President Donald Trump signs an energy independence order at the Environmental Protection Agency on March 28. Monday, a federal court blocked a 2-year suspension of new Obama-era emissions regulations imposed by Trump's EPA. File Photo by Ron Sachs / Pool via CNP\ | License Photo
July 3 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court on Monday blocked an effort by the Trump administration to roll back some of the Environmental Protection Agency's climate protections.
In a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided that President Donald Trump's EPA cannot impose a 2-year suspension of a regulation that limits methane gas and other pollutants.
The court ruled that the administration has the right to reconsider the 2016 regulation, but not nullify it for two years while it rewrites the rules.
"We conclude that EPA lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to stay the rule," the court wrote in its 8-page decision.
The regulation was put on the books by the administration of former President Barack Obama as part of his ambitious climate change agenda. When Trump took office, though, he sought to scale back many of the former president's environmental efforts.
Before the case went to court, Trump's EPA and the oil industry argued that the 2-year suspension of the rule was not subject to judicial review.
"Just because you provide a time for implementation or compliance that's longer doesn't mean that you're going to necessarily reverse or redirect the rule," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told The Washington Post.
The court said in its decision that the government's position is "tantamount to amending or revoking a rule." The ruling says if Trump's administration wants to reconsider the regulation, it must follow proper procedure.
"The court says you can consider changing the rules but you have to do it the normal way, with a comment period," David Doniger, director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. "You can't yank it out of existence on your say-so."
Partially driving Trump's efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations is the president's agenda to ramp up U.S. energy production and establish energy "dominance" -- by, among other things, attempting to revive the coal industry and spur business he says is hampered by over-regulation.