Happy July 4th!
Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, will awake this morning to the realization that they cannot simply roll-back President Obama’s environmental regulations, like you would the lid on an old sardine tin.
Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot suspend an Obama-era rule to restrict emissions of the highly potent greenhouse gas, methane, from new oil and gas wells.
The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a devastating setback for Trump and “Polluting Pruitt”, long seen as an oil industry lackey with zero scientific credibility.
The oil industry had argued the methane regulation was burdensome on them and had hoped their puppet Pruitt would scrap it.
A highly controversial appointee, Pruitt had initially imposed a 90-day moratorium, later extended to two years, on the EPA’s methane regulation, which is designed to reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. The EPA had predicted that the regulations would prevent 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2025.
Like many in the Obama Administration, Pruitt was trying to act outside the law. Both Pruitt as well as the American Petroleum Institute had argued that his action could not be ruled by the courts. But the judges disagreed and ruled the EPA’s decision was “unreasonable,” and “arbitrary” and “capricious.”
The EPA’s stay “is essentially an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule,” the judges ruled.
According to the New York Times: “The ruling signals that the Trump administration’s efforts to simply delay environmental and public health actions are likely to face an uphill battle in the courts and require a more painstaking process”.
The court’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and other environmental organizations:
David Doniger, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Times that “This is the first of what we hope will be many court setbacks for Scott Pruitt, whose devotion to the law is rhetorical and not real”.
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, added: “The court’s decision ends the continued pollution by the oil and gas industry that’s been illegally allowed by Pruitt.”
Tim Ballo, a staff attorney for the group Earthjustice, which was also involved in the litigation, also argued: “This is a big win for public health and a wake-up call for this administration.”
Richard Lazarus, an environmental-law professor at Harvard Law School, also told the Washington Post that “The court’s ruling is yet another reminder, now in the context of environmental protection, that the federal judiciary remains a significant obstacle to the president’s desire to order immediate change.”
But even as environmentalists celebrate this victory, there are other battles ahead. Pruitt is also leading a Trump Administration initiative to challenge mainstream climate science. This needs to be challenged tooth and nail and every step of the way.
So what next after that? Don’t be surprised if Pruitt and Trump next year announce that smoking is actually good for you and the moon landings never happened.