On May 18th, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the EPA’s request to stay challenges to the New Source Performance Standards regulating methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure, pending review of the rule in accordance with President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order. EPA announced in April that it intended to reconsider the rule and was staying a future compliance date.
Since it was issued last year, the rule has been challenged by various oil and gas industry groups on the grounds that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate methane from oil and gas infrastructure. The challengers have signed on to the EPA’s motion to put the cases on hold pending a review of the current rules.
The President’s executive order specifically directed the EPA to review and reconsider the methane rules for new oil and gas infrastructure, and if appropriate, suspend, revise or rescind them. In its motion to put the cases on hold, the EPA argued that its review of the rules could impact the disputes awaiting resolution in the Court.
Various environmental groups, as well as several states, intervened in the dispute opposing the EPA’s motion, asserting that the EPA had not offered any concrete timeline for the review, rendering the hold indefinite. The court rejected this argument, but did order the EPA to file status reports regarding its review every 60 days.
The precise fate of the rule is still uncertain, but it is likely it will be greatly rolled back, if not eliminated entirely. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has a long history fighting against precisely this kind of regulation of the oil and gas industry. After President Trump’s decision to pull American out of the Paris Agreement, it is difficult to imagine the EPA leaving anything more than the bare minimum of the rule in effect.