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Noem joins lawsuit challenging social cost of climate change

April 27, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota is joining a multi-state lawsuit aimed at stopping federal regulators from making decisions that factor in the social cost that carbon and greenhouse gases have on the environment.

The monetary figure factors into a wide variety of federal policy decisions, including Environmental Protection Agency regulations and government spending.

Gov. Kristi Noem said South Dakota will join a legal challenge to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in January that established a working group to further examine the financial cost of climate change on society.

The panel issued a report in February that set the social cost of carbon, or SCC, at $52 a ton.

Noem and other Republican attorneys general argue that Biden’s order amounts to an unconstitutional overreach that would slow the economy and impose a burden on the American people.

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“After a year of misguided lockdowns in response to the COVID pandemic, the last thing that America needs is more burdensome regulation that will cripple our economy,” Noem said in a news release. “President Biden’s attempt to implement a ‘social cost of greenhouse gases’ value will result in government sticking their hands into virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives.”

Although critics of the SCC approach, which began under President Barack Obama but was abandoned under President Donald Trump, say applying damage values associated with carbon production to American industry could hurt countless businesses, including in agriculture, others say it’s a matter of perspective.

Mark Winegar, co-chair of Sierra Club’s South Dakota chapter, told the Argus-Leader that depending on how the SCC values are applied, they could be used for an agricultural advantage.

With a financial value of the cost of carbon determined, policymakers could use it to create incentives for farmers rather than penalties, he said. But the industry as a whole won’t shift to more environmentally sustainable methods without being prompted by government action, he said.

“We need that carrot,” Winegar said. “We need to say, ’You can do it however you want to do it, but if you do it this way, we’re gonna help.”

The other parties in the federal lawsuit are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia Wyoming and Louisiana.