The Trump administration cannot freeze implementing an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule requiring oil and gas companies to start reporting and fixing any methane leaks they found in wells and transfer stations, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday in a major setback for President Trump’s aggressive agenda of environmental deregulation.
On June 5, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a stay in the rule arguing that the Obama administration violated procedures by not allowing stakeholders to comment on some parts of what became the final regulation when they wrote the rule.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the EPA’s argument does not withstand scrutiny.
“The administrative record thus makes clear that industry groups had ample opportunity to comment on all four issues on which EPA granted reconsideration, and indeed, that in several instances the agency incorporated those comments directly into the final rule,” two of the judges on the three-judge panel wrote.
“Because it was thus not ‘impracticable’ for industry groups to have raised such objections during the notice and comment period [the Clean Air Act] did not require reconsideration and did not authorize the stay.”
“We are reviewing the opinion and examining our options,” an EPA spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.
The court’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed June 5 by green groups that opposed the EPA’s stay of the rule. The groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, argued the EPA did not follow procedures detailed in the 1970 law known as the Clean Air Act when it froze the rule.
“This is a big win for public health and a wake-up call for this administration,” said Tim Ballo, a staff attorney for the group Earthjustice, one of the groups participating in the case.
The Hill adds:
The 2016 rule by Obama was part of a regulatory strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas around 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Pruitt, who was Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general at the time, was one of dozens of parties to sue the EPA in a bid to have the rule overturned.
The Trump administration is working to undo all of Obama’s methane rules, including the landfill rule and one from the Bureau of Land Management.