25 February 2021

White House Council on Environmental Quality Rescinds Trump-Era NEPA Guidance on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On Friday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) rescinded draft guidance published by the Trump administration in June 2019 discussing how agencies should consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when evaluating proposed major federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In that draft guidance, CEQ rescinded its 2016 Obama-era guidance and suggested that agencies may perform a more limited review of a project’s GHG emissions and impact on climate change, stating that “[a]gencies preparing NEPA analyses need not give greater consideration to potential effects from GHG emissions than to other potential effects on the human environment.” That draft guidance had further stated that agencies do not need to account for the “social cost of carbon” when quantifying the direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect greenhouse gas emissions from proposed actions.

As previously reported, on his first day in office, President Joe Biden directed CEQ to withdraw this guidance under Section 7(e) of Executive Order 13990. CEQ will now likely resurrect its 2016 guidance and consider additional revisions and updates before promulgating a new draft. In the interim, CEQ directs agencies to consider all available tools and resources in assessing GHG emissions and climate change effects of their proposed actions, including, as appropriate and relevant, its 2016 guidance. Sidley has previously reported on the Biden administration’s further climate-change-related executive order here.

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