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Judge Gives Feds More Time to Prepare Case Over BLM Frack Rule

A federal judge in Wyoming has given the U.S. government more time to present its case explaining how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) developed a rule for governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on public and tribal lands.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl granted a motion by the Department of the Interior and other plaintiffs for more time to enter the administrative record. The deadline was extended to Aug. 28.

Last month -- at the request of four states, two industry groups and an Indian tribe that filed two separate lawsuits over the rule -- Skavdahl blocked it from taking effect (see Shale DailyJune 24). But the judge denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction (PI) to block the rule, on the grounds that he felt he didn't have enough information to rule on their request.

With the extension, a decision on a PI is now expected in early- to mid-September.

"Gov’t delay submitting administrative record means BLM fracking rule now delayed until mid-September at the earliest, if at all," one of the plaintiffs, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), tweeted on Thursday.

Neal Kirby, spokesman for another plaintiff, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), told NGI’s Shale Daily the delay “is certainly good news.

“The government's request proves there is no urgent reason to immediately implement the final rule before the court has adequate opportunity to resolve a number of important and legitimate legal questions,” Kirby said. “Today's request by the government supports the industry's underlying request for preliminary injunction."

Last March, Wyoming filed a lawsuit challenging the BLM's authority to regulate fracking. The lawsuit was then joined by Colorado and North Dakota in April, followed by Utah earlier this month (see Shale DailyJune 18April 28April 16March 26). Two industry groups, the WEA and the IPAA, filed a separate lawsuit in March (see Shale DailyMarch 26).

Court records show the two cases [2:15-cv-00041-SWS and 2:15-cv-00043-SWS] have been consolidated, and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation has been added as a plaintiff.

Western state leaders have maintained all along that they can adequately regulate fracking, and that regulatory oversight should be spread over both private and adjoining public lands to avoid duplication and confusion.

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