D.C. federal appeals court blocks Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to suspend Obama-era methane pollution rule
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court in Washington ruled Monday that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority by trying to delay implementation of a new rule requiring oil and gas companies to control and reduce methane leaks .
In a split decision – the first major legal defeat for Scott Pruitt, the EPA Administrator – the three-judge court of the US District Court Circuit Court of the United States ordered the Environment Agency to proceed with the A requirement of the Obama era, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations.
The decision indicates that President Donald Trump’s plans to erase the environmental record of his predecessor will have to face a tough battle in court.
M. Pruitt announced in April that it would delay for 90 days the deadline for oil and gas companies to follow the new rule for the agency to reconsider the measure.
The American Petroleum Institute, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and other industry groups had asked Mr. Pruitt to remove the requirement, which was due to come into force in June.
Last month, M. Pruitt announced his intention to extend the 90-day stay for two years. A coalition of six environmental groups opposed the delay in court, prompting appeals judges to block Mr Pruitt’s decision.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, M. Pruitt said, “The fact that you anticipate a delay in implementation or compliance no longer necessarily means that you are going to reverse or redirect the rule.”
In a detailed decision of 31 pages that could jeopardize the comprehensive legal strategy Trump administration to trace the rules of the Obama era, the court did not agree with the assertion of M. Pruitt that the industry groups had not had enough Opportunity to comment before the adoption of the 2016 standard.
The judges also said that Mr. Pruitt lacked the legal authority under the Clean Air Act to prevent the rule from coming into effect with the “unreasonable” “arbitrary” and “capricious” decision.
“The EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order to delay the effective date of the standard, this court held that these orders equivalent to modify or revoke a rule,” said Judges David Tatel and Robert Wilkins. They rejected the “degradation” of the claim that regulated EPA entities did not have the opportunity to comment “on an aspect of the standard that limits methane and pollutants to form smoke emitted by oil and gas sinks.
The third member of the three-judge panel, Janice Rogers Brown, disagreed.
The Monday decision does not mean that the rule imposing the first federal limits on methane leaks can not be reversed. But for this, the judges said that the agency should initiate a new regulatory process to cancel the regulation and respect the state of the meantime was Obama.