A three-judge Fifth Circuit panel overturned an injunction by Louisiana Judge David Cain Jr. preventing President Joe Biden’s administration from using a measure of climate costs to help federal agencies calculate the costs and benefits of regulations . The case did not rule on the merits of the case, although the panel offered an analysis of why it thinks the government will prevail on the merits. He only removed the stay while the case continues.
The plaintiffs were 13 energy-producing states, led by the office of Louisiana Attorney General and former Congressman Jeff Landry. Wyoming filed a separate lawsuit on the same issue. According to an attorney, the plaintiffs have already requested a review of the decision by the full Fifth Circuit.
The ‘social cost of carbon’ measure is produced by the Interagency Task Force, which worked under the Obama administration to assign a number to the impacts of carbon emissions. He calculated the SCC at $51 per tonne of carbon emitted. The Trump administration disbanded the IWG and removed that number, proposing a much lower number instead.
Advocates of carbon measurement say it is a tool that agencies can use to calculate the costs and benefits of regulations and argue that it is not binding on any agency. The Fifth Circuit panel ruled that because the plaintiffs were not responding to any final action by the agency, but were only speculating about possible future impacts of regulations using CSC, they had shown no prejudice and the issue n was not ripe to be decided.
The Biden administration had halted oil and gas leases pending the panel’s decision on Judge Cain’s stay, arguing that the suspension of the climate metric meant it could not move forward with anything that had a impact on the climate.
If ultimately confirmed, the argument against the social cost of measuring carbon could deal a serious blow to Biden’s efforts to make the United States “net carbon zero” by 2050. One such effort was recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: a plan to use $1 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation to encourage “climate-smart” farming practices, which would likely require an agreed measure of carbon impacts to calculate the incentives.
Judge Cain’s injunction barred federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Interior, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Interagency Task Force on the Social Cost of the Greenhouse Effect. Gas itself, from the use of the SCC metric.
An SCC metric uses mathematical models to estimate various damages and costs of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions. Models can include a wide variety of putative environmental and health effects. According to a White House statement, “A specific tool, called the ‘Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases,’ combines climate science and economics to help federal agencies and the public understand the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The measure is a range of estimates, in dollars, of the long-term damage caused by one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.
To arrive at the cost figure, the IWG uses integrated assessment models, which use “highly aggregated representations of climate processes and the global economy combined in a single modeling framework.” Federal agencies began using carbon cost metrics in 2008 after a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge ordered the Department of Transportation to estimate the social cost of emissions when setting standards fuel saving for cars. Climate activists were already saying that “carbon pricing” was necessary to fight climate change.
The Fifth Circuit’s lifting of the suspension did not address some key issues in the CSC controversy. A key point of the attorneys general’s complaint was that Biden’s carbon cost estimate, which reinstated Obama’s carbon price of $51 a ton, considered the global effects of carbon emissions instead of just the effects at United States.