September 1, 2017 Read More →

In Latest Hurdle to Regulatory Rollback, Judge Rules Against Trump’s Royalty Break for Oil, Gas, and Coal

E&E News:

The Trump administration violated the law when it tried to delay a fossil fuel regulation that had already taken effect, a federal court ruled yesterday.

In a decision with major implications for other regulatory rollbacks, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that the Interior Department failed to go through proper procedure when it postponed an Obama-era rule aimed at reforming royalty calculations for oil, gas and coal produced on federal and tribal lands.

The administration delayed the Office of Natural Resources Revenue measure in February — a month after it took effect — relying on an Administrative Procedure Act provision that allows agencies to postpone the “effective date” of rules that are facing legal challenges. Earlier this month, the agency went a step further and moved to formally rescind the regulation.

But Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte yesterday sided with California and New Mexico, which had challenged the February delay, ruling that it was unlawful because it sidestepped the public notice and comment process required for agencies to undo regulations.

APA Section 705, the provision the Trump administration used, applies only to rules that are not yet in force, Laporte wrote, rejecting government lawyers’ attempt to apply Section 705 to compliance deadlines of the already-effective rule.

“Not only is there no support in the language of the statute for this interpretation, but ONRR cites no precedent or legislative history to support a Congressional delegation of such broad authority to bypass the APA repeal process for a duly promulgated regulation,” the opinion says.

The decision is another blow to the Trump administration, which has tried to swiftly roll back several Obama-era regulations, especially those seen as burdensome to domestic energy production.

Earlier this summer, another federal court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to delay a U.S. EPA methane rule under a provision of the Clean Air Act. This week’s decision makes additional rollbacks vulnerable.

More: ($) Trump admin violated law in delaying royalties rule — court

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