Appeals Court Deals Second Setback to Trump Administration on Methane Regulation

Another unpleasant reminder for the Trump Administration that there are three equal branches of government: A federal appeals court ruled 9-2 that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt must enforce a rule to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas wells.
August 7, 2017, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Steve Oehlenschlager

On July 31, nine of the 11 judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit followed-up on a July 3 ruling by a 3-judge panel of the same court and ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift its stay of an Obama-era rule requiring oil and gas companies to limit methane and smog-forming pollutants from their drilling operations.

"The D.C. federal court's ruling was a victory for environmentalists and suggests rolling back environmental regulations wholesale will be difficult for the Trump administration," reports Rene Marsh for CNN Politics.

"Today's issuance of the mandate by the full D.C. Circuit protects families and communities across America under clean air safeguards that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sought to unlawfully tear down," said Peter Zalzal, lead attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups that challenged the EPA. [See EDF article on the ruling].

However, the one-page order [pdf] in support of the six petitioners, Environmental Defense FundNatural Resources Defense CouncilEnvironmental Integrity ProjectEarthworksClean Air Council, and the Sierra Club, does not end the matter of enforcement of the first federal rule to limit methane emissions, an integral part of President Obama's climate initiative. While the en banc ruling lifts EPA stay on the methane rule, the issue is not fully resolved, explains the August 1 Sierra Club press release.

[T]he court will consider industry's petition for rehearing [while] EPA is taking another shot at relieving industry of its obligations by preparing to issue a separate two-year stay of the same rule.

The 'other' methane rule setback for Trump Administration

On May 10, the Trump administration was dealt a surprising setback on a rollback of a related Obama-era Department of Interior rule to reduce methane emissions & wasted gas on public, tribal landsnot by the courts but by the U.S. Senate, when it voted 49-51 to kill a Congressional Review Act bill, H.J.Res.36. However, according to Wikipedia, the 115th Congress has successfully used the Clinton-era law 16 times to rollback Obama-era regulations.

Hat tip to Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog USA for referencing the court ruling in her report on how the U.S. Transportation Department is attempting to roll back a rule to measure the climate impacts of transportation projects.
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Published on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 in CNN Politics
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