WH: Agencies should factor for climate change in project reviews

The White House is floating new guidelines for federal agencies on how to weigh climate change impacts when reviewing energy and infrastructure projects.

The proposed guidelines from the White House Council on Environmental Quality specifically address National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews by agencies, which require an analysis of the environmental impact by projects that need a federal greenlight.

NEPA reviews are used when the federal agencies consider offshore drilling leases, construction projects, pipelines, mining and more.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a fact sheet, released by the White House on Thursday, the administration said the new blueprint urges agencies to consider how greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impact projects undergoing NEPA reviews.

“Climate change is a fundamental environmental issue, and the relation of federal actions to it falls squarely within NEPA’s focus,” the draft blueprint states.

When weighing a project, the administration says agencies should look at measures that will reduce the impact of extreme weather events on federal investments.

If a project has the ability to emit 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide on an annual basis, its contributions to global warming must be considered in NEPA reviews.

"Federal agencies, to remain consistent with NEPA, should consider the extent to which a proposed action and its reasonable alternatives contribute to climate change through [greenhouse gas] emissions and take into account the ways in which a changing climate over the life of the proposed project may alter the overall environmental implications of such actions," the plan states.

The new guidelines expand on a 2010 proposal to include climate change considerations during certain federal reviews.

The updated guidance is part of the administration’s effort to include climate change in agencies’ decision-making process.

But the move will draw the ire of industry and Republicans, who argue the administration is regulating with a heavy hand.

In a summary, the administration takes care to address such concerns, stressing that “NEPA ensures information on the potential environmental impacts of agency decisions and projects is transparently available to the public; however it does not dictate decisions or project choices.”

The proposed guidelines are now open to a 60-day public comment period.