Court rules against EPA post­pone­ment

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion lacks author­ity to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of 2016 methane reg­u­la­tions for the oil and gas in­dus­try, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Mon­day, sid­ing with Colorado and con­ser­va­tion groups that sued to en­sure the rules weren’t un­done.

The District of Columbia Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals va­cated a 90-day stay ini­tially put in place by En­vi­ron­men­tal Protection Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt in April to re­con­sider the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rules to limit emis­sions of methane and other green­house gases and their im­pact on the en­ergy in­dus­try. Last month, Pruitt ex­tended the de­lay for two years.

How­ever, the ap­peals court found “in­dus­try groups had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to com­ment on all … is­sues on which EPA granted re­con­sid­er­a­tion.” It called the stay “un­rea­son­able” and “unau­tho­rized.”

The EPA was sued over the de­lay by sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, in­clud­ing the Sierra Club, Clean Air Coun­cil and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund.

Gov. John Hick­en­looper, a Demo­crat, an­nounced Fri­day that Colorado had joined the law­suit — along with more than a dozen other states and cities — to over­turn the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­lay. Pri­vate at­tor­neys were rep­re­sent­ing the state in the case.

Hick­en­looper’s spokesman said Colorado’s Repub­li­can at­tor­ney gen­eral, Cyn­thia Coff­man, de­clined to rep­re­sent Colorado in the case but “ap­proved the state hir­ing pri­vate coun­sel.” A spokes­woman for Coff­man did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment Mon­day.

“Colorado is par­tic­i­pat­ing in this law­suit to help as­sure com­pre­hen­sive fed­eral reg­u­la­tion of methane emis­sions, as au­tho­rized by the EPA in 2016,” Hick­en­looper’s of­fice said in a news re­lease. “Colorado has a vested in­ter­est in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment reg­u­lat­ing methane emis­sions from the oil and gas in­dus­try across all 50 states.”

In 2014, the state be­came the first in the U.S. to adopt air pol­lu­tion rules that cover methane, in re­sponse to leaks from oil and gas oper­a­tions, with the sup­port of top op­er­a­tors Anadarko Petroleum, No­ble En­ergy and En­cana. The pow­er­ful Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Petroleum Association trade groups op­posed the move.

Colorado says the EPA used those reg­u­la­tions as a tem­plate for its fed­eral ap­proach.

“With­out these rules,” the re­lease said, “Colorado’s methane levels will in­crease due to pol­lu­tion from neigh­bor­ing states, which is why fed­eral reg­u­la­tion is so im­por­tant.”

The En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund lauded the rul­ing. “The court’s de­ci­sion means that na­tion­wide pol­lu­tion lim­its for oil and gas will take ef­fect now, en­sur­ing that all Amer­i­cans breathe eas­ier,” Fred Krupp, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent, said. “The court’s de­ci­sion is a big win for com­mon sense, pub­lic health, cli­mate se­cu­rity and the rule of law.”

In May, a mea­sure to roll back Oba­maera rules to re­duce methane emis­sions at oil and gas drill sites on pub­lic lands failed to pass the GOP-con­trolled U.S. Se­nate.

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