Energy & Environment

12 states sue Biden over ‘social cost’ calculation of greenhouse gases

Twelve states are suing the Biden administration for trying to establish a “social cost” of greenhouse gases to use in agency rulemaking.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the states argued that a January executive order directing officials to figure out the “social cost of greenhouse gases” was an overreach, exercising a “quintessentially legislative power.”

“Setting the ‘social cost’ of greenhouse gases is an inherently speculative, policy-laden, and indeterminate task, which involves attempting to predict such unknowable contingencies as future human migrations, international conflicts, and global catastrophes for hundreds of years into the future. Assigning such values is a quintessentially legislative action that falls within Congress’s exclusive authority,” said the suit, which was filed in federal court in Missouri. 

The Biden administration’s executive order directed an interagency group to try to figure out social costs of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. 

But he’s not the first president to do so, with former President Obama setting the social cost of carbon at $50 per metric ton, while the Trump administration valued it at $7 per metric ton. 

More recently, the Biden administration said it will temporarily return to the Obama-era method for calculating the social cost and adjust for inflation while it develops its own cost. 

The social cost is expected to be used to help the Biden administration determine pros and cons of regulations that will have varied impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.

The interim cost for carbon dioxide is expected to be $51 per metric ton. 

The Biden administration said that it was choosing to return to the Obama-era greenhouse gas estimates for the time being because those estimates “were subject to an extensive and robust process” that included public notice and comment and used peer-reviewed studies.

The lawsuit argued that the use of interim costs could have “enormous” regulatory impact. 

“These numbers are high enough to justify massive increases in regulatory restrictions on agricultural practices, energy production, energy use, or any other economic activity that results in the emission of such gases,” it said. 

A statement from the office of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that he was leading the coalition of Republican attorneys general that were suing the administration. 

“Under President Biden’s executive order, which he didn’t have the authority to enact…hard-working Missourians who have lived and worked this land for generations could be left in the dust,” Schmitt said in a statement. 

The other states are Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

Tags Climate change greenhouse gases Joe Biden social cost of carbon social cost of greenhouse gases
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