A federal court indefinitely stayed litigation over an Obama administration methane rule for new oil and gas operations Thursday, in order to give the Trump administration time to review it.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit suspended any final decision on the case, allowing the Trump administration’s EPA to review the rule. EPA asked the court to halt legal proceedings in late April so the agency could comply with an executive order.
The methane rule was part of President Barack Obama’s plan to curb global warming. New oil and gas operations would have been subject to strict emissions limits had the rule been left on the books, but West Virginia led a coalition of 14 states in challenging the rule in August, arguing it imposed burdensome regulations on the economy.
“Today’s decision by the court is a victory for working families in West Virginia,” Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, said in a statement on news of the court’s decision. “We appreciate the Trump Administration’s willingness to review the devastating impact of the oil and gas rule and look forward to hearing the new administration’s take on this unlawful regulation.”
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in April the agency would reconsider certain elements of the Obama-era methane rule and issued a 90-day stay on its requirements. The court is now giving EPA time to review the rule.
Environmental groups intervened in the legal case and opposed the litigation’s pause in response to Trump’s executive order.
“The agency will have a very difficult time justifying a departure from the existing standards, which were the result of the most thorough and extended public comment process the EPA has ever undertaken,” Sierra Club lawyers Alejandra Nunez and Joanne Spalding, wrote in a press statement after the executive order. “The agency cannot simply rescind these regulations without issuing a legally adequate replacement that makes meaningful reductions in climate pollution.”
Gina McCarthy, Obama’s EPA’s administrator, told reporters in May the rule would help slow global warming. The EPA predicted the regulations will cost $530 million by 2025, but claims they will generate $690 million in climate benefits to outweigh the cost. Other studies predicted that the rules will actually cost $800 million.
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