By Emily Flitter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. court on Thursday gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 14 extra days to comply with a July 3 order requiring the EPA to enforce rules on methane leaks in oil and gas equipment, which the agency had sought to freeze, a filing showed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the EPA's request for extra time to examine its next steps in court before being required to enforce the law, which says oil and gas companies must check for and fix methane leaks in their equipment. The 14-day period is far shorter than the minimum of 52 days the agency requested in a July 7 court filing.
"To stay issuance of the mandate for longer would hand the agency, in all practical effect, the very delay in implementation this panel determined to be 'arbitrary, capricious and in excess of EPA's statutory authority'," the court ruled.
An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The agency on June 5 announced a halt to the rule after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote in an April 18 letter that the agency intended to reconsider imposing it. But environmental groups sued the EPA, arguing that the agency did not have the authority to halt the rule during those deliberations, and the appeals court agreed.
"The court reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that its decision vacating Administrator Pruitt's unlawful suspension of these clean-air protections limiting oil and gas pollution swiftly take effect," said Peter Zalzal, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups suing the agency, in a news release issued after the ruling.
The case is Clean Air Council v. Scott Pruitt, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, 17-1145.
(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Riham Alkousaa)