GAO to review how administration developed 'social cost' of carbon

Earlier this month, Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), John Culberson (R-Texas) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) asked the GAO to investigate how the administration developed the new value, who was consulted and whether officials followed federal rulemaking guidelines. Vitter is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Dubbed the "social cost" of carbon, the value is used when writing regulations to determine the effect of carbon pollution on the environment, public health, agriculture and other areas. Increasing the value from $21 to $35 per metric ton, as the administration has done, will dramatically increase the projected benefits from new rules that clamp down on air pollution.

The once-obscure regulatory tool has become a subject of contention since it was released in June.

At least three energy companies have begun lobbying on the issue, and a House subcommittee held a hearing solely devoted to the subject last month.

Hunter and Culberson have introduced legislation that would prevent federal agencies from using the estimate until the public has had a chance to weigh in, and the House recently voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from using it while writing rules unless a federal law specifically says otherwise.