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Zeroing Out Climate Change: A “Hard Look” at Trump’s Social Cost of Carbon

June 2018

Citation: ELR 10479

Author: Doyle Elizabeth Canning

President Donald Trump has referred to climate change as a “hoax,” and in March 2017 issued Executive Order No. 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. Section 5 of this Order directs federal agencies to discontinue use of the social cost of carbon (SCC), a protocol developed under the Barack Obama Administration to monetize the impacts of climate-related disasters and disruption. This directive sets up a conflict with the requirements of NEPA, and likely will be challenged in the courts. This Article argues that, under existing NEPA case law, discontinuation and/or drastic reduction of the SCC by the Trump Administration is likely legally actionable. It examines possible litigation strategies to challenge the expansion of fossil fuels, presents a thorough analysis of Executive Order No. 13783, and offers precedent for NEPA challenges to the SCC rollback.

Doyle Elizabeth Canning is a second-year law fellow at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and a thirdyear fellow at the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Oregon School of Law.

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