President Donald Trump in February instructed cabinet members “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people,” and it appears Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has taken that to mean attack the environment and public health. He attempted to suspend a rule put in place under President Barack Obama to regulate methane emissions from new gas and oil wells. But now a federal appeals court has dealt Pruitt and Trump a blow.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that the EPA can’t suspend the Obama-era rule. In a two to one decision, the court said under the Clean Air Act, the EPA doesn’t have the authority to obstruct the rule. Pruitt had placed a 90-day moratorium on enforcing portions of the methane rule – and then stretched that moratorium to two years. He also said his move wasn’t subject to court review. But the federal appeals court called his decision unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious.
Judges Robert Wilkins and David Tatel said, “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.”
Pruitt’s efforts to foment climate change as much as he can haven’t been put to a full stop. The court did say the EPA does have the right to reverse the rule – but will have to go through a new rule-making process to get there. When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane is 25 more times powerful than carbon dioxide, according to The New York Times.
American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Reid Porter said 2012 standards had already done some work in cutting methane emissions. In a statement he said, “A stay is needed to allow for regulatory certainty as EPA continues the formal process to review the rule making.”