State joins lawsuit over greenhouse gas ‘social cost’

CASPER — Wyoming joined a 10-state lawsuit Thursday against the Biden administration over an executive action seeking to cut greenhouse gases, arguing that one of the president’s recommended metrics for gauging environmental damages constituted “job-killing executive overreach.” 

Attorneys general from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia signed on to the lawsuit, as did Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill. Eight of the 10 states have Republican governors; Louisiana and Kentucky have Democratic governors. 

In an announcement Thursday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon criticized Biden’s order to assess the “social costs” of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide. Gordon called this process “a selective and highly biased feel-good rationale.” 

Biden recently signed an executive order requiring his agencies to factor in social cost estimates when analyzing regulatory actions. Gordon said that making decisions based on those values could be harmful to Wyoming, especially its energy industries. 

“Federal agencies must now use the (social cost estimates) to calculate regulatory costs and benefits for virtually everything that States and their citizens encounter every day,” the lawsuit argues. “That means federal agencies will use the (social cost estimates) to assign massive — even existential — costs to every regulatory action and ‘other relevant action,’ thereby fundamentally transforming the way States conduct business and Americans live. 

“It’s no exaggeration to say the (social cost estimates) are the most expansive, and potentially most expensive, federal regulatory initiative in history.” 

The lawsuit, as well as Gordon’s news release, argued that: “Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are by-products of everyday activities in America today, including the production of electricity, natural gas, farming operations, a wide variety of industrial activities, the production of cement and other construction materials, and waste disposal. They are among the most common and prevalent byproducts of human economic activity.” 

The governor argued that the executive order had implications on most federal agencies, calling it a “thumb on the scale against” activities that benefit Wyoming and the U.S. economically. 

Wyoming Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, however, was critical of the state’s lawsuit Thursday. 

“Our strong grip onto the past that fossil fuels once provided us is also our death grip on the future for the people of Wyoming,” she tweeted. “We could be looking for solutions for jobs, communities, our budget deficit, but we are too busy choking our futures to death on BS lawsuits! STOP IT!” 

In late March, Wyoming sued the Biden administration for its decision to pause the issuance of new federal oil and gas leases. Wednesday, the U.S. Interior Department announced it was canceling oil and gas lease sales from public lands through June. 

Thursday, Biden committed the U.S. to cutting its emissions by 50-52% before 2030 at a global climate summit.