November 05, 2018

Eroding Granite Rock

Brandon Rattiner

Introduction

The US District Court for the District of Wyoming recently ruled that the Department of the Interior (DOI)—the agency tasked with managing the federal mineral estate—generally lacks authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to regulate the environmental effects of mineral extraction on public lands. In Wyoming v. U.S. Department of the Interior, the court held that “Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.” If this result seems counterintuitive, given that 90 percent of the 100,000 oil and gas wells on public lands utilize hydraulic fracturing, the opinion’s reasoning only confuses the matter further. The court reached its suspect holding by badly misinterpreting California Coastal Commission v. Granite Rock Co., an unrelated preemption case decided more than three decades before the Wyoming decision.

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