Conservatives seek to block microwave oven rule over ‘social cost of carbon’

A conservative legal group wants the Energy Department (DOE) to withdraw microwave oven efficiency rules because the DOE didn’t seek public comment on its increased estimate of damage from carbon emissions.

The Landmark Legal Foundation’s formal petition opens the latest front in the battle over the administration’s recent increase in the “social cost of carbon,” a metric of pollution’s toll that agencies use when crafting regulations.

The DOE will publish a notice in Friday’s Federal Register seeking comment on the conservative group’s July petition for reconsideration of the rule.

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A federal interagency group increased the social cost of carbon estimate in May, and in June it surfaced in final DOE energy efficiency regulations for microwave ovens. 

“DOE's unannounced, dramatically increased, and improperly altered ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ (‘SCC’) valuation presented for the first time in this microwave oven regulation will certainly become the standard by which all other agencies will place a purportedly beneficial economic value on new carbon regulations,” the petition states.

The higher estimate arrives as the Obama administration prepares carbon standards for power plants and other climate-related rules. The petition is among several attacks on the Obama administration over the social cost of carbon.

In early August the House passed GOP legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from using the social cost of carbon in energy-related regulations unless a law is passed that specifically allows it.

The Landmark Legal Foundation says the microwave rule should be reconsidered because the social cost of carbon the DOE used increased between the draft regulation and subsequent final rule.

“Specifically, [Landmark Legal Foundation] requests that DOE reconsider the Rule because the final rule used a different Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) than the figure used in the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking,” the department said in a summary.

However, the petition is even broader in its aims.

“Landmark submits this document as a Petition for Reconsideration. However, the egregious violations of the [Administrative Procedure Act] as documented in this Petition demand rescission of the Rule. Landmark respectfully requests the DOE halt implementation and begin the regulatory process anew,” Landmark Legal Foundation petition states.