Another Hurdle for Infrastructure Projects? The White House Draft Guidelines on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Posted in Policy

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality has issued two draft guidance memos regarding important NEPA compliance issues that may add another regulatory layer to infrastructure project development.

The draft guidelines on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, issued on February 18, 2010, require that environmental impact evaluations by federal agencies address GHG.  Among other things, federal agencies are required to quantify and describe expected direct and indirect GHG emissions, to discuss measures to reduce GHG emissions, and to qualitatively discuss the link between the proposed action's GHG emissions and climate change.  By adding to the list of matters an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment must address, the new guidelines not only are likely to increase the cost and time necessary to prepare NEPA documents, but also may provide additional avenues through which project opponents could challenge projects.

Draft guidelines on NEPA mitigation and monitoring requirements are intended to require federal agencies to adopt (1) binding commitments to implement mitigation measures, (2) monitoring programs to "ensure" the mitigation is implemented, and (3) reporting systems so that the public knows if and how the mitigation measures are implemented.  The guidelines "are intended to reinforce existing requirements and responsibilities", but nevertheless could increase the impact of mitigation requirements on projects, in terms of both cost and time.

The draft guidelines are open for comment for a 90-day period.

Nossaman has issued an E-Alert providing a more detailed analysis of these new guidelines.

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