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Court rejects EPA attempt to halt Obama-era methane rule

A federal court on Monday dealt a blow to President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, striking down the agency’s attempts to delay an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas wells.

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the administration could not implement a 90-day stay on the regulation. The rule, proposed in August 2016, put in place new requirements for oil-and-gas well operators to monitor and limit emissions at drilling sites.

The EPA said the stay was necessary because stakeholders, such as oil and gas companies, hadn’t had adequate time to weigh in before the rule was enacted, but the court rejected that argument.

“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 three Circuit Court judges wrote in the 2-to-1 opinion.

The ruling stems from lawsuits brought by environmental groups after the EPA announced its stay about a month ago. The decision doesn’t stop the agency from moving ahead with striking the rule.

Still, environmentalists declared victory.

“Today’s ruling makes clear that Scott Pruitt lacks the authority to slam the brakes on common-sense methane pollution rules that help protect the climate and communities living near oil and gas wells,” said Tim Ballo, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice. “This is a big win for public health and a wake-up call for this administration. While Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump continue to bend over backwards to do the bidding of big oil, Earthjustice and our clients and partners will use every tool at our disposal to hold them fully accountable for their actions.”

The EPA initially projected compliance costs for the rule could be as high as $ 530 million. The plan targeted a host of equipment across the oil-and-gas sector. Companies were required to institute a host of new testing measures and monitoring equipment, and Mr. Pruitt said that new protocol could put companies at a major economic disadvantage.

“American businesses should have the opportunity to review new requirements, assess economic impacts and report back, before those new requirements are finalized,” he said when announcing the stay.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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