GOP-led states ask Supreme Court to block key Biden climate accounting measure

A group of Republican-led states on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a court order blocking a key climate accounting measure put in place by the Biden administration amid a legal dispute with potentially high stakes for climate change regulation.

Led by Louisiana, the GOP-led states urged the justices to revive a federal judge’s February ruling that temporarily stopped the Biden administration’s use of a metric known as the “social costs” of planet-warming gases to quantify the climate costs and benefits of regulatory actions.

That ruling, by Trump-appointed U.S. Judge James Cain in Louisiana, was halted last month by a New Orleans-based federal appeals court.

In court papers filed Thursday, Republican attorneys general from 10 states trained their fire on the metric at issue, formally known as the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas Estimates, which was first implemented under then-President Obama.

“The Estimates are a power grab designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits so that the Administration can impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy,” the group of GOP-led states wrote in their brief.

The Obama-era figures gave much more weight to climate damages than figures used under the Trump administration. These “social costs” have been used to help quantify the climate benefits of regulation — or, conversely, the climate costs of deregulation — in agency rulemaking. Higher costs of greenhouse gases can be used to justify more stringent regulations.

The Biden administration last year temporarily returned to Obama-era figures for calculating the costs of these planet-warming gases, and it was expected to soon issue its own findings.

In his February ruling, Cain sided with the Republican-led challengers, who argued they would be harmed if those values resulted in less production of fossil fuels — and less revenue for the states.

But a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last month halted Cain’s preliminary injunction, saying that the states’ claims are largely hypothetical, coming from potential regulations that may happen rather than actual harm.

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