On June 21, 2019, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued draft guidance clarifying the treatment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in environmental impact reviews of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Those wishing to comment on the draft must submit comments within 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
The draft guidance is part of the Trump Administration’s continuing efforts to streamline the permitting and environmental review process for infrastructure and energy projects. It replaces NEPA guidance on climate impacts issued in 2016 by the Obama administration, which was rescinded by President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 early in 2017. Although some initial reports suggest that the new draft guidance significantly pulls back from the Obama administration’s approach, on closer comparison it does not depart that much from the major recommendations of the rescinded guidance.
In general, NEPA requires federal agencies proposing to undertake, approve or fund a major federal action to evaluate its environmental impacts, including both direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect effects; to consider alternatives and mitigation; and to discuss cumulative impacts resulting from the incremental effects of the project when added to those of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects. The new draft and the rescinded 2016 guidance contain similar recommendations regarding an agency’s obligations to consider indirect and cumulative GHG impacts, as well as on the use of cost-benefit analysis and the contentious Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) metric.
Reprinted courtesy of Norman F. Carlin, Pillsbury and Eric Moorman, Pillsbury
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