The US Justice Dept. appealed to the federal appellate court in New Orleans on March 1 to reverse by March 15 a Louisiana federal judge’s ruling that halts the federal government’s use of an interim calculation of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Feb. 14 injunction by Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee,has nearly paralyzed completion of a variety of pending rules, could interrupt construction project environmental reviews and prompted the US Interior Dept. to pause oil and gas leasing on federal lands, the Biden Administration had said in a response to Cain that asked him to revoke the stay by Feb. 28.

When that action failed to happen, Justice appealed, calling Cain's action "illogical, unreasonable, and unlawful."

Cain had rejected the administration’s use of a dollar value on a metric ton of emissions in regulating such pollutants as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides, agreeing with state-based legal challenges.

Ten states challenged President Joe Biden’s January 2021 executive order directing federal agencies to capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including global damage. Cain ruled that the global cost of carbon could not be considered in analyses.

In the response filing, Dominic Mancini, a deputy administrator in the Office of Management and Budget, said the Injunction halted work by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management on permit applications for at least 18 federal oil and gas leases in New Mexico. The agency is still assessing how many other applications are affected.

“The cumulative burden of the preliminary injunction is quite significant,” he said. “Regulatory impact analyses and analyses in support of other agency actions are often very complex and time-intensive studies that agencies can spend months developing and refining.”

The filing said the US Energy Dept. identified about 21 rulemakings that will be interrupted, the US Transportation Dept. found nine, the US Environmental Protection Agency noted five and Interior counted three.

DOT also said 60 final approvals for specific projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would have to be reconsidered, with Interior identifying about 27 projects.

The ruling would require the Federal Transportation Administration to revise policy guidance for its $2 billion to $3 billion Capital Investment Grants program, delaying rail and transit projects by months, the OMB filing said.  .

Mancini noted that Judge Cain’s ruling conflicts with a California district court ruling that found the domestic-only estimate of the social cost of methane emissions ignored how they would affect foreign assets owned by U.S. companies, U.S. citizens and military personnel living or stationed abroad, effects on U.S. companies through foreign trading partners and international supply chains and geopolitical security.  

“The role of federal regulation in facilitating U.S. participation in global markets should also be considered,” the OMB filing said.

The social cost of greenhouse gases was determined by an interagency group that includes technical experts from at least 14 agencies, Mancini said. The group was expected to release an updated cost of carbon in late February. The preliminary injunction suspends the process designed to ensure the social cost of carbon estimates are informed by the latest science and economics, he said, adding tthat the finalized values were set for added comment and independent peer review.

“Tying agencies’ hands and preventing their selection of the best available data and methodological assumptions has the potential to undermine confidence in the quality of the regulatory analyses,” the filing said.