New study finds federal agencies need to improve climate impact analyzes to meet NEPA requirements
Federal agencies are not adequately considering the impacts of climate change in reviews conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a new study finds.
The report, Evaluating Climate Risk in NEPA Reviews: Current Practices and Recommendations for Reform, was released today by Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Environmental Defense Fund.
“Climate change poses major risks to energy infrastructure in the United States. Federal agencies must consider these risks when conducting environmental reviews of energy projects under the National Environmental Policy Act, but this does not happen. often not produced,” said Romany Webb, associate fellow at Columbia Law. School and principal researcher at the Sabin Center. “Our research shows that many agencies are not thinking about how projects will be affected by climate change and what this means for the environmental outcomes of projects. As a result, agencies may underestimate the environmental impacts of energy projects and approve projects that are not climate resilient.
“Climate change is a serious and growing danger. Rigorous climate impact analysis is necessary to protect all Americans and to achieve NEPA’s primary goal of informing federal agencies and the public of the environmental effects of proposed actions,” said Michael Panfil, senior counsel and Director of Climate Risk Strategies for Environmental Defense Fund.
The new report concludes that in order to meet NEPA’s requirement that federal agencies closely examine the environmental effects of proposed actions, agencies must consider how changing weather and environmental conditions brought about by the changing could have an impact on an action and modify its environmental impact. effects. However, none of the 65 environmental impact statements that the agencies issued relating to land-based energy activities from 2016 to 2020 contained a sufficiently holistic, specific, and actionable climate impact analysis to inform agency decision-making.
To bridge the gap between NEPA requirements and current agency practices, the report recommends:
- The Environmental Quality Council should update its NEPA implementing regulations to explicitly require climate impact analysis and should identify best practices for such analysis in updates to its environmental guidance. weather.
- Other federal agencies should update their own NEPA regulations and practices to ensure robust climate impact analysis.
- The Environmental Quality Council should coordinate among federal agencies and relevant experts and create or support the creation of a climate impact information database.
You can read the full report here and read the executive summary here.