Case on Federal Regulatory Power Over Fracking on Public Lands Pushed to March

By Yessenia Funes Jan 05, 2017

On January 4, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver made a decision that could drastically impact the frequency of fracking in the United States. It voted to delay a case that will determine whether the Bureau of Land Management has the authority to regulate fracking on federal lands until March 20—a change of more than two months after the initial date of January 17. 

With the original hearing date, President Barack Obama‘s administration would have managed—and argued—the case. In March 2015, Obama took steps to regulate fracking on federal lands through new regulations, the first major set of national regulation on the booming extractive process. The rules zoom in on federal lands whereas states look over state-owned or private land.

With the new court date, the case now falls under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. His energy plan includes opening on- and offshore energy leasing on federal land, which includes public and tribal lands. More specifically, his cabinet has voiced interest in privatizing tribal lands.

The Department of Justice filed the appeal on behalf of the bureau in June. This immediately followed Judge Scott Skavdahl of Wyoming ruling that a 2005 energy bill prohibits the federal agency from regulating the process to extract fossil fuels on federal land. Federal government attorneys argue that a century of legal precedent and federal regulations allow the agency to regulate fracking, reports energy information source S&P Global Platts

“[The Bureau of Land Management] has the authority to oversee resource extraction on federal and Indian leases, including well-stimulation activities, to protect natural resources and the environment," the Department of the Interior wrote in the appeal, according to Platts. "[The Bureau of Land Management] and its predecessors have been doing so for nearly 100 years, and modern hydraulic fracturing operations simply are a new version of historically regulated well stimulation techniques."

Both parties will have an hour to make their case to a three-judge panel. 

 (H/t The Hill, S&P Global Platts)