On July 3, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) cannot delay implementation of methane restrictions and oil and gas drilling sites. The 2016 methane rules are the centerpiece of former President Obama’s efforts to curb methane emissions 40-45& from 2012 levels by 2025.
EPA had announced in April that it would reconsider limits on methane emissions and called for a 90-day delay of a June 3 compliance date. The agency had argued that the Obama administration did not allow sufficient comment on certain portions of the rule, but the court rejected that claim, noting that in several instances stakeholder comments were incorporated directly into the final rule. The court’s ruling does not prevent EPA from issuing a new rule that would revise methane standards, but it must enforce the current rule while it crafts new language.
This ruling could have consequences for a host of other Obama regulatory initiatives that have been put on hold by the Trump administration, including Bureau of Land Management rules governing gas venting and flaring on federal and tribal lands, EPA’s rules on ozone pollution, safety plans for chemical plants, methane pollution from landfills, and the controversial “Waters of the United States” Rule.