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WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to place greater emphasis on the potential harms of greenhouse gas emissions when creating rules for polluting industries.
U.S. District Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana sided with Republican attorneys general who said the administration’s increase in the cost estimate of carbon dioxide emissions threatens to rise energy costs while decreasing state revenues from energy production. The judge issued an injunction that bars the administration from using the higher cost estimate, which assigns a monetary value to the damage caused by each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
President Joe Biden, on his first day in office, restored the climate cost estimate to around $51 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions after the Trump administration reduced the figure to around $7 per tonne. . Trump’s estimate only included damage felt in the United States compared to the global damage considered in the higher estimate.
The Biden administration’s relaunch of a higher figure originally set under the Obama administration would be used to set future rules for oil and gas drilling, autos and other industries. Using a higher cost estimate would help justify reductions in global warming emissions by making the benefits more likely to outweigh the expense of complying with the new rules.
Known as the social cost of carbon, the rule uses economic models to capture the damage caused by rising sea levels, recurring droughts and other consequences of climate change. The $51 estimate was first established in 2016 and has been used to justify major rules such as the Clean Power Plan to tighten emissions standards for coal-fired power plants and separate rules imposing standards stricter vehicle emissions.
The carbon cost estimate had not yet seen much use under Biden, but is being considered in an ongoing environmental review of oil and gas lease sales in western states.
Federal officials began developing climate damage cost estimates more than a decade ago after environmentalists successfully sued the government for failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions during the setting vehicle mileage standards, said Max Sarinsky, a professor at New York University School of Law.
Failing to take full account of carbon damage would distort any cost-benefit analysis of a proposed rule in favor of industry, he said, adding that the social cost of carbon had been “instrumental” in allowing agencies to accurately judge how their rules affect the climate.
“Without a proper climate impact assessment, it would complicate the agencies’ good faith efforts to reach reasoned conclusions,” he said.
Republican attorneys general led by Jeff Landry of Louisiana said the Biden administration’s relaunch of the higher estimate was illegal and beyond its authority in basing the figure on global considerations. Other states whose officials have sued include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Landry’s office released a statement calling Cain’s decision “a major victory for nearly every aspect of Louisiana’s economy and culture.”
“Biden’s executive order was an attempt by the government to seize power and tax the people based on winners and losers chosen by the government,” the statement said.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Last year, a federal judge in Missouri sided with the administration in a similar challenge from another group of Republican states. In that case, the judge said the Republicans lacked standing to bring their lawsuit because they had not yet suffered any harm under Biden’s order.
Brown reported from Billings, Montana, and McGill from New Orleans.
Matthew Brown, Matthew Daly and Kevin Mcgill, Associated Press