Today, the Biden administration released Guidance on the Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change. This critical guidance assists federal agencies in their consideration of the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change when evaluating proposed actions in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and delivers more certainty in the permitting process for clean energy projects. This guidance restores and improves upon the Obama administration’s guidance that the Trump administration rescinded.
In support of this announcement and the new guidance, Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Biden administration’s steps to clarify the federal government’s responsibility to assess greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on climate, and consequences on frontline communities. As the agency with NEPA oversight responsibility, CEQ’s guidance is essential to leading federal agencies on our path to a just, zero emissions future.
“This guidance not only clarifies how agencies can best analyze climate impacts, it also takes important steps to advance meaningful engagement with impacted communities and solidifies environmental justice as part of climate-related analysis. This is a huge achievement for frontline communities fighting to make their voices heard across the country.
“We also see areas where the administration could improve its guidance by providing greater clarity on how to analyze substitutions for fossil fuel projects and how to determine the significance of an energy project.
“We look forward to helping the administration close these gaps and others so that all federal agencies can improve consistency and efficiency in the fight to protect the health of our families and communities from the devastating impacts of climate change.”
Federal agencies have a substantial leadership role in our fight against climate change. Much of the nation’s dirty fossil fuel production comes from federal lands: 40% of coal, one-fifth of the oil, and about 15% of natural gas. Federal agencies also permit interstate and international pipelines and export facilities that encourage oil and natural gas production. The U.S. Forest Service and other land agencies manage hundreds of millions of acres of carbon-trapping forests.
For many years, Earthjustice has advocated for improved GHG and climate guidance to help federal agencies better fulfill their existing legal duties, required by NEPA and long recognized by courts, to assess and consider the climate impacts of their decisions — both the projects’ contribution to GHG emissions and climate change and how climate change impacts the proposed action.
By issuing clear guidance, government decision-making and permitting will be more efficient and, critically, more equitable.
CEQ’s guidance can offer well-informed, practical, and consistent decision-making in federal agencies as they tackle the Biden administration’s goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050. Its guidance also allows communities across the country to better understand and have a voice in federal projects that impact their lives.