Court Shuts Down Trump Administration’s Attempt to Give Polluters a Free Pass

In our first lawsuit against the EPA’s rollbacks on climate change, a federal court reinstates limits on harmful methane pollution.

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In a huge victory for our health and the environment, a federal court on Monday struck down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to roll back Obama-era safeguards against methane pollution from oil and gas operations.

NRDC and our partners filed the lawsuit on June 5, 2017, after the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, also put a 90-day hold on federal methane leak detection and repair requirements—without any advanced notice or opportunity for public comment, as required by law—and indicated he would soon propose to make that hold indefinite. It was the first lawsuit against the EPA over its attempt to undo federal efforts to fight climate change.

“This ruling declares the EPA's action illegal—and slams the brakes on the Trump administration's brazen efforts to put the interests of corporate polluters ahead of protecting the public and the environment,” said David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program.

Methane is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide, and leaks from oil and gas wells, which are prevalent throughout the United States, release dangerous smog-forming and cancer-causing chemicals. We don’t need to look any further than the catastrophic four-month-long leak at Aliso Canyon in Southern California to understand the dire threat that nearby communities face.

Leak detection and repair is critical to curbing methane pollution, and finding and fixing the leaks is simple and cost-effective. A 2014 NRDC report detailed how the EPA could easily cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry by half—saving enough gas to heat three million homes—by issuing readily available control measures.

Instead, the Trump administration, in disregard for our global climate crisis, once again attempted to side with polluters and strip away critical protections for people across the country. But this week’s 2–1 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals proves such efforts are misguided.

“The ruling recognizes that the EPA lacks the authority to simply scrap these critical protections. And it shows the courts are going to enforce the rule of law on health and environment,” Doniger said. “The Trump administration’s war on the environment and our health has hit a brick wall.”

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