A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Monday that Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt lacks the authority to suspend rules that oil and gas companies monitor and fix methane gas leaks.
Two of the three judges on the panel wrote that an order delaying such a rule is the same thing as revoking it.
Pruitt said in April he wanted to put its enforcement on hold for 90 days, later saying he wanted to extend it for two years.
He argued that oil and gas companies are already monitoring methane leaks and that the federal regulations would make some wells unprofitable.
No comment from EPA
Several environmental groups sued to stop Pruitt.
“This ruling … 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,” National Resources Defense Council official David Doniger said. This was one of the groups that sued to stop the EPA.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency is studying the court decision and had no other comment.
Methane emanating from natural gas production is a major contributor to global warming.
A first for Trump
This is the first court decision to go against Trump administration efforts to overturn or block rules and executive orders it believes are unfair to the fossil fuel industry.
Pruitt has joined the White House in arguing that tough regulations hurt industry and jobs as the U.S. strives to become more energy independent — an effort it says must include oil, gas and coal production, along with renewable resources.
Environmentalists say overturning such rules gives industry a blank check to ignore laws protecting the air and streams from pollution.