Court delivers another kick to Trump regime over delaying methane reductions, but fight isn’t over

In a ruling issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia smacked the Environmental Protection Agency again, requiring that it immediately begin enforcing an Obama administration rule that set standards for the oil and natural gas industry’s methane emissions. The Trump regime had issued a two-year delay for enforcing the rule. Although environmental advocates were pleased by the court’s decision, industry and some conservative organizations have appealed to the full 11-judge circuit court in hopes it will overrule the panel and allow the methane rule to be postponed while further studies are undertaken. Thus, the fight will continue. 

Although it doesn’t remain in the atmosphere as long, methane, a chief component of natural gas, has a greenhouse effect over 20 years that is 84-86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Recent studies have shown, as environmental advocates have argued for years, that methane emissions from oil and gas

are much higher than the industry has claimed. 

In early July, the three-judge panel had granted EPA a two-week reprieve after ruling that the agency’s attempt to delay implementation of the 2016 Obama rule was “arbitrary,” “capricious,” and “tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.” 

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Sierra Club were prominent in the coalition of green groups that sued over the freezing of the rule because, they said, the EPA had failed to follow procedures laid out in the 1970 Clean Air Act.

Led by EPA-hating Scott Pruitt, the worst appointee to head the agency since it was launched nearly 50 years ago, the EPA has undertaken an aggressive deregulatory stance. That is the alternative to dismantling the agency altogether, something that some ultra-rightwingers in and out of Congress have suggested, but that would have zero chance of actually getting accomplished because of solid Democratic opposition and the fact that not every Republican representative and senator is a loon on environmental matters. 

Jessica Corbett writes:

The “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 Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) lead attorney Peter Zalzal.

“The court’s order is a victory for our communities’ health and the safety of our climate. Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt’s attempt to delay the implementation of these crucial protections had no basis in law, and we are glad to see their effort to do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry fail once again,” said Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel. “Trump and Pruitt have repeatedly overreached in their efforts to undermine environmental protections and prop up the oil and gas industry.”

While industry and conservative groups have appealed for an en banc decision by the court, the EPA itself has not yet appealed. That could, however, come after August 9, which is the deadline for receiving public comments on the delay. 

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