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saved by the bureaucracy

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Trump told frackers they could fart off methane. A court said no.

On Monday night, a federal appeals court ruled that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was overstepping when he tried to delay Obama-era rules on fracking. The new ruling affirms a previous court decision from July.

If fracking operations aren’t careful, they can leak a lot of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere. The methane rules mandated safety measures to catch and repair leaks, but Pruitt delayed the regulations from going into effect. The court is now telling Pruitt he has to enforce them.

Pruitt can totally rewrite the rules, but that takes time — and the unwinding of a lot of red tape. The Trump administration has generally tried to cut through various bureaucratic knots instead of patiently untangling them. The fact that the judiciary is brushing the executive branch back on this methane rule may mean it’s likely to run into trouble with some of its other big rule changes (like this one governing clean water).

Signing executive orders in front of cameras makes for great reality TV. Running a functional executive branch that can deliver on your promises takes a little more than the stroke of a pen.