September 10, 2021
A federal judge rejected a challenge from 12 states with Republican attorneys general that attempted to block the Biden administration from using certain figures to calculate the climate benefits of rules it puts forward, known as the “social costs” of greenhouse gases, according to The Hill on August 31.
The states sued the Biden administration in March, trying to prevent it from using interim values for the costs of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide that were calculated during the Obama administration and adjusted for inflation.
Both Democratic and Republican administrations have used this “social cost” calculation to quantify the climate benefits or consequences in cost-benefit analyses that provide legal justification for their regulatory actions.
But values have varied between administrations, with the Obama administration, for example, estimating the social value of emissions reductions to be higher than the Trump administration did.
On his first day in office, President Biden directed an interagency working group to establish temporary social costs within a month and calculate final social costs by January 2022.
In February, the White House returned to the Obama-era figure for the moment.
In their lawsuit, the coalition of states, led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R), argued that Biden’s directions were an overreach, exercising a “quintessentially legislative power.”
But judge Audrey Fleissig, an Obama appointee in Missouri, argued that her court lacks jurisdiction.
Fleissig also argued that the states weren’t able to show that they’d actually be harmed by the social cost values, and asserted the fact that they could be harmed by future regulations justified by the values isn’t “concrete.”
“The injury that Plaintiffs fear is from hypothetical future regulation possibly derived from these Estimates. That injury is not concrete and therefore insufficient for standing,” Fleissig wrote.
Schmitt’s office, meanwhile, pledged to appeal the ruling.
“We plan to appeal this decision. Attorney General Schmitt will continue to fight against unelected bureaucrats’ attempts to impose massive federal regulations – in this case or any other instance – that could crush farmers and manufacturers in Missouri,” spokesperson Chris Nuelle said in a statement.