Climate change is already generating enormous costs to the environment and public health both in the United States and around the world. These costs will only escalate over the time with increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), U.S. federal agencies must assess the environmental effects of proposals for major federal projects, plans and programs before deciding if they should proceed. To conduct a meaningful environmental review of proposed projects, federal agencies must carefully consider how these projects contribute to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions – particularly for projects concerning fossil fuel extraction, transport, and use. The courts have established that NEPA includes obligations to consider climate change effects. Under the Obama administration, the Council for Environmental Quality sought to clarify those obligations by issuing guidance on how NEPA analysis and documentation should address GHG emissions. The Trump administration has sought to roll back and replace those recommendations, raising new questions about how federal agencies have assessed, and will continue to assess, climate change effects during environmental review.
To evaluate how federal agencies are addressing climate change in environmental reviews under NEPA, this report surveys federal environmental impact statements (EISs) and environmental assessments (EAs) completed in 2017-2018 for projects related to fossil fuel production, processing, and transport. In total, the report reviews sixteen EISs and ten EAs which met these criteria within the selected timeframe. The report focuses on fossil fuel project proposals because of their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental Law | Law
Madeleine Siegel & Alexander Loznak,
Survey of Greenhouse Gas Considerations in Federal Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments for Fossil Fuel-Related Projects, 2017-2018,
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, November 2019
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/sabin_climate_change/61