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U.S. court says EPA must implement methane regulations

Legal battles likely to intensify over EPA rules to curb emissions from new oil and gas operations

by Jeff Johnson
August 2, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 32

Photo shows a fracking rig in a field with bare soil.
Credit: Lonny Garris/Shutterstock
The legal battle is over regulations curbing methane emissions from new oil and gas extraction operations.

A federal court has again directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement Obama Administration regulations limiting methane emissions from new oil and natural gas drilling and production operations. The court’s July 31 order reaffirms one it issued in early July.

However, the court signaled it would reconsider new petitions from states, the oil and gas industry, environmentalists, and EPA seeking to support or challenge the earlier order.

The controversial regulations curbs emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from new or modified oil and gas operations. It does not affect the hundreds of thousands of currently operating oil and gas drilling and production operations.

The rules were finalized last year but have been delayed by the Trump Administration. In June, at industry’s urging, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced the rules would be put on hold for two years while EPA developed a new regulatory approach.

Several environmental groups and states challenged that decision and appeared to win after the court ordered EPA to forge ahead with the Obama regulations while it begins to develop new ones.

EPA has been quiet about the matter, saying that it does not comment on pending litigation.


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