CEQ Issues New Draft Guidance on Consideration of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new draft Guidance on the Consideration of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Reviews. This guidance is intended to replace the 2016 final guidance that was revoked by the Trump administration two years ago.

The new draft guidance acknowledges that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are an environmental impact and that both direct and indirect GHG emissions should be quantified where it is practicable to do so using existing data and quantification tools. It also acknowledges that agencies should account for the effects of climate change on baseline environmental considerations where that analysis would not be overly speculative. Finally, the guidance states that NEPA does not require agencies to disclose the monetized social costs of GHG impacts  as a general matter, but acknowledges that there are circumstances where agencies may account for GHG impacts in their cost-benefit analyses.

The guidance does not set forth any new restrictions or requirements for NEPA analyses of GHG emissions. There are some provisions which appear aimed at limiting the scope of the required analysis for GHG emissions and climate change impacts, such as a statement that “[m]onetization or quantification of some aspects of an agency’s analysis does not require that all effects, including potential effects of GHG emissions, be monetized or quantified.” But these provisions are merely an interpretation of NEPA requirements and they do not affect the underlying statutory and regulatory requirements or the case law interpretation those requirements.