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Progressives questioned the propriety of a district judge after his injunction impeded the regulatory schemes of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda.
United States District Judge James Cain, representing the Western District of Louisiana, issued an injunction February 11 after Republican attorneys general challenged an executive order Biden signed on his first day in office, the Associated Press reported. Biden’s order instructed the federal government to resume the use of President Obama’s metric to calculate the “social cost of carbon” at a rate just over $50/ton.
This move had been a reversal of President Trump’s action against the policy that had cut the rate down to $7/ton. Trump had issued the reduction as a reflection of emission damages within the United States rather than the Obama calculation that sought to charge based on global ramifications.
Cain stated in his ruling that the Obama/Biden rates would directly harm energy-producing states like the 10 listed in the suit by “artificially [increasing] the cost estimates of lease sales.”
Liberal legal scholars didn’t question whether Cain was correct in his assertion that this policy would incur financial burdens in an already struggling economy. Instead, they questioned the role the judiciary serves in striking down rules proposed within the federal bureaucracy.
Part of Cain’s reasoning was the major questions doctrine that affirms agencies are prohibited from taking action without Congressional authority. Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown environmental law professor took umbrage with this, according to The Hill.
“Courts are doing truly bizarre things in the name of ‘major questions,'” Heinzerling said after expressing her view that Cain’s ruling was “like watching a toddler play with matches.”
“It seems like it’s being taken up against particular kinds of goals,” she went on. “Health, safety and environmental regulation has been particularly hard hit.”
James Goodwin from the Center for Progressive Reform hinted at the legal loopholes these governmental overreaches were seeking to take advantage of by asserting the major questions doctrine should not have applied in this scenario because no actual rule was on the books.
“When a rule is final,” Goodwin said, “that’s when you could say, ‘Well, there’s all these problems with this rule.'”
“Maybe it doesn’t follow the Clean Air Act,” he suggested. “Or maybe they didn’t give enough time for notice and comment or maybe they relied on this flawed number for the social cost of carbon.” In the case of that social cost of carbon, federal agencies were following a “guideline” that seemed to be in place to avoid suits on major questions.
Heinzerling pointed to such concerns within agencies suggesting they will be wondering, “Is the thing we’re working on going to be a major question now?”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) who led the suit stated more clearly what this injunction seeks to prevent when he said, “Biden’s executive order was an attempt by the government to take over and tax the people based on winners and losers chosen by the government.”
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