Court lets EPA put drilling pollution rule on hold

Court lets EPA put drilling pollution rule on hold
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A federal appeals court is letting the Trump administration put on hold an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methane pollution rule for oil and natural gas drilling.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered Thursday that its decision last week rejecting the EPA’s delay of the regulation could itself be delayed for 14 days while the Trump administration considers whether to appeal the ruling.

The court wrote in a brief order that putting the rule on hold "for longer would hand the agency, in all practical effect, the very delay in implementation this panel determined to be” illegal.

The same court had ruled July 3 that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act when it put a 90-day pause on the Obama administration’s rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations.

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The 90-day delay was meant to give the EPA time to go through the process of formally repealing the regulation.

The judges said their ruling would take effect immediately, meaning the EPA had to start enforcing the regulation.

Justice Department attorneys asked this week for the court to hold off on enforcing its ruling for 52 days, which they said is standard in D.C. Circuit cases.

The Thursday order means the EPA can once again stop enforcing the methane rule. But without further court action, the agency would have to start enforcing it.

Administration officials have separately proposed a two-year delay of the regulation, which would allow them to undertake the full regulatory process of repeal. The EPA is taking comments from the public on the two-year delay until next month.