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SCOTUS denies AG Jeff Landry’s push to block Biden from considering the cost of climate change

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry Speaks at a Louisiana Republican Party rally ahead of the state's first veto session. July 19, 2021.
Paul Braun
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry Speaks at a Louisiana Republican Party rally ahead of the state's first veto session. July 19, 2021.

The Supreme Court won’t block the Biden administration’s consideration of planet-warming emissions in rulemaking, declining to hear an appeal from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

On Thursday, justices issued a minimal,single sentence responsedenying Landry’s request for the nation’s highest court to vacate a stay on a decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In March, the appeals court reversed an injunction issued by a Louisiana District Court judge that had prevented the federal government from using the social cost of carbon for a month earlier this year, grinding some processes to a halt.

The Fifth Circuit Court’s three-judge panel called Landry’s lawsuit“a generalized grievance” with “merely hypothetical” concerns.

Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill called the Supreme Court decision “disappointing” on Tuesday but still felt confident that they would ultimately win the legal battle. She said the case will be considered on the merits in the Fifth Circuit Court, but the date hasn't been set yet.

“In the meantime, we will continue to flag the government’s use of these numbers,” Murrill said.

The lawsuit attacks the Biden administration’s reinstatement of Obama-era values for accounting for the damage caused by climate pollutants such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The social cost of greenhouse gases — a wonky, little-known economics concept — assigns a dollar figure to the long-term impact climate change has on future generations. That dollar figure can then be used in cost-benefit analyses when crafting new rules on issues such as car emissions.

Under the Trump administration, the social cost of carbon was negligible, estimated as low as $1 per ton emitted, while other researchers found that total vastly underestimated the future damage. During the Obama administration, the social cost of carbon was about $46 per ton; under Biden, it’s currently about $51 per ton.

One 2020 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change argued the range should fall between $100 and $200 per ton of carbon dioxide.

Last year, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that recreated a working group tasked with estimating the social cost of greenhouse gasses. That working group told the administration to use values estimated under the Obama administration temporarily while it assesses whether even higher values are appropriate.

Halle Parker

Joined by attorneys general of nine other Republican-led states, Landry’s lawsuit argued that the recreation of the working group and increased estimates amount to federal overreach.

“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," Murrill said.

In a Supreme Court filing, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued the state’s case was prematureas the states have yet to be harmed by any rule created using the federal metric. The Fifth Circuit Court had also found that the state’s lawsuit likely lacked standing and would fail on the merits, according to the March court ruling.

“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,” wrote the three-judge panel.

Halle Parker reports on the environment for WWNO's Coastal Desk. You can reach her at

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