D.C. Circuit Denies En Banc Rehearing of Decision Overturning EPA’s Suspension of Oil and Gas Pollution Limits

Decision Is a Clean Air Victory for All Americans

August 10, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – August 10, 2017) The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected the latest attempt to undermine pollution limits for sources in the oil and gas sector.

The court denied requests for an en banc rehearing of a three-judge panel’s decision that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt acted unlawfully in suspending those pollution limits. 

“In a victory for all Americans, the court has once again rejected a lawless attempt to put the lives and health of our families and communities at risk from oil and gas pollution,” said Vickie Patton, General Counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. “EPA should do its job, as required by law and as critically necessary for public health, and enforce these commonsense clean air safeguards.”  

The full D.C. Circuit ruled 8 to 3 to reject the latest attack on these commonsense clean air protections. 

A broad coalition challenged EPA’s suspension of the standards, including: the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington; the state of Colorado; the city of Chicago; and public health, conservation, and community groups including EDF, Clean Air Council, Clean Air Task Force, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

The critical clean air protections at stake will reduce harmful methane and smog-forming, toxic and carcinogenic air pollution from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry.   

Administrator Pruitt tried to impose a 90-day suspension of these vital clean air standards without public input and without analysis of the public health or environmental consequences. A three-judge panel blocked that attempt on July 3rd, saying Administrator Pruitt’s actions were “unlawful,” “arbitrary,” and “capricious.”

Administrator Pruitt then requested that the three-judge panel delay issuing its mandate in the case, asking for a 52-day or longer extension to comply with the court’s ruling. The panel rejected the request and provided a limited 14-day period. The full D.C. Circuit issued the mandate on July 31st

Although EPA itself did not seek rehearing, industry and state opponents asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the July 3rd decision. Today the court denied that request for an en banc rehearing.

In a separate action, Administrator Pruitt is also proposing to suspend compliance with these same protections for more than two years – while expressly conceding that the suspension may adversely impact children’s health. More than 370,000 Americans sent comments to EPA in support of the protections, and voiced their objection to any delay, before the comment period closed yesterday. 

You can find more information – including all legal documents – on EDF’s website.

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