US Judge Strikes Down Biden Climate Damage Cost Estimate

On Friday, a federal judge restricted the Biden administration’s effort to put more attention on possible destruction from greenhouse gas emissions when setting up rules for polluting industries.

U.S. District Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana took the side with Republican attorneys general from energy-generating states who claimed the administration’s move to increase the cost estimate of carbon emissions put threat to plump up energy costs whilst reducing state revenues generating from energy production.

The judge released an order that restricts the Biden administration from making use of the higher cost estimate, which leads to a dollar value on damages led as a result of every additional ton of greenhouse gases radiated into the atmosphere.

President Joe Biden on his first day in office brought back the climate cost estimate to nearly $51 for each ton of carbon dioxide emissions following the Trump administration had declined the statistic to nearly $7 or less for each ton.

Former President Donald Trump’s estimate had just damages felt in the United States versus the worldwide damages acquired in higher estimates that were earlier utilized under the Obama administration.

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A Higher Cost Estimate Would Assist in Justifying Decrease in Planet-warming Emissions

The estimate would be utilized to design future rules for oil and gas drilling, automobiles, and other industries. Making use of a higher cost estimate would assist in justifying a decrease in planet-warming emissions, by making the benefits more probable to exceed the costs of adhering to new regulations.

Called the social cost of carbon, the damage statistic utilizes economic models to get effects from increasing sea levels, frequent droughts and other outcomes of climate change.

The $51 estimate was first set up back in 2016 and utilized to validate significant rules like the Clean Power Plan: former President Barack Obama’s signature attempt to refer to climate change by making strict emissions standards from coal-fired power plants and a different rule enforcing tougher vehicle emission standards.

The Supreme Court prohibited the Clean Power Plan before it ever came into effect, and a more liberal rule enforced by the Trump administration was later put out by a federal appeals court.

The Biden administration had not yet utilized the carbon cost estimate very much but is being taken into consideration in an impending environmental review of oil and gas lease sales in western states.

In Friday’s judgement, Cain mentioned that utilizing the climate damage statistics in oil and gas lease reviews would “artificially increase the cost estimates of lease sales” and lead to an impact negatively on energy-producing states.

Biden climate damage cost estimate
Biden climate damage cost estimate

The United States Reluctant to Confront Climate Change

Economist Michael Greenstone, who assisted in establishing the social cost of carbon whilst serving under the Obama administration, stated that if the judgement stands, it would indicate the U.S. is again reluctant to face off climate change.

The University of Chicago professor said “The social cost of carbon guides the stringency of climate policy,” adding further “Setting it to near-zero Trump administration levels effectively removes all the teeth from climate regulations.”

Republican attorneys general headed by Louisiana’s Jeff Landry stated that the Biden administration’s renewal of the higher estimate was unlawful and surpassed its authority by placing the figure on global considerations.

The other states whose officials filed lawsuits are Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, South Dakota, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.

A statement released from Landry’s office called Cain’s judgement “a major win for nearly every aspect of Louisiana’s economy and culture.”

The statement said, “Biden’s executive order was an attempt by the government to take over and tax the people based on winners and losers chosen by the government.”

The White House cited questions to the Justice Department, which denied to comment.

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Federal Officials Started to Develop Climate Damage Cost More Than a Decade Ago

Max Sarinsky, a professor at the New York University School of Law said that climate damage cost estimates were started developing by federal officials more than ten years ago following environmentalists successfully filing a lawsuit against the government for not considering greenhouse gas emissions when establishing vehicle mileage standards.

He said not completely accounting for carbon damages would twist any cost-benefit analysis of a proposed regulation in support of industry, adding that the social cost of carbon had been “instrumental” in enabling agencies to appropriately judge how their regulations impact the climate.

Sarinsky said, “Without a proper valuation of climate impact, it would complicate agencies’ good faith efforts to make reasoned conclusions.”

Earlier this year a federal judge in Missouri had supported the administration in a similar challenge from another group of Republican states. In that matter, the judge stated that the Republicans missed standing to bring their legal suit as they had yet to go through any harm under Biden’s order.

Friday’s judgement by Cain who is a Trump appointee follows a judgement by another Louisiana judge last summer that brought down a separate Biden effort to consider greenhouse gas emissions by adjourning new oil and gas leases on federal lands and water. In that case, the judge, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, is a Trump appointee as well.

In a case of the shifting politics on the problem, a federal judge in Washington declined a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico conducted largely in response to Doughty’s judgement.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, an Obama appointee, cast aside the lease sale, calling the administration did not appropriately take into consideration its impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

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