With brief to 10th Circuit, PLF opposes unlawful federal fracking restrictions

In a brief to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) urges that federal bureaucrats be blocked from usurping the authority of the states — and disobeying Congress — with unlawful federal regulatory restrictions on hydraulic fracking.

Donor-supported PLF is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates nationwide for limited government and a balanced approach to environmental regulations.  PLF filed its friend-of-the-court brief late last week in Wyoming v. Department of Interior, a case in which Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and the Ute Indian Tribes are challenging fracking restrictions imposed on vast areas throughout the Plains states and the West by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The case is before the 10th Circuit, on appeal by BLM, after a district court ruled in favor of the states and the Ute tribe.  The district court held that Congress has specifically forbidden federal agencies from imposing regulations on hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — for the reasons cited by BLM, i.e., protection of groundwater.  Congress restricted federal-level fracking regulations in order to safeguard the authority of the states to regulate for these purposes; and, indeed, all the states — including the four that brought this lawsuit — have on their own implemented protective environmental regulations concerning the practice of fracking.

Federal bureaucrats try to drill through limits imposed on them by Congress

BLM cites several broad land use statutes to justify its intrusion.  Yet, as PLF’s amicus brief points out, none of them concern the protection of groundwater.  These statutes can’t be stretched this far because Congress has explicitly forbidden federal regulation of fracking under the law directly concerned with groundwater protection.

“Under Supreme Court precedent, agencies can’t bootstrap unrelated statutes to circumvent limits that Congress has imposed on federal regulation,” said PLF attorney Jonathan Wood, who authored the Foundation’s brief.

“This case offers a study in bureaucratic arrogance,” said Wood.  “Unelected BLM officials are trying to drill through the clear limits that Congress has set on the federal government’s role in regulating fracking.  In the process, BLM is also usurping the states’ rightful role as the front-line protectors of groundwater quality within their borders.  Federal bureaucrats are giving short shrift to the unique, up-close perspective that makes state regulators best suited to provide environmental protection for their residents in a way that doesn’t sacrifice a vibrant economy and effective energy extraction.

“The legal principles involved in this case go much further than fracking, however,” Wood continued.  “Ultimately, this case is about whether unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucrats have free rein to do whatever they please or whether, as the Constitution requires, they are subject to congressionally imposed limits.”

The case is Wyoming v. Department of Interior.  PLF filed its amicus brief late last week in conjunction with the Wyoming Liberty Group, a non-profit organization that facilitates the understanding of public issues in light of constitutional principles and governmental accountability.  More information about the litigation, including the brief and a blog post, may be found at:  www.pacificlegal.org.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported PLF is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, nationwide.


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William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
4 years ago

These federal agencies/departments are the result of unconstitutional growth of the power(s) of the executive and the judiciary. Until this changes, you will continue to see the overreach of the government in every aspect of your life.

Congress must retake their Constitutional power(s) and responsibilities or there will be no representative government.