Overnight Energy & Environment — Court blocks climate accounting mechanism

Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here:

Today we’re looking at a judge’s ruling against the Biden administration’s social costs of greenhouse gases and the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest move on a controversial Trump-era public records rule. 

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack. 


Judge bars Biden’s use of key climate metric 

A federal court has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s use of a key climate accounting measure — a decision that could have major effects on climate change regulations.  

Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee in Louisiana, issued a preliminary injunction against the use of the “social costs of greenhouse gases” that were instated under the Biden administration.  

The Biden administration last year temporarily returned to Obama-era figures for calculating the costs of these planet-warming gases, and it was expected to soon issue its own findings.  

The Obama-era figures gave much more weight to climate damages than figures used under the Trump administration.  

Ok, but what are social costs of greenhouse gases? These “social costs” have been used to help quantify the climate benefits of regulation, or conversely, the climate costs of deregulation, in agency rulemaking. Higher costs of greenhouse gases can be used to justify more stringent regulations.  

In his ruling on Friday, Cain blocked agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Department and Interior Department from relying on the findings of a White House “Interagency Working Group.” 

That group was tasked with calculating its own values, which may have given even greater weight to climate damages, and it had decided to use the pre-Trump figures in the interim. 

He argued that the social cost “directly causes harm” to the states when it’s used to evaluate oil and gas lease sales, since they receive revenues from those sales.  

In the meantime, she said that agencies are largely left to their own devices to estimate climate costs. 

Read more about the decision here. 

PA to reassess controversial FOIA rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take another look at a controversial Trump-era rule governing public records requests.  

In response to a lawsuit brought by environmental and public accountability groups, the EPA  will issue a proposal revising the text of the regulation, according to a settlement it reached with plaintiffs and filed Thursday.  

One of the plaintiffs, the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said on its website that the settlement achieved the “primary relief” that it sought.  

The settlement stipulates that the proposed revision will “determined by EPA at its sole discretion.”  

The controversial 2019 rule gave the EPA administrator and other officials to withhold part of a record that would have otherwise been released under a Freedom of Information Act request. 


The U.S. is joining an effort on combatting plastic pollution.  

A new joint statement from the White House and France said they are committed to “support launching negotiations at the upcoming 5th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) on a global agreement to address the full lifecycle of plastics and promote a circular economy.” 

It said that this agreement should include both “binding and non-binding commitments,” and call for “ambitious” national action plans from countries.   



  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on environmental justice legislation 
  • The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “restoring Brownfield sites to economic engines” 
  • The House Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on grid resilience and reliability  


  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on two EPA nominees, and then hold a hearing on biofuels 


  • The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing titled “Warrior Met and Wall Street Greed: What Corporate Raiders are Doing to Workers and Consumers” 
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on climate adaptation science at the U.S. Geological Survey


  • US files 1st USMCA environment case on Mexico over porpoise (The Associated Press)
  • US nuclear power plants contain dangerous counterfeit parts, report finds (The Verge)
  • VP Kamala Harris touts Newark’s progress in removing lead water pipes during trip to N.J. ( 


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Monday. 

Source: The Hill

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