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District Court Issues Injunction In Regard To Biden Administration Executive Order Related To Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In Louisiana v. Biden, 2022 WL 438313 (E.D. La. 2022), the States of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of an executive order that reinstated the Interagency Working Group on Social Costs of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (“IWG”) and ordered the IWG to publish interim estimates for the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions for agencies to use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulation and other relevant agency actions.  The issues before the District Court were: (1) whether the states had standing; (2) whether the asserted claims were subject to judicial review; and (3) whether the states satisfied the requirements to obtain a preliminary injunction.

The District Court determined the States had standing based on proof that satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement.  The States alleged direct injury to their sovereign, fiscal, procedural and parens patriae interests.  The Court also ruled the claims asserted by the states are reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act because the SC-GGE Estimates are the final directive from the IWG on how agencies are to conduct their cost-benefit analyses until a different, permanent rule is issued. 

A key battle before the court was whether the imposition of the regulatory changes violates the “major questions doctrine.”  The States argued the executive branch cannot bring about an enormous and transformative expansion in its regulatory authority without clear Congressional authorization.  Defendant argued that Article II supplied President Biden with the authority to issue the executive order as a routine exercise of traditional presidential control over agencies to secure the unitary and uniform execution of the law. 

The District Court identified two steps for the Court to determine if the “major questions doctrine” applied: (1) if the assertion of the Executive authority implicates matters of vast economic and political significance, and (2) if Congress has expressly and specifically delegated authority over the issue to the Executive.  The District Court found the executive order violated the major questions doctrine and that President Biden lacked power to promulgate fundamentally transformative legislative rules in areas of vast political, social and economic importance.  President Biden has appealed the decision to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.