The Biden administration announced Saturday that it will either suspend or delay new federal oil and gas leasing, weeks after Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana blocked the administration’s method of calculating the social costs associated with greenhouse gases, the Hill reports.
While it plans to develop its own method in the future, the Biden administration had returned to Obama-era calculation methods.
Cain in his ruling stated that federal agencies would not be able to consider findings from the White House Interagency Working Group, the group tasked with developing new metrics based on calculations from the Obama era, and blocked the Biden administration from considering the global impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Cain issued his ruling in response to a lawsuit from ten GOP-run states, and agreed that "the balance of the injuries" from considering the social costs of greenhouse gasses "weigh substantially in favor" of the ten states. Cain stated that it "directly causes harm" to the states' economies and that "[T]he…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."
The Justice Department appealed the decision, asking the court to stay the injunction. In its filing, the DOJ cited the likelihood that its appeal would be successful, stating that "from President Nixon on, every President has imposed some internal Executive Branch requirement for federal agencies to assess the costs and benefits of major government actions. The injunction further calls into question the authority of the past three Administrations to provide standardized guidance to agencies on appropriate methods of estimating the social cost of greenhouse-gas emissions."
The filing adds that, in the meantime, "work surrounding public-facing rules, grants, leases, permits and other projects has been delayed or stopped altogether so that agencies can assess whether and how they can proceed."
Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in a statement Saturday that "the Interior Department has assessed program components that incorporate the interim guidance on social cost of carbon analysis from the Interagency Working Group, and delays are expected in permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs."
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