Court Rules that Trump Administration Must Begin Enforcing Obama’s Methane Rule

The Trump administration must immediately begin enforcing the methane rule adopting during the Obama administration, a federal court ruled on Monday. The administration had wanted to either delay or to scrap the rule altogether, arguing that the previous White House failed to let stakeholders weigh in on the matter.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency had no rights to ask for any delay of the methane rule. That regulation limits methane emissions from oil and gas operations while also giving drillers the incentive to capture and sell that fuel to manufacturers and chemical makers. EPA had wanted to delay the rule for two years before making preparations to repeal it altogether.

The court essentially said that EPA can review internally the rule but that the agency cannot delay rules that have been enacted unless it can cite a legal precedence. “Indeed, EPA’s reading would have the perverse result of empowering this court to act when the agency denies a stay but not when it chooses to grant one,” the judges wrote, in a 2-to-1 ruling.

Scott Pruitt and the EPA say that they are now trying to decide their next move, which could be to rewrite the Obama-era rule. Such a move would undoubtedly prompt a rash of lawsuits from environmental groups — just as its efforts did to try and delay enforcement of the methane rule.

Altogether, roughly 375 billion cubic feet of methane has entered the atmosphere over five years, ending 2014, Obama’s Interior Department said. If that methane was captured and resold, it could not just cut the level of heat-trapping emissions but it could also go to productive use by helping heat homes and businesses.

A General Accountability Office study said that 40 percent of that could be captured, meaning that investments in current technologies could easily pay off.

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