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EPA methane emissions rule back in effect despite industry, agency objections

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is again responsible for enforcing Obama administration methane regulations for new and modified oil and gas industry sources under a July 31 court order.

The EPA has said it is working to address industry concerns about certain elements of the rule and tried to stay the regulation's implementation date for 90 days starting in early June. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in early July blocked the stay and in mid-July denied the EPA's request to delay the implementation date for another few weeks while the agency sorted out how to proceed. At that point, the court gave the EPA 14 days to figure out its next steps.

Industry representatives intervening on behalf of the EPA on July 27 asked for a rehearing, arguing that the court should not have been able to review the EPA's decision to stay the rule because the stay was based on the agency's decision to reconsider the rule, and reconsiderations are outside the court's purview. The filing requested that the court's mandate for the EPA to begin enforcing the rule again be put on hold until this issue is resolved.

The court instead issued an order July 31 for the EPA to comply with the mandate.

Environmental advocates opposing the EPA's stay welcomed the order. "Today's issuance of the mandate by the full D.C. Circuit protects families and communities across America under clean air safeguards that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sought to unlawfully tear down," Peter Zalzal, lead attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

The court gave the case participants a few days to respond to the outstanding petitions in the case, including the request for rehearing.

The EPA has also proposed a separate two-year stay for the methane rule and is taking comment on its proposal. The court's actions on the 90-day stay have no effect on the proposed two-year suspension.