Summary of Decision March 12, 2014
Justice Davis delivered the opinion of the Court. Reversed and remanded.
Case Name: POWDER RIVER BASIN RESOURCE COUNCIL, WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL, EARTHWORKS, and CENTER FOR EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT (formerly OMB WATCH), Appellants (Petitioners), v. WYOMING OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION, Appellee (Respondent), and HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES, INC., Appellee (Intervenor).
Docket Number: S-13-0120
Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, the Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge
Representing Appellants: Timothy J. Preso and Laura D. Beaton of Earthjustice, Bozeman, Montana; Shannon Anderson, Sheridan, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Preso.
Representing Appellee Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: Peter K. Michael, Interim Attorney General; Eric A. Easton, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Easton.
Representing Appellee Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.: Steven L. Leifer of Baker Botts L.L.P., Washington, D.C.; John A. Masterson and Alaina M. Stedillie of Lewis Roca Rothgerber, LLP, Casper, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Leifer.
Date of Decision: March 12, 2014
Facts: Appellants Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks, and Center for Effective Government appeal from a district court order affirming the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor’s denial of a public records request.
Issue: Whether the Supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission acted arbitrarily and unlawfully in denying Appellants’ request for public records documenting the identities of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations in the state.
Holdings/Conclusion: We hold that Appellants were required to follow the procedures set forth in the WPRA, which they did not do. The WPRA requires the district court to independently determine whether information must be disclosed or not, rather than to review a decision of the Supervisor as an administrative decision.
This appeal also raises the question of how trade secrets are defined under the WPRA, a question that can be answered as a matter of law on this record, and one we find to be appropriate to address in the interest of judicial economy. We decide that the Supervisor and the courts should apply the definition developed in federal case law under the Freedom of Information Act. We decline to determine whether individual chemical ingredients can be trade secrets because that is not solely a question of law and it cannot be decided on the record before us. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Summary of Decision March 12, 2014