Regulation Database – Council on Environmental Quality
In August 2016, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released final guidance for Federal agencies on how to consider the impacts of their actions on global climate change in their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. This final guidance provides a framework for agencies to consider both the effects of a proposed action on climate change, as indicated by its estimated greenhouse gas emissions, and the effects of climate change on a proposed action. The final guidance applies to all types of proposed Federal agency actions that are subject to NEPA analysis and guides agencies on how to address the greenhouse gas emissions from Federal actions and the effects of climate change on their proposed actions within the existing NEPA regulatory framework. Below is the guidance and related information, including a list of greenhouse gas accounting tools available to Federal agencies.
- Final Guidance (Aug. 1, 2016)
- Revised Draft Guidance (Dec. 24, 2014)
- Draft Guidance (Feb. 18, 2010)
- Sabin Center Comments on Revised Draft Guidance on the Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews (submitted March 24, 2015)
On March 28, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing CEQ to rescind the final guidance on climate change and NEPA reviews. On April 5, 2017, CEQ published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the withdrawal of the guidance.
In October 2010, CEQ released Guidance on Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting that establishes Government-wide requirements for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with Federal agency operations. The guidance serves as the Federal Government’s official Greenhouse Gas Protocol and was used by Federal agencies to develop their GHG inventories. Federal agencies are required to submit GHG inventories annually beginning in January of 2011, as called for in the Executive Order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance (Executive Order 13514) signed by President Obama on October 5, 2009.
In June 2012, CEQ finalized an update to the guidance based on recommendations from an interagency work group co-chaired by the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, the Department of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Final Revised Guidance (June 4, 2012)
- Revised Draft Guidance (Mar. 12, 2012)
- Initial Guidance (Oct. 6, 2010)
On March 4, 2011, CEQ issued formal guidance to Federal agencies on the development of climate change adaptation plans, intended to assist those agencies in fulfilling the requirements of Executive Order 13514. The guidance requires Federal agencies to draft adaptation policy statements by June 3, 2011 and to complete their adaptation plans by June 4, 2012. Under the guidance, adaptation plans will be available for public review and comment. Agency Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans released in 2013 included climate change adaptation plans for the first time.
On July 15, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality finalized an overhaul of regulations governing environmental review under the National Environmental Quality Act (NEPA). The revisions could limit or even eliminate consideration of climate change in several ways.
Prior to the amendments, NEPA regulations required agencies to consider direct, indirect, and cumulative effects when conducting environmental reviews of proposed projects. The indirect and cumulative effect requirements have led some courts to compel agencies to account for climate change when analyzing the impact of fossil fuel leases and infrastructure projects. The revised regulations collapse the distinction between indirect and direct effects, and expressly eliminate the cumulative effect requirement. This will likely limit the role of climate change in environmental assessment. The revised regulations will also restrict analysis to effects that have a "reasonably close causal relationship" to the proposed project, which could limit consideration of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions or on-the-ground climate change impacts related to the project.
The amendments could also make it easier for agencies to dismiss the significance of impacts caused by fossil fuel projects. NEPA only requires agencies to prepare a full environmental impact statement for projects that may significantly affect the environment. By watering down the definition of "significantly," the revisions could lead agencies to determine that certain fossil fuel projects do not warrant a comprehensive environmental review even if the indirect climate change impacts would be extensive. Read more on our blog >>>