Metric analysis

States to face federal government in hearing on social cost of carbon measurement

The federal government will argue that it should avoid a lawsuit filed by Louisiana, Alabama and eight other states over its estimates of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, during a hearing before a federal judge on Tuesday.

The states will use their time to try to convince the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana that they should block the estimates from taking effect while their trial continues.

The estimates conflict with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the states. The energy, chemical manufacturing and agriculture sectors will face increased regulation as a result of the standards, which will hurt state economies that rely on tax revenue from the industry, they say.

The Biden administration does not have the authority to authorize the estimates, the states claim. If Congress wants the president to implement “significant new costs for the effects of greenhouse gases,” he clearly should do so, their motion says.

States’ alleged injuries are speculative, the Justice Department told Judge James D. Cain Jr., who is hearing the dispute. Even though President Joe Biden wants the agencies to use the interim estimates, they will only be used for internal executive branch purposes, according to the government.

States can challenge future agency regulations when they are released, as long as they cause actual or imminent harm, the filing says.

“Nothing” to justify the stop

Agencies have used estimates of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions to prepare cost-benefit analyzes since President George W. Bush, the DOJ says. The states “offer nothing that would warrant a court-ordered termination of these long-established and salutary procedures of good governance,” the government brief states.

The states’ claims are immature, baseless and should be dismissed, the federal government argues.

The Department of Justice requested that the hearing be held remotely via videoconference or teleconference. The DOJ attorneys who will present arguments, Stephen M. Pezzi and Cody T. Knapp, are not based in Louisiana, and current policy allows only “critical travel,” the DOJ told the court.

Cain denied that request on September 9.

A similar lawsuit filed by Missouri, Arizona and other states was filed in federal court in Missouri in August. Judge Audrey G. Fleissig of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri said the states’ requests were premature.

The states also lack standing because their alleged injuries all stemmed from “hypothetical future regulation,” Fleissig wrote.

Missouri and the other states dispute the findings of the judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The Louisiana Department of Justice and Consovoy McCarthy PLLC represent the states. Joseph St. John will plead on their behalf.

The case is Louisiana vs. BidenWD La., n° 2:21-cv-01074, pleadings scheduled for 07/12/21.