Updated Feb 22, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden officials: CO2 ruling has "dramatic" impact

Illustration of a gavel with an oil barrel as the head.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A federal judge's recent ruling that blocks regulators from using a key estimate of the harms from carbon emissions is delaying drilling permits, lease sales and environmental rules, federal officials say.

Driving the news: Administration lawyers are asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to stay its sweeping preliminary injunction that prevents using the White House's social cost of carbon (SCC) in decision-making.

  • The SCC is a dollar estimate of the damages caused by emitting one additional metric ton of greenhouse gases.
  • On Feb. 11, a Trump-appointed judge sided with conservative states in halting federal use of the interim-Biden administration social cost of carbon estimate of $51 per metric ton.

Why it matters: The request Saturday warns of "dramatic" consequences if the injunction remains intact during the administration's appeal, arguing it prevents many cost-benefit and environmental analyses.

  • "[It] has disrupted the functioning of multiple Cabinet agencies," the filing states, claiming it has "frozen, delayed, or derailed numerous activities."

Zoom in: The injunction will likely delay Interior Department oil-and-gas lease sales, and review of drilling permit applications for at least 18 wells in New Mexico, the administration told the court.

  • The effect on drilling applications more broadly is still being assessed, the filings state.

By the numbers: The filings say the Energy Department has initially identified about 21 affected rulemakings in areas like efficiency standards for manufactured housing.

Rules at EPA and the Transportation and Interior Department are also affected, such as Interior regulations on methane, and dozens of environmental analyses.

Catch up fast: The social cost of carbon helps policymakers incorporate future climate damage into today's decision-making.

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