Feb 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge halts Biden admin from using social cost of carbon

In this illustration, a large price tag dangles from a black and white still image of the earth.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A federal judge is barring the Biden administration from using the social cost of carbon put into place on Jan. 20, 2021. The decision, issued Friday, affects the interim figure in place now, as well as an updated metric expected to be issued later this month.

Driving the news: The social cost of carbon is a dollar estimate of the damages caused by emitting one additional metric ton of greenhouse gases into the air.

What's happening: The case, brought by 10 states including Louisiana and West Virginia, challenged the interim metric, arguing that it was arbitrarily set and would increase the costs of energy production and other activities.

  • Judge James D. Cain Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, a Trump appointee, agreed with the states, and issued an injunction that not only bars the use of the interim metric, but would prevent the new task force figure from being used.
  • The plaintiffs did not challenge a particular use of the Biden administration's social cost figure, but rather its potential applications.

What they're saying: "This injunction is extraordinarily broad," Max Sarinsky, an attorney at the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School, told Axios. "I think it will receive very, very close scrutiny on appeal."

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