A federal appeals court on Monday slammed the brakes on the Trump administration's attempt to kill the Environmental Protection Agency's methane regulations on oil and gas frackers instituted under former President Barack Obama.
The decision means the EPA must immediately start enforcing the standards, which originally were scheduled to go into effect Monday.
"We are reviewing the opinion and examining our options," said an EPA representative.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had imposed a two-year delay on the implementation of the Obama administration regulations to review the rules and potentially roll them back.
Pruitt said the Obama administration did not follow administrative procedure because it did not let the industry adequately respond to the proposed regulations. But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Pruitt's assessment.
"The administrative record thus makes clear that industry groups had ample opportunity to comment on all four issues on which EPA granted reconsideration, and indeed, that in several instances the agency incorporated those comments directly into the final rule," the court's 2-1 ruling read.
"Because it was thus not ‘impracticable' for industry groups to have raised such objections during the notice and comment period [the law] did not require reconsideration and did not authorize the stay."
Environmentalists touted the victory as making clear that Pruitt lacks the authority to roll back the methane regulations, which were part of Obama's climate change agenda.
"This is a big win for public health and a wake-up call for this administration," said Tim Ballo, attorney with the group Earthjustice, which was one of several groups that challenged Pruitt's action in court.
"While Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump continue to bend over backwards to do the bidding of Big Oil, Earthjustice and our clients and partners will use every tool at our disposal to hold them fully accountable for their actions," Ballo said.