Biden Interagency Working Group Raises Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases; Further Increases on the Horizon

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

[co-author: Shawn Whites]

Biden Interagency Working Group Raises Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases; Further Increases on the Horizon

The Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (the “Working Group”) took its first step to update the costs to society from carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide pollution. Federal agencies use social costs to inform cost-benefit analyses and justify rulemakings and other executive action, such as decisions over leasing public lands for fossil fuel development and production.

The previous administration disbanded the Working Group in 2017 and modified the assumptions by deemphasizing future damages and accounting only for domestic, rather than global, damages. The interim social costs released last week restore those assumptions, resulting in higher social cost values that are consistent with those used by the Obama administration.

The Working Group’s next step is to study the latest developments in climate science and economics and provide “fully updated” social cost figures by January 2022. While it will seek public comment on how best to incorporate those developments into the updated figures, the Working Group notes that even the interim values “likely underestimate societal damages from [greenhouse gas] emissions.” Accordingly, we expect the January 2022 figures to increase.

The Working Group soon will publish a Federal Register notice with a request for public comment on the process used to update the social costs of greenhouse gases. If you would like to learn more about the social costs of greenhouse gases and the role they play in environmental decision-making, read our prior alert here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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