A Federal Court Just Preserved a Vitally Important Bit of Obama’s Legacy

Donald Trump’s EPA will have to enforce a key environmental rule.

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A federal court just dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to roll back environmental regulations. On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must enforce an Obama-era rule which sets pollution limits for the oil and gas industry and requires companies to identify and fix methane leaks.

Methane is an extremely potent gas that contributes to global warming. While the gas can come from natural sources, the oil and gas industry contribute the greatest amount of industrial emissions. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. The Obama administration implemented the rule in 2016 and said it would slash methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025.

In April, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would “reconsider” the methane rule. In a letter to the oil and gas industry, Pruitt said that the “EPA is continuing to follow through with President Trump’s energy independence executive order” and that “American businesses should have the opportunity to review new requirements, assess economic impacts and report back, before those new requirements are finalized.”

In June, Pruitt issued a notice that would set a two-year pause on the rule which would give companies time to review the rule and accept public comment. Several environmental groups including the EDF, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit the same day asking a federal appeals court to reserve the decision. The groups alleged that the EPA did not follow the procedures laid out in the Clean Air Act when it announced the freeze on the rule. Earlier in July, the DC Circuit blocked Pruitt’s attempt to halt the regulation saying the agency “lacked authority.” Monday’s decision went a step further, mandating that the EPA actually carry out the rule.

Environmentalists are considering the latest court ruling a victory. Peter Zalzal, EDF’s lead attorney said it “protects families and communities across America under clean air safeguards that EPA Administrator sought to unlawfully tear down.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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