Supreme Court Turns Down Request to Block Biden From Using Climate Model

Supreme Court Turns Down Request to Block Biden From Using Climate Model
Visitors walk outside the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 21, 2022. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

The Supreme Court on May 26 rejected a request from Republican-led states to block President Joe Biden and his administration from using a model to estimate the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

Justices denied the application for a stay without an explanation.

Biden on the day he was sworn into office reestablished the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, the latter portion of the name referring to the model in question.

The order said that it was "essential" that federal agencies "capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account." Such costs, once modeled, should be included when conducting cost-benefit analyses that agencies regularly conduct, the president said at the time.

Louisiana and 10 other states sued, alleging the estimates were part of 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."

U.S. District Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee, issued a preliminary injunction against the administration in February, finding that the use of the model "directly causes harm" to the plaintiff states' rights to proceeds from oil and gas leases.

The estimates "artificially increase the cost estimates of lease sales, which in effect, reduces the number of parcels being leased, resulting in the States receiving less in bonus bids, ground rents, and production royalties,” Cain said.

But a three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and overturned Cain's order. The panel said the plaintiff states claimed injury that may result, calling the impact "merely hypothetical."

"The government defendants are also likely to succeed in showing that the plaintiff states have failed to meet their burden on causation and redressability. The increased regulatory burdens the plaintiff states fear will come from the interim estimates appear untraceable because agencies consider a great number of other factors in determining when, what, and how to regulate or take agency action," the panel—consisting of Judges Leslie Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee, and James Graves Jr. and Gregg Costa, both Obama appointees—wrote.

That set up the Supreme Court challenge, with the plaintiffs saying that without action, the executive branch would "continue using this made-up, nonstatutory metric to arbitrarily tip the scales toward its preferred policy outcome for every activity the federal government touches."

Elizabeth Prelogar, the solicitor general, had urged the court not to grant the request.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act "preclude applicants from challenging the president’s directive to federal agencies to use a specified methodology in monetizing costs as part of their cost-benefit analyses in this abstract suit unconnected to any concrete final agency action," she wrote, adding: "If and when an agency relies on those estimates in issuing a rule or taking other reviewable action that injures the applicants, they may challenge that particular final agency action and argue that its reliance on the estimates renders it unlawful. But applicants may not maintain this Executive-Branch-wide challenge to the interim estimates divorced from any concrete agency action."

In a response to the Supreme Court decision, Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill told The Epoch Times in an email: “The Administration’s efforts to reorder the American economy using these made-up metrics underscores the truth of the one economist’s statement that this is ‘the most important number you never heard of.’ We are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to not vacate the stay, but we are confident that we will be successful in reinstating the injunction after this matter is heard on the merits at the 5th Circuit. Briefing is underway. In the meantime, we will continue to flag the government’s use of these numbers.”