The DC Courts Yank Pruitt’s Leash

The EPA operates under very strict guidelines regarding its decisions related to rules and regulations.  The guidelines were in play when the EPA released a rule to cut methane emissions in May 2016.  These guidelines also worked to save the rule when Pruitt’s EPA moved to arbitrarily halt its enforcement.

In a 2-1 decision in the DC Court of Appeals today the justices rejected the EPA’s assertion that its decision to ‘stay’ the methane rule for two years was not a final agency action, and therefore not subject to court overview.

The imposition of the stay, however, is an entirely different
matter. By staying the methane rule, EPA has not only concluded that section 307(d)(7)(B) requires reconsideration, but it has also suspended the rule’s compliance deadlines. EPA’s stay, in other words, 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. As we explained in a very similar situation, where an agency granted an application for interim relief from a safety standard while it reconsidered that standard: “In effect, the Administrator has granted a modification of the mandatory safety standard for the entire period of time that the petition is pending. There is no indication that the Secretary intends to reconsider this decision or to vacate the grant of interim relief. Thus, the Secretary’s decision represents the final agency position on this issue, has the status of law, and has an immediate and direct effect on the parties. Therefore, we have no difficulty concluding that the Secretary has issued a final decision . . .

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