to vacate theWyoming federal district court's order and dismiss the case without prejudice.
On May 11, 2012, the BLM published a draft rule intended to “regulate hydraulic fracturing on public land and Indian land.”  The BLM alleged the rule was necessary given public concern regarding HF.  On September 10, 2012, PAW joined in comments by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) opposing the rule.

On May 24, 2013, after receiving and allegedly reviewing comments, the BLM published supplemental proposed regulations.  On August 22, 2013, PAW submitted comments, on behalf of itself and its members, urging the BLM to avoid duplication with Wyoming’s existing regulation of HF.  PAW’s comments included technical responses to the BLM’s specific regulations, and expressed concern that federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing will lead to declines in oil and natural gas production on federal lands because the BLM lacks ample staffing, budget, and technical expertise.  PAW explained that federal permitting delays will hurt Wyoming’s tax revenue and employment, increase the costs of energy, and increase reliance on imports.

On March 26, 2015, the BLM promulgated its final rule, after receiving over 1.5 million comments, advising that the rule would become effective on June 24, 2015.  On March 20, 2015, IPAA and the WEA challenged the rule; on March 26, 2015, Wyoming filed its own petition.  On September 30, 2015, the district court granted the petitioners’ motions for preliminary injunction, finding “[a]t this point, the Court does not believe Congress has granted or delegated to the BLM authority to regulate fracking.” Wyo. v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, 2015 WL 584514 at *22 (D. Wyo. Sept. 20, 2015).   

On November 27, 2015, the environmental intervenors appealed the order granting the preliminary injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  On December 15, 2015, the BLM followed suit and filed its own appeal of the preliminary injunction.   On January 20, 2016, the Tenth C

ircuit consolidated the appeals.  On February 16, 2016, appellants filed their opening briefs.  Meanwhile On March 4, 2016, petitioners filed their opening briefs on the merits at the Wyoming federal district court.  On March 11, 2016, MSLF filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae and a proposed amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.  Unexpectedly, on March 15, 2016, the district court denied PAW’s motion to participate as amicus curiae.

On June 21, 2016, the Wyoming district court issued its final decision on the merits of the case, holding unlawful and setting aside the BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rules and ruling that the BLM lacks authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  The district court’s final decision had the effect of mooting the pending appeal of the preliminary injunction.  The BLM and the environmental intervenors immediately appealed the district court’s final decision. 

On August 12, 2016, the BLM and the environmental intervenors filed their opening briefs.  On September 16, 2016, the industry groups and Wyoming filed their response briefs.  On September 23, 2016, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of PAW at the Tenth Circuit, defending the Wyoming district court’s final decision.

The Tenth Circuit scheduled oral argument for January 17, 2017; however, after the parties requested an enlargement of time for oral argument, the Tenth Circuit moved the argument to March 22, 2017.  On March 9, 2017, the Tenth Circuit ordered the BLM to file a statement confirming its position on the issues in light of the change in administration.  The BLM responded by filing a motion to continue the argument and hold the case in abeyance pending “a new rulemaking  by BLM.”  Environmental intervenors filed an opposition to the BLM’s motion and asked the Tenth Circuit to decide whether the agency has authority to manage oil and gas development on public lands.  On March 17, 2017, the Tenth Circuit issued an order directing the BLM to file a supplemental brief addressing its new position regarding, among other matters, whether the Tenth Circuit should decide the appeal before any new regulations issue and whether the environmental intervenors would have standing at the Tenth Circuit if the BLM abandons its appeal.  On May 16, 2017, the BLM filed its supplemental brief as directed by the Tenth Circuit.  On June 5, 2017, supplemental briefs were filed by the industry groups, the states, and environmental intervenors.  On July 27, 2017, the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument.  On September 21, 2017, the Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal and remanded the case with directions to vacate the Wyoming federal district court’s order and dismiss the case without prejudice.

 


 

 

 
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  • Wyoming Association Welcomes Delay in Hydraulic Fracturing Argument

    Jan 4, 2017
    Wyoming’s oldest and largest oil and gas industry trade association today welcomed the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to delay oral arguments in its review of a ruling by a Wyoming federal district court striking down federal rules regulating hydraulic fracturing as issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
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    Jun 21, 2016
    Wyoming’s oldest and largest oil and gas industry trade association today welcomed a Wyoming federal district court’s ruling striking down federal rules regulating hydraulic fracturing as issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
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    Jun 6, 2016
    Wyoming’s oldest and largest oil and gas industry trade association today urged that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit uphold an injunction issued by a Wyoming federal district court on the implementation of federal rules regulating hydraulic fracturing issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
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    Mar 11, 2016
    Wyoming’s oldest and largest oil and gas industry trade association today urged a Wyoming federal district court to strike down federal rules regulating hydraulic fracturing issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
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    Dec 14, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to annul a Wyoming district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her legal duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.
  • Wyoming Stockmen Disappointed with Wild Horse Suit Dismissal

    Apr 21, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today expressed disappointed with the decision of a Wyoming federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.
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    Apr 6, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today urged a Wyoming federal district court to reject an attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.


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