Judge invalidates fracking standards imposed on Indian Country

The seal of the Ute Tribe of Utah is seen on a gymnasium on the reservation. Photo from Ute Tribe Recreation / Facebook

The Bureau of Land Management lacks authority to impose hydraulic fracturing standards in Indian Country, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

The agency based the controversial March 2015 rule on provisions in the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Indian Mineral Leasing Act of 1938 and the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982. But Judge Scott Skavdahl said the laws did not authorize the Obama administration to regulate fracking on lands held in trust for tribes or individual Indians.

"[N]either the IMLA nor the IMDA delegates any more specific authority over oil and gas drilling operations than the MLA, nor has BLM promulgated separate regulations for operations on Indian lands," Skavdahl wrote in the 27-page opinion.

Skavdahl also determined that the BLM lacked authority to impose fracking standards on public lands. As a result, he said the regulation must be "set aside" permanently. Previously, he had issued an injuntion that put the rule on hold.

The decision comes in a lawsuit that included the Ute Tribe and the states of Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The energy industry also challenged the regulation.

Skavdahl is a federal judge in Wyoming so any appeals would be go to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
Judge: US agency lacks authority to set rules on fracking (AP 6/21)
Obama-appointed judge strikes down federal fracking rule (The Hill 6/21)

Hydraulic Fracturing Documents:
Press Release | Final Rule

Federal Register Notice:
Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands (March 26, 2015)

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