The White House Council on Environmental Quality released a 34-page document on Tuesday directing government agencies to consider climate change in their environmental reviews. The Obama Administration said the policy is “intended to help agencies make informed and transparent decisions about the impacts of climate change associated with their actions.” The final guidance is the culmination of a six-year process shaping how federal agencies will factor climate change into their decisions.
Under the guidance, agencies must consider a project’s impact on climate change via direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions as well as the effect global warming could have on the action. Examples include rising sea levels, extreme weather, drought and wildfires. The guidance could have wide-ranging consequences for federal projects – from roads to rail to fossil fuel infrastructure.
“Simply put, this is a commonsense step that underlines the Administration’s commitment to addressing climate change,” Chase Huntley, senior director of the Wilderness Society’s energy and climate campaign, told The Washington Post. “Federal land management agencies should implement this guidance without delay, and use cutting-edge science to make climate-smart decisions.”
The environmental review process for government agencies is required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on January 1, 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of their actions. The introduction to NEPA states that the purpose of the Act is “to declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.”