Twelve States Contest Biden’s Greenhouse Gases Social Cost Executive Order

On Monday, 12 states filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden, members of his administration, and federal departments alleging that the Biden administration is threatening the system of separation of powers in the federal government and using what should be a legislative power when it asked officials to determine the “social cost” for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. 

The lawsuit was filed in the Missouri Eastern District Court by Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Specifically, the lawsuit is contesting Executive Order 13900 Section 5, which reportedly gives the executive branch “unilateral power to dictate specific values for the ‘social costs’ of greenhouse gasses in virtually every regulatory program administered by the federal government.” 

The complaint purported that “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. Assigning such values is a quintessentially legislative action that falls within Congress’s exclusive authority.”

Additionally, the states claimed that an increase in the social cost amounts could lead to increases in restriction for agriculture, energy, and other economic activities. The complaint purported that there will be “hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars of damage” to the United States economy through this policy. They also claimed that the order would “intrude into every aspect of Americans’ lives,” specifically mentioning electric bills and car use. 

According to a report from The Hill, the Biden administration is not the first to take this step, it said the social cost of carbon was set at $50 per metric ton during President Obama’s administration and at $7 per metric ton during President Trump’s administration. The article, written by Rachel Frazin, said the cost under the Biden administration is expected to be $51 for now, because currently the administration is using Obama’s method of calculation and adjusting for inflation until it develops its own method. 

The complaint alleged that Article I, Section I of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act was breached by the plaintiffs through this purported overreach of the executive branch authority and asked the court to declare that it is unconstitutional and to declare any values determined by the working group to be invalid, “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and contrary to law.” The states also asked for injunctive relief stopping the defendants and the working group from implementing the executive order.