Oil and gas industry loses latest row over Obama standards

By Ellen M. Gilmer | 08/11/2017 08:05 AM EDT

An oil and gas well produces on public lands in Utah.

An oil and gas well produces on public lands in Utah. Ellen M. Gilmer/E&E News

This story was updated at 10:05 a.m. EDT.

The oil and gas industry will not have another shot at swiftly delaying Obama-era greenhouse gas restrictions.

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected industry groups’ request to reconsider a July decision ordering U.S. EPA to enforce New Source Performance Standards for methane emissions from oil and gas sites.


A coalition of states and industry groups made the request last month after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attempt to pause the methane standards for 90 days using a technical reconsideration process laid out in the Clean Air Act.

Two dozen industry groups and 11 states urged the D.C. Circuit to rehear the case en banc — before all 11 active judges (Energywire, July 28). The court rejected the request in an 8-3 decision yesterday.

Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Karen Henderson and Janice Rogers Brown, all appointees of Republican presidents, would have granted rehearing.

The industry’s legal defeat came as EPA pushes another approach to delaying the standards. The agency has proposed a separate two-year stay of the rule; the public comment period for that delay closed this week (Greenwire, Aug. 9).

Asked how EPA plans to enforce the Obama-era standards in the meantime, a spokesman said this morning, "The agency is considering all available options at this time."

The American Petroleum Institute, which has led opposition to the standards, last night reiterated its position that industry should not be forced to comply with a regulation that the Trump administration is rethinking.

"It makes good business and policy sense to allow EPA to stay the rules now, and not subject businesses to on-again, off-again, requirements until EPA can reconsider the rule," a spokesman said in a statement last night.

Environmental advocates and states that have been defending the methane restrictions in court are expected to challenge the proposed two-year delay if it is finalized. For now, though, they’re celebrating last night’s legal win.

"In a victory for all Americans, the court has once again rejected a lawless attempt to put the lives and health of our families and communities at risk from oil and gas pollution," Environmental Defense Fund attorney Vickie Patton said in a statement. "EPA should do its job, as required by law and as critically necessary for public health, and enforce these commonsense clean air safeguards."