Court rules against EPA postponement
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.