Appeals Court Rejects Trump's Attempt To Delay Obama Oil-Drilling Rule

Oil and gas companies will have to reduce methane emissions, beginning immediately.

The Trump administration’s crusade to undo President Barack Obama’s climate legacy was dealt a setback Monday, when a federal appeals court rejected a request to delay new limits on oil and natural gas drilling.

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit panel rebuffed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s contention that stakeholders didn’t have a chance to object before the Obama administration in August set in motion requirements that energy companies monitor and reduce emissions of planet-warming methane. Pruitt in May announced a 90-day delay of the regulation, part of a widespread Obama administration effort to curb methane. 

“The administrative record thus makes clear that industry groups had ample opportunity to comment on all four issues on which EPA granted reconsideration, and indeed, that in several instances the agency incorporated those comments directly into the final rule,” two of the three appeals judges wrote in the split opinion.

“Because it was thus not ‘impracticable’ for industry groups to have raised such objections during the notice and comment period [the Clean Air Act] did not require reconsideration and did not authorize the stay.”

The rule takes effect immediately.

The Senate voted against delaying the rule in May. The Trump administration then decided it was one of several regulations that it would “suspend, revise or rescind given its significant regulatory burden that encumbers American energy production, economic growth and job creation.” 

President Donald Trump campaigned on an America-first energy plan to revive the coal industry. He set it in motion by freezing 30 EPA regulations in January, then signed an executive order in March to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, forged alliances with oil and gas industry executives prior to his tenure as EPA chief.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the court opinion and its options.