Amendment seeks to outlaw fracking regulation in Indian Country

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota hosts more than 1,000 fracking wells. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News

A federal judge has already invalidated a regulation that imposes hydraulic fracturing in Indian Country but a Republican lawmaker wants to make sure the controversial rule doesn't resurface.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) has proposed an amendment to H.R.5538, the fiscal year 2017 Interior appropriations bill, that would bar the use of any federal funds to implement the March 2015 rule. His provision could come up for consideration as early as Wednesday.

Lamborn's effort could help energy producers tap into the Mancos Shale, a large source of natural gas in Colorado. It would also benefit the Southern Ute Tribe, whose leaders oppose the fracking rule and want to be able to follow their own energy developnent standards.

The Ute Tribe in neighboring Utah already scored a major victory when Judge Scott Skavdahl invalidated the rule last month. He determined that the Bureau of Land Management lacked under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Indian Mineral Leasing Act of 1938 and the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982 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. The ruling also invalidated the fracking standards on federal lands.

The Obama administration has vowed to defend the rule as litigation proceeds. But if lawmakers adopt Lamborn's amendment, the BLM would not be able to spend any money to implement or enforce the rule on Indian lands or on public lands.

The amendment, numbered 66, is among dozens that are being debated on the floor of the House. Debate opened on Tuesday and stretched well into the night.

Republican leaders hope to wrap up work on the Interior appropriations bill by the end of the week, according to the Majority Leader's schedule.

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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