EPA moves forward with climate change protection plan, asks for comments

The Environmental Protection Agency is formally moving forward with its Climate Change Adaptation Plan. 

Beginning Friday, the EPA is accepting comments on its draft plan, which calls for the agency to amend its operations — including the promulgation of new regulations — to account for increasingly rapid global warming. The effort comes in response to a 2009 government-wide directive via President Obama's Council on Environmental Quality, requiring agencies to plan this year for future climate change.


“It is essential that EPA adapt to anticipate and plan for future changes in climate,” according to the 55-page plan, which carries a 2012 date but was put forth now for public consideration. “It must integrate, or mainstream, considerations of climate change into its programs, policies, rules and operations to ensure they are effective under future climatic conditions.”

Rising sea levels, loss of snowpack and drought linked to climate change will likely require the agency to take additional steps to protect watersheds, wetlands and water supplies, the report argues.

Increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events, meanwhile, will demand measures to protect public safety and adapt emergency response plans, it says.

The report does not propose specific rules but rather sets a framework to support and prioritize future actions. By 2015, the report says, EPA will have integrated “climate change science trend and scenario information” into its rule-making processes. 

The agency would also account for future global warming in its grant and loan programs and contract decisions by that year, according to the report.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, lauded the plan.

“We are pleased the EPA is getting its house in order to respond to climate change impacts on its personnel, facilities and programs, said Sarah Saylor, senior legislative representative for the group. "This type of planning can be used to inspire states, regions, localities and individuals to follow suit."

The plan stems from Obama’s 2009 executive order requiring federal agencies to issue annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans, which set targets for reducing waste and pollution. For the first time this year, those plans include the climate change adaptation plans, which can be viewed here.

“The Federal Government is seeing the results of three years of effort in the form of reduced utility bills, more efficient operations, and less waste and pollution,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Agencies are demonstrating significant progress on sustainability initiatives that are good for American taxpayers and good for American communities.”

The public has 60 days to comment on the plans. 

— Updated with additional information at 1:05 p.m.