Appeals Court Shoots Down Trump Admin’s Attempt to Halt Obama Oilfield Methane Rule

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — On July 3, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shot down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and its administrator Scott Pruitt, on their attempt to halt implementation of an Obama-era clean air rule that will clamp down on oilfield methane leaks.

In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled the Obama safeguard would take effect as planned. Judges David Tatel and Robert Wilkins explained, “The final [Obama-era] rule … responded directly to comments and information [the] EPA now [claims were] impracticable for industry groups to have presented” in the first place.

“EPA’s stay, in other words, is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule,” Tatel and Wilkins continued. The third judge on the panel, Janice Rogers Brown, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, dissented, saying in her opinion that the court lacked jurisdiction because Pruitt’s cessation of the rule didn’t amount to a “final agency action.”

Pruitt had initially imposed a 90-day moratorium on the Obama methane rule, which he later extended to two years. But Tatel and Wilkins said in their opinion that Pruitt’s imposition of the moratorium was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and that Pruitt “lacked authority” to block implementation of the rule.

“We are reviewing the opinion and examining our options,” an EPA spokeswoman told CNN.

Methane is a caustic substance for the climate, roughly 30 times more potent than CO2 as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. The hydrocarbon lasts for at least 12 years in the atmosphere once emitted, exacerbating global warming all the while.

The court’s stoppage of Pruitt’s moratorium leaves leeway for the EPA to examine the Obama rule further and garner public comment, but cuts off the oil industry’s ability to keep leaking methane in the meantime. The court said the EPA ultimately had the right to overturn the rule, but that the Agency would have to do it through traditional rule-making procedures — including public comment.

The decision deals a blow to the Trump Administration — the most recent of multiple losses in court, suggesting that undoing Obama’s actions and regulations may be more onerous than President Trump boasted on the campaign trail.

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