A federal judge today barred the Biden administration from using a disputed measure of the societal risks of climate change.
Judge James Cain of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction preventing federal agencies from using the social cost of carbon after finding that applying the metric increased regulatory costs for states red.
“The Court agrees that the public interest and the balance of actions weigh heavily in favor of granting a preliminary injunction,” Cain wrote in his order.
The social cost of carbon assigns a monetary value to a metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions and is used in rulemaking to determine the potential benefits of controlling carbon dioxide, methane and other emissions. nitrous oxide.
Red states led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) had sought to block the Biden administration from using an interim social cost of carbon value established by an interagency task force.
The judge, a Trump pick, found that the social cost of carbon was a problem under a regulatory model of cooperative federalism because it required states to use the metric or risk “serious consequences.” “.
The use of the social cost of greenhouse gases in reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act “directly prejudices the statutorily vested rights of claimant states to the products of [Mineral Leasing Act] oil and gas leases,” Cain said.
“In other words, the SC-GES estimates artificially inflate the cost estimates of lease sales, which in effect reduces the number of parcels leased, resulting in states receiving fewer bonus offers, land rents and production royalties,” Cain said. continued.
The judge also warned that the metric posed an “imminent and certainly imminent” risk to states in cooperative federalism programs.
The court order comes as the Biden administration is expected to release final values for the social cost of greenhouse gases as early as this month (Climatewire, February 10). An intermediate value was published last year.
Cain noted that the current provisional value was still subject to review by the court, despite government plans to reissue the final values.
“Indeed, the ‘provisional’ estimates have already been used by the executive agencies, indicating that the agencies interpret the SC-GES estimates as final and binding,” the judge wrote.
Last year, a Missouri federal court overturned a similar lawsuit brought by Republican-led states, finding they lacked standing to challenge the Biden administration’s interim measure.
But Cain had hinted that he risked blocking the application of the social cost of carbon during oral arguments last year. At that time, he wondered if the government’s carbon metric had violated the separation of powers (Energywire, December 8, 2021).
Landry celebrated Cain’s decision.
“Biden’s attempt to control the daily activities of the American people and daily American business activity, from Main Street to Wall Street, was halted today,” Landry said in a statement.
“This is an attempt by the government to seize power and tax the American people based on winners and losers chosen by the government. Agriculture, energy and virtually every other manufacturing industry is at stake. “, he continued. “And today, a federal judge in Louisiana recognized that the federal government does not have this scope.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.