Last week the Trump administration was dealt another devastating blow when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could not freeze the implementation requiring oil and gas companies to fix methane leaks in the equipment.
After EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, at the urging of the president to cut environmental regulations, announced a stay on the rule requiring drillers and transporters to fix the methane leaks, the Court ruled against the EPA.
According to Judges David Tatel and Robert Wilkins, the EPA’s move to impose a stay “is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date,” they wrote in their majority opinion, “and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.” Judge Janice Rogers Brown, the other member of the three-judge panel and appointed by President George W. Bush, dissented.
This ruling was a setback in Trump’s war on the EPA, though he has succeeded in stifling the agency by freezing hiring and issuing executive orders that handicap the agency’s effectiveness.
The core of Trump’s battle plan is to undercut and eradicate an important part of President Obama’s legacy, attacking a rule he had largely put into place.
In effect, the Court found that Pruitt had overstepped his authority, which is akin to Trump’s opposition to climate change and the danger it presents to the planet if the methane leaks are not fixed.
Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard Law School, in an email said, “The D.C. Circuit’s ruling…makes clear that neither the president nor his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, can by fiat unilaterally and instantaneously repeal or otherwise stay the effectiveness of the environmental protection rules put into place during the Obama administration.”