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Supreme Court won’t block Biden rule on societal cost of greenhouse gases

The executive order requires estimates for the societal costs of increased greenhouse gas emissions when the government takes actions that affect the environment.
A flare burns natural gas at an oil well in Watford City, N.D., on Aug. 26.
A flare burns natural gas at an oil well in Watford City, N.D., on Aug. 26.Matthew Brown / AP file

The Supreme Court refused Thursday to block a Biden administration rule for figuring the costs of greenhouse gas pollution when the government makes decisions affecting the environment.

Ten red states, led by Louisiana, asked the court to put a hold on a January 2021 White House executive order that directs an interagency working group to generate estimates of the societal costs of increased emissions of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide. The estimates are to be used to figure the monetary value of changes in such emissions resulting from government actions.

The states filed their emergency application to Justice Samuel Alito, who handles appeals from that region of the country. He referred the case to the full court, which denied the request without comment.

The loss for the states gives the Biden administration a boost in the president’s efforts to include an evaluation of the risks of global warming in the federal government’s decisions. 

The states said the federal formulas inflated the estimated costs of oil and gas leasing and a host of other projects. They sued in federal court in Louisiana, and in February U.S. District Judge James D. Cain Jr. temporarily blocked the use of the cost estimates.

The government appealed, and the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay of the ruling. The states then asked the Supreme Court to lift the stay and let the judge’s ruling take effect.  

In an emergency application, they called the Biden working group’s efforts “a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs so that the administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.” 

They said the court should block “the most consequential rulemaking in American history” while the lower courts decide its fate.

But the Biden administration said the states were acting prematurely, rushing to court before they knew what kind of effect the cost estimates will have. They should have waited and then challenged some future agency regulations that are actually issued, Justice Department lawyers said.