A federal appeals court has given a direct order to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start enforcing an Obama-era chemical plant safety rule that the Trump administration attempted to delay.
In a brief order late on Friday, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a motion from environmental groups to make the EPA start enforcing the Risk Management Plan rule. It was in the same court in August that a ruling was given that the Trump administration unlawfully delayed the rule which was written in the final days of the Obama administration.
“Because EPA has not engaged in reasoned decision making, its promulgation of the delay rule is arbitrary and capricious,” the court wrote. The court also said that the EPA’s move to delay the rule’s implementation for more than a year and a half “makes a mockery of the statute” and that “there is no textual basis for EPA’s current interpretation” of the law.
Normally this kind of ruling would allow 52 days for the EPA to consider an appeal, but groups supporting the regulation argued that it can’t wait.
“Petitioners and the public have a strong interest in the court’s mandate issuing promptly, due to the serious and irreparable harm and imminent threats to public health and safety that EPA’s Delay Rule is causing,” they wrote in August.
The agency said that the part of the rule that would go into effect immediately require “coordination between thousands of regulated parties and the local governments and emergency response entities in their specific locations, many of which require … guidance and clarity regarding their role and obligations in the coordination process.”
The waiting period “allows the agency a short but reasonable time to assess these issues and concerns,” the EPA wrote.
The regulation at the center of the discussion seeks to prevent or mitigate disasters at chemical plants and similar facilities. It would use measures like increased communications and preparedness local first responders, more transparency to the public and better investigations of incidents.