Energy & Environment

Supreme Court rejects red states’ bid to block Biden accounting metric

The Supreme Court is rebuffing an attempt from red states to block the Biden administration from using a key climate accounting metric in its decisionmaking. 

In a new order on Thursday, the high court denied the states’ request to review a ruling that enabled the Biden administration to use the climate impacts measurement.

The order did not provide insight into the court’s reasoning.

The tool in question, known as the “social costs” of greenhouse gases, is a set of values that help the government calculate the climate costs or benefits of its actions. 

For example, the values may be used to help the government quantify the benefits of a regulation that prevents planet-warming carbon dioxide from being released into the air or the additional damage that could be caused by approving a project that emits a lot of it.

The Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have all used social cost values for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, but the Trump administration put a much lower cost on their release.

A higher cost of these gases may be used to justify taking more stringent climate actions, while a lower cost could justify actions that are less stringent.

Republican attorneys general have challenged the Biden administration’s cost estimates.

They have said that their states are harmed when high values are used to evaluate potential oil and gas leasing on their lands. Since the states receive revenue from those leases, they may end up shortchanged if less land is leased because of the climate costs, the attorneys general argued. 

At their request, a federal court in Louisiana temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s use of the metric in February, but in March, that ruling was halted, reinstating the use of the social costs

Late last month, 10 Republican attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to once again block the administration’s use of the social costs. 

The new order is separate from a major climate case the court is considering that could limit the tools that the Environmental Protection Agency has to regulate climate change.

Tags Biden social costs of greenhouse gases Supreme Court

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