A federal court is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to explain why it has the authority to pause an Obama administration methane pollution rule.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Tuesday that it is giving the EPA until June 15 to respond to a lawsuit filed Monday by environmental groups, who say the agency’s action halting the rule was illegal.
At issue is a rule the Obama administration made final last year setting standards that oil and natural gas drillers must follow to monitor and reduce emissions of methane from drilling.
Methane is a greenhouse gas about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is the main component of natural gas.
The lawsuit was the first court challenge of a Trump administration rollback of a climate change regulation.
The green groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club, say the EPA doesn’t have the authority to halt the regulation, and are asking for an immediate order from the court mandating that the agency not pause it.
The EPA said in a Federal Register filing that made the pause official on Monday that it would pause the rule for 90 days while it considers whether to initiate a full regulatory process to repeal it.
In the filing, agency officials cited a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows 90-day administrative stays for regulations under certain circumstances.