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High Court Declines to Block Biden Greenhouse Gas Policy

May 27, 2022 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block a Biden administration policy that directs federal agencies to assess the societal costs of greenhouse gases as part of their decision-making processes.

As is their custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for rejecting a request from Louisiana and nine other states to throw a roadblock in front of the policy.

The underlying litigation in the case began almost immediately after President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

In one of his first acts as president, Biden signed an executive order reviving the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.

The working group has an Obama administration pedigree and was disbanded by former President Donald Trump soon after he took office.

Biden’s executive order empowered the working group to regularly issue estimates on the “social costs” of greenhouse gases and required federal agencies to include these estimates in each cost-benefit analysis for new regulations.

The states that challenged the new order dismissed it as a “power grab” and accused the Biden White House of trying to “manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus … so that the administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

A federal district court in Louisiana temporarily blocked the Biden administration from using the estimates as part of its regulatory decision-making process while litigation continues.

This led the administration to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the lower court ruling.

The states then petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, asking the justices to reinstate the district court’s order barring federal agencies from using the interim estimates.

The states argued the executive order would force them to review every aspect of modern life and to bear the new hidden costs of doing so, without any authorization from Congress.

But in a brief filed on behalf of the administration, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued the executive order does not categorically require an agency to monetize costs and benefits in the first place.
In reality, she explained, the executive order “provides only that, if the agency does so, it generally must use the values provided by the Working Group rather than some other set of values.”

Prelogar also argued the states’ challenge is premature because there’s no way to assess the injury that might be caused to the states by future regulation.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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