Powder River Basin Resource Council et al. v. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

2014WY37
March 23, 2012
State Court
Wyoming
Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming

On March 12, the Wyoming Supreme Court reignited the debate between green groups and energy companies regarding trade secret protections and disclosure of fracking chemicals. This case, Powder River Basin Resource Council et al. v. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, calls upon a lower Wyoming court to determine whether state public records laws are at odds with recent trade secret protection grants to Halliburton Energy Services and other entities for their fracking chemical recipes. According to the suit, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission (WOGC) has been protecting large energy companies at the expense of transparency and public good, using trade secret laws as a disguise to effectuate these protections, and had granted over fifty such trade secret protection orders in recent years.

Procedurally, this case was originally struck down since they mistakenly relied on the Administrative Procedure Act instead of the Wyoming Public Records Act. When this case is eventually presented at trial, Wyoming will have to set state law precedent on whether fracking chemicals constitute a trade secret under state law. Luckily, the Wyoming Supreme Court provided some guidance to the lower court in construing the breadth of available trade secret protection, directing the lower court to use the narrow definition of trade secret associated with the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA).

Panel
CENTER FOR EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT, EARTHWORKS, POWDER RIVER BASIN RESOURCE COUNCIL, WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES INC., WYOMING OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION
Other state statute