Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt exceeded his authority in trying to delay the implementation of a rule requiring oil and gas companies to reduce the level of methane pollution their operations release. After reviewing objections lodged by a coalition of environmental groups, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the EPA did not have the authority to halt the rule from taking effect.
Mr. Pruitt, already widely criticized for being in the pocket of big oil and gas companies during his time as Oklahoma Attorney General, said in April that he planned to delay the methane curb from taking effect by 90 days. Mr. Pruitt claimed that industry groups did not have enough opportunity to comment on the rule when it was proposed to the public last year. The federal appeals court rejected that argument and ordered the EPA to move ahead with implementing the rule.
The Associated Press notes that “The American Petroleum Institute, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and other industry groups had petitioned Pruitt to scrap the requirement” before it took effect.
A coalition of six environmental groups that challenged the EPA’s planned delay of the rule in court accuses the oil and gas industry of greatly understating the amount of methane they leak or intentionally vent. They applauded the court’s ruling, saying it “recognizes that EPA lacks the authority to simply scrap these critical protections.”
“This ruling declares EPA’s action illegal – and slams the brakes on Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to put the interests of corporate polluters ahead of protecting the public and the environment,” said David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air program.
Pound for pound, methane, the largest component of natural gas, is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere.
The EPA is reviewing the court’s ruling and evaluating its options, the AP reported, adding that it may take the issue to the Supreme Court.