Mar 16, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Appeals court halts ruling blocking Biden admin climate risk measure

President Joe Biden reacts during an Action on Forests and Land Use event on day three of COP26 at SECC on November 2, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

President Biden reacts at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last year. Photo: Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday lifted a ban that blocked a Biden administration policy of calculating climate change costs in government decisions.

Why it matters: The court's stay in a lawsuit brought by several Republican-led states means that, for now, federal officials can factor in the economic cost of climate change in projects and rulemakings — which could help the Biden administration reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

  • Federal officials said the earlier ruling, by a Trump-appointed U.S. District Court judge in Louisiana, had delayed drilling permits, lease sales and environmental rules.

Context: 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, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

  • It provides policymakers with a way of incorporating future climate damage into present-day decision-making, affecting cost/benefit analyses.
  • The Biden administration had implemented the metric applied during the Obama administration, which was $51 per metric ton.

Yes, but: The GOP-led states argue in their lawsuit that President Biden didn't have the authority to make such changes — something the three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' rejected Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The Plaintiff States' claimed injury is 'increased regulatory burdens' that may result from the consideration" of the social cost of greenhouse gases," wrote Judges Leslie Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee, and James Graves and Gregg Costa, both Barack Obama appointees, in their unanimous ruling.

  • "This injury, however, hardly meets the standards for [constitutional] standing because it is, at this point, merely hypothetical," they continued.
  • "The Plaintiff States' claims are based on a generalized grievance of the use of Interim Estimates in cost-benefit analyses of regulations and agency action," according to the judges' opinion.
  • "But their claimed injury does not stem from the Interim Estimates themselves, it stems from any forthcoming, speculative, and unknown regulation that may place increased burdens on them and may result."

What's next: The Biden administration is appealing the full Louisiana injunction.

Read the ruling in full, via DocumentCloud:

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