Wednesday, July 05, 2017

EPA kept from suspending Obama-era rule to limit methane from wells on federal and tribal land

A federal appeals court ruled 2-to-1 Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency can't delay the effective date of an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions from new gas and oil wells on federal and tribal land.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had imposed a 90-day (later changed to two-year) moratorium on enforcing the methane regulation, arguing that his actions weren't subject to court review, reports Lisa Friedman of The New York Times. But the appeals court for the District of Columbia ruled that Pruitt didn't have the authority under the Clean Air Act to block the rule. In May, the Senate had voted to uphold the Obama-era rule. 

The ruling serves as a signal to Pruitt and other Trump administrations that delaying a rule's effective date may be viewed by courts as tantamount to revoking or amending a rule. In their ruling, Judges David Tatel and Robert Wilkins said that the agency could change the methane regulations but would need to create a new rule to undo the old one, and couldn't delay the effective date of the old law while seeking to rewrite it. 

Trump's administration has used the delaying tactic on other rules as well. The Interior Department declared a two-year delay on a rule limiting methane emissions from wells on federal and tribal lands, the Times notes. It also reports: "The administration has also used the delay tactic to stop a Food and Drug Administration rule requiring restaurants to list the calories in the food they sell and a Labor Department regulation mandating that financial advisers put consumers' best interests ahead of their own."

Some states have pushed back against the current EPA's decisions. After they green-lighted the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide found to be harmful for children, California and six other states challenged the rule.

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