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Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden Administration Greenhouse Gas Emissions Damage Cost Estimate

Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden Administration Greenhouse Gas Emissions Damage Cost Estimate

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden restored the climate cost estimate of about $51 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions after the Trump administration had reduced the figure to about $7 per ton. Trump’s estimate included only damages felt in the U.S. versus the global damages captured under the higher estimate.

Now a federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to put greater emphasis on the potential damage from greenhouse gas emissions when creating rules for polluting industries.

U.S. District Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana sided with Republican attorneys general who said the Biden administration’s raising the cost estimate of carbon dioxide emissions threatened to drive up energy costs while decreasing state revenues from energy production. The judge issued an injunction on Friday that bars the administration from using the higher cost estimate, which puts a dollar value on damages caused by every additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Federal officials began developing climate damage cost estimates more than a decade ago after environmentalists successfully sued the government for not taking greenhouse gas emissions into account when setting vehicle mileage standards. The Biden administration’s revival of a higher figure initially set under the Obama administration would be used to make future rules for oil and gas drilling, automobiles, and other industries. Using a higher cost estimate would help justify reductions in planet-warming emissions by making the benefits more likely to outweigh the expenses of complying with new rules.

Known as the “social cost of carbon”, the rule uses economic models to capture damages caused by rising sea levels, recurring droughts, and other consequences of climate change. The $51 estimate was first established in 2016 and was used to justify major rules such as the Clean Power Plan to tighten emissions standards from coal-fired power plants and separate rules imposing tougher vehicle emission standards.

Republican attorneys general led by Louisiana’s Jeff Landry said the Biden administration’s revival of the higher estimate was illegal and exceeded its authority by basing the figure on global considerations. The other states whose officials sued are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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