The Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Land: Wyoming v. Department of the Interior

On March 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management adopted regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian land “to ensure that wells are properly constructed to protect water supplies, to make certain that the fluids that flow back to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations are managed in an environmentally responsible way, and to provide public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.” Before 2005, the Safe Drinking Water Act gave the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility to protect aquifers from hydraulic fracturing pursuant to the EPA’s “underground injection control” program. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, however, Congress transferred that role to the states. In June 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming ruled in Wyoming v. Department of the Interior that the BLM lacked the statutory authority to promulgate those regulations, both respecting Congress’s decision and preventing the BLM from engaging in regulatory overreach.

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