CEQ Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews

 UPDATE: On April 5, 2017, the Council on Environmental Quality published a notice in the Federal Register to withdraw the Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews. CEQ withdrew the guidance pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) developed this guidance for Federal agencies on how to address the greenhouse gas emissions from Federal actions, and the effects of climate change on their proposed actions, in their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. The guidance applies to all types of proposed Federal agency actions that are subject to NEPA analysis - including site-specific actions, certain funding of site-specific projects, rule-making actions, permitting decisions, and land and resource management decisions.   

CEQ is issuing the guidance to provide for greater clarity and more consistency in how agencies address climate change in the environmental impact assessment process. Climate change effects on the environment and on the proposed project should be considered in the analysis of a project that is vulnerable - such as being subject to increasing sea level, drought, high intensity precipitation events, increased fire risk, or ecological change. In such cases, a NEPA review can provide relevant information that agencies can then use to consider in the initial project design, as well as alternatives with preferable overall environmental outcomes and improved resilience to climate impacts.

In order to incorporate climate adaptation measures within the existing NEPA regulatory framework, CEQ:

  • Advises agencies to use available information when assessing the potential future state of the affected environment in a NEPA analysis, instead of undertaking new research, and provides examples of existing sources of scientific information.
  • Counsels agencies to use the information developed during the NEPA review to consider alternatives that would make the actions and affected communities more resilient to the effects of a changing climate.

CEQ also suggests that agencies should take into account their ongoing efforts to incorporate environmental justice principles into their programs, policies, and activities, including the environmental justice strategies required by Executive Order 12898; and to consider whether the effects of climate change in association with the effects of the proposed action may result in a disproportionate effect on minority and low income communities.

In addition, the guidance encourages consideration of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities in the design of the action or the selection among alternatives, to assess the impact and potential for disproportionate impacts on those communities.

(CEQ applies this example: chemical facilities located near the coastline could have increased risk of spills or leakages due to sea level rise or increased storm surges, putting local communities and environmental resources at greater risk, while increased resilience could minimize such potential future effects.)



Publication Date: August 1, 2016

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