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12 states sue Biden over order that sets 'social costs' of climate change

Demonstrators rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on September 20, 2019, as part of the Global Climate Strike to support measures to fight climate change. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Demonstrators rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on September 20, 2019, as part of the Global Climate Strike to support measures to fight climate change. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

March 9 (UPI) -- Twelve states have filed a lawsuit fighting one of President Joe Biden's executive orders on climate change, arguing that his administration doesn't have authority to establish the "social costs" of greenhouse gases to be used in federal rule-making.

The 46-page suit, filed by 12 Republican attorneys general on Monday in federal court in Missouri, accuses Biden of "massive expansion of federal regulations" when he signed the order on his first day in office. It seeks to return to the Obama-era method of calculating non-market impacts of carbon emissions on the environment and human health.

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The lawsuit argues that more stringent federal regulations risk negatively impacting the U.S. economy.

"Setting the 'social cost' of greenhouse gases is an inherently speculative, policy-laden and indeterminate task, which involves attempting to predict such unknowable contingencies as future human migrations, international conflicts and global catastrophes for hundreds of years into the future," the lawsuit reads.

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"Assigning such vales is a quintessentially legislative action that falls within Congress' exclusive authority."

Immediately after taking office in January, Biden created an interagency working group to revise the social cost of greenhouse gases.

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At the end of former President Barack Obama's second term, officials pegged the the social cost of carbon at $51 per metric ton. Former President Donald Trump and his administration recalibrated the figure downward to less than $7, making almost any regulation designed to curb emissions economically harmful.

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The states involved in the lawsuit include Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. It names Biden and several members of his administration as defendants, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

"Manufacturing, agriculture and energy production are essential to Missouri's economy and employ thousands of hard-working Missourians across the state," Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement.

"This massive expansion of federal regulatory power has the potential to impact nearly every household in this state."

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"The Biden administration has exceeded its authority," added Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "Expanding federal regulations will destroy millions of jobs ... and is the last thing we need right now."

In February, a group of researchers in economics, ethics and environmental sciences offered a series of recommendations for the Biden administration to recalibrate social costs of global-warming emissions.

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The authors suggested that Biden's working group start the recalibration process by returning the social cost of carbon to $51, and revising upward from there.

Next, they said, Biden's team should recalibrate the damages used to calculate the effects of climate change on human welfare.

There are the obvious costs, such as damages from flooding and crop losses caused by prolonged droughts -- and there are the less obvious costs, like declines in student learning and worker productivity brought on by heatwaves. Researchers also suggest that Biden's working group find a way to recalibrate so-called "discount rates," functions for calculating the monetary cost of future climate-related damages.

The researchers last month suggested that Biden's working group consider the inequities of the social costs of carbon, both within the United States and across international borders. On average, minority and marginalized communities breathe dirtier air, drink more polluted water and are exposed to higher levels of industrial contaminants.

Brooks Hays contributed to this report.

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