Home Climate justice Trump-appointed judge bars Biden administration from using climate cost estimate

Trump-appointed judge bars Biden administration from using climate cost estimate

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U.S. District Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana on Friday issued an injunction that prevents the Biden administration from using what is known as the “social cost of carbon” in decisions about oil and gas drilling on public lands or in the rules that govern fossil fuel emissions.

Agencies then weigh that economic harm in decisions that involve things like emissions regulations or fossil fuel drilling approvals.

It was first implemented under the Obama administration and significantly weakened by the Trump administration. Biden revived the social cost of carbon on his first day in office, setting it at $51 per ton of CO2 emissions, the same level set by the Obama administration.

The Biden administration had yet to use the metric in many decisions, but was expected to release an updated figure later this month.

Ten Republican-led states have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration. In his ruling, Cain sided with the states, saying the administration’s carbon cost estimate “is going to dramatically increase costs” while decreasing state revenue.

Cain added that his home state of Louisiana “will be directly harmed by the reduction in funds needed to maintain the state’s coastal lands.”

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Earthjustice lawyer Hana Vizcarra, whose organization is not involved in the case, said she would be surprised if government lawyers did not appeal.

“I can’t imagine not appealing, if I was the Justice Department,” Vizcarra said.

Vizcarra added that there weren’t many legal precedents to support Cain’s decision, as a similar lawsuit filed by Republican states was launched by an Obama-appointed federal judge in Missouri last year.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry welcomed the decision in a statement.

“Biden’s attempt to control the activities of the American people and the activities of every business from Main Street to Wall Street was halted today,” Landry said. “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.”

This isn’t the first time a Trump-appointed judge has dealt a blow to the Biden administration’s climate goals. In June, another federal judge in Louisiana blocked Biden’s temporary pause on new oil and gas leases on federal land – saying Biden had overstepped his authority.
The move paved the way for the Interior Department to hold a November auction for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though administration officials insisted at the time that this went against their climate goals, they maintained that they had to obey the law. A federal judge in the DC District Court later invalidated the sale.
The Biden administration will face perhaps the most serious legal challenge to climate policies later this month in a U.S. Supreme Court case that could limit the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions. greenhouse gases from power plants.

This story has been updated with additional information.