[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 247 (Wednesday, December 24, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 77801-77831]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-30035]



[[Page 77801]]

Vol. 79

Wednesday,

No. 247

December 24, 2014

Part IV





 Council on Environmental Quality





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Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on 
Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate 
Change in NEPA Reviews; Notice

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / 
Notices

[[Page 77802]]


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COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY


Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on 
Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate 
Change in NEPA Reviews

AGENCY: Council on Environmental Quality.

ACTION: Notice of availability, request for public comments on revised 
draft guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on consideration of 
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA 
reviews.

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SUMMARY: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is publishing 
revised draft guidance on how National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
analysis and documentation should address greenhouse gas (GHG) 
emissions and the impacts of climate change. Many projects and programs 
proposed by, or requiring the approval of, the Federal Government have 
the potential to emit or sequester GHG, and may be potentially affected 
by climate changes. It follows, under NEPA, that Federal decisionmakers 
and the public should be informed about the proposal's GHG emissions 
and climate change impacts. Such information can help a decisionmaker 
make an informed choice between alternative actions that will result in 
different levels of GHG emissions, or consider mitigation measures to 
reduce the impacts of climate change.
    This revised draft guidance supersedes the draft guidance CEQ 
issued on February 18, 2010, entitled ``Draft NEPA Guidance on 
Consideration of the Effects of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas 
Emissions.'' \1\ The February 2010 draft guidance specifically did not 
apply to land and resource management activities. That distinction is 
no longer retained, and this revised draft guidance applies to all 
proposed Federal agency actions subject to NEPA.
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    \1\ A Notice of Availability for the 2010 draft guidance was 
published in the Federal Register. See 75 FR 8046 (Feb. 23, 2010).
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    This revised draft guidance: (1) Discusses direct, indirect, and 
cumulative impacts analysis of a proposed action's reasonably 
foreseeable emissions and effects; (2) highlights the consideration of 
reasonable alternatives and points to the need to consider the short-
term and long-term effects and benefits in the alternatives analysis 
and mitigation to lower emissions; (3) recommends that agencies use a 
reference point to determine when GHG emissions warrant a quantitative 
analysis taking into account available GHG quantification tools and 
data that are appropriate for proposed agency actions; (4) recommends 
that an agency select the appropriate level of action for NEPA review 
at which to assess the effects of GHG emissions and climate change, 
either at a broad programmatic or landscape-scale level or at a 
project- or site-specific level, and that the agency set forth a 
reasoned explanation for its approach; (5) counsels agencies to use the 
information developed during the NEPA review to consider alternatives 
that are more resilient to the effects of a changing climate; and (6) 
advises agencies to use existing information and tools when assessing 
future proposed action, and provides examples of some existing sources 
of scientific information.

DATES: Comments should be submitted on or before February 23, 2015.

ADDRESSES: The NEPA Draft Guidance documents are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa. Comments on 
the ``Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on 
Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate 
Change in NEPA Reviews'' should be submitted electronically to 
GCC.guidance@ceq.eop.gov, or in writing to the Council on Environmental 
Quality, ATTN: Horst Greczmiel, 722 Jackson Place NW., Washington, DC 
20503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Horst Greczmiel, Associate Director 
for National Environmental Policy Act Oversight, at (202) 395-5750.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Enacted by Congress in 1969, the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370, is a fundamental 
tool used to harmonize our environmental, economic, and social 
aspirations and is a cornerstone of our Nation's efforts to protect the 
environment. NEPA recognizes that many Federal activities affect the 
environment and mandates that Federal agencies consider the 
environmental impacts of their proposed actions before deciding to 
adopt proposals and take action.\2\ On February 18, 2010, CEQ announced 
the issuance of three proposed draft guidance documents to modernize 
and reinvigorate NEPA, in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the 
statute's signing into law.\3\
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    \2\ For more information on the applicability of NEPA, see the 
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), ``A Citizen's Guide to the 
NEPA,'' available at https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf.
    \3\ Two of these guidance documents have since been finalized. 
See CEQ, ``Establishing, Applying, and Revising Categorical 
Exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act,'' (Nov. 23, 
2010), available at https://ceq.doe.gov/ceq_regulations/NEPA_CE_Guidance_Nov232010.pdf; see also CEQ, ``Appropriate Use of 
Mitigation and Monitoring and Clarifying the Appropriate Use of 
Mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact,'' (Jan. 14, 2011), 
available at https://ceq.doe.gov/current_developments/docs/Mitigation_and_Monitoring_Guidance_14Jan2011.pdf.
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    One of those three draft guidance documents, entitled ``Draft NEPA 
Guidance on Consideration of the Effects of Climate Change and 
Greenhouse Gas Emissions'' (hereinafter ``2010 draft guidance''), 
described how agencies should analyze GHG emissions and climate change 
impacts in NEPA reviews prepared for agency actions.\4\ CEQ did not 
propose to make the 2010 draft guidance applicable to Federal land and 
resource management actions. CEQ was not aware of any established 
Federal protocols for assessing land management techniques, including 
changes in land use or land management strategies, and their effect on 
atmospheric carbon release and sequestration at a landscape scale. 
Consequently, the 2010 draft guidance invited public comment on how 
NEPA reviews for proposed land and resource management actions should 
take GHG emissions and climate change into account. CEQ specifically 
requested public comment on seven questions, listed in section VI of 
the 2010 draft guidance, regarding the applicability of the guidance to 
land and resource management actions.
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    \4\ CEQ, ``Draft NEPA Guidance on Consideration of the Effects 
of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions,'' (Feb. 18, 2010), 
available at www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa/ghg-guidance.
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    CEQ appreciates the thoughtful responses to its request for 
comments on the 2010 draft guidance. CEQ received more than 100 sets of 
comments. Commenters included private citizens, corporations, 
environmental organizations, trade associations, and Federal and state 
agencies. Those comments that raised policy or substantive concerns 
have been grouped thematically, summarized, and addressed in this 
notice.\5\
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    \5\ All of the public comments can be viewed online at 
www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa/comments.
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    After considering the public's responses to the questions set out 
generally on page 4 and in section VI of the 2010 draft guidance, 
comments on the 2010 draft guidance itself, and after further 
consultation with Federal

[[Page 77803]]

agencies, CEQ proposes this revised draft guidance applicable to all 
NEPA reviews regardless of action or resource. The revised draft 
guidance is provided below, after the comment summary and response. The 
first set of comments and responses is the Summary of Responses to 
Questions Asked in the 2010 Draft Guidance. These refer to the CEQ 
request for public comment on how NEPA reviews of proposed land and 
resource management actions should consider GHG emissions and impacts 
of climate change. The second set of responses to comments, the Summary 
of Comments on the 2010 Draft Guidance, are summarized thematically by 
the topic to which they pertain.

I. Summary of Responses to Questions Asked in the 2010 Draft Guidance 
on Whether CEQ Should Issue Guidance on the Consideration of GHG 
Emissions From, and Climate Change Effects on, Land and Resource 
Management Actions

    Many commenters made a general observation that NEPA already 
requires agency consideration of GHG emissions and impacts of climate 
change, by mandating that agencies take a hard look at all reasonably 
foreseeable impacts of major Federal actions at the earliest 
practicable time as well as provide information about the affected 
environment, regardless of the existence of established protocols for 
doing so. Commenters also stated that this requirement is not subject 
to agency discretion, but is often referred to as the ``rule of 
reason.''
    Commenters had different views about whether the available science 
supports NEPA guidance applicable to land and resource management 
actions. Some believe that analysis of the climate effects of land and 
resource management actions would likely be judged arbitrary and 
capricious, because it is not currently possible to determine those 
effects. In the forestry context, for example, those commenters were 
concerned that the carbon benefits from sequestration, as well as 
potential indirect GHG emissions, and cumulative impacts, would be 
difficult to calculate with any certainty with respect to any 
particular action or set of actions. Other commenters cited the ``rule 
of reason'' by which agencies determine whether to prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS) based on the usefulness of 
potential new information in the decision-making process and noted that 
the 2010 draft guidance properly directs agencies to acknowledge the 
scientific limits of their ability to predict climate change effects 
and avoid analyzing speculative effects.
    Other commenters urged CEQ to apply the guidance to Federal land 
and resource management actions, due to the urgency of the climate 
change threat and the possibility that confusion and litigation could 
result if agencies independently adopt different approaches to NEPA 
analysis of climate impacts for different types of Federal actions. 
Additionally, some commenters found it important for agencies not only 
to consider alternatives, including the no action alternative, to 
reduce GHG emissions, but also to consider the benefits of retaining 
terrestrial ecosystems to sequester and store atmospheric carbon to 
stem the tide of global climate change. Analysis of direct and indirect 
emissions from proposed Federal forest management actions, they 
believe, will require Federal decisionmakers to consider carbon 
emissions and sequestration and promote accountability for the Federal 
role in the loss of domestic forestland.
    Response to Comments:
    CEQ is issuing this revised draft guidance applicable to all 
proposed Federal agency actions, including land and resource management 
actions, for several reasons. CEQ was asked to provide guidance on this 
subject informally by Federal agencies and formally by a petition under 
the Administrative Procedure Act to consider regulations and guidance 
on analyzing GHG emissions and the impacts of climate change under 
NEPA.\6\ CEQ's consideration of the effects of GHG emissions and 
impacts of climate change dates back to CEQ's first Annual Report in 
1970, which concluded that ``[m]an may be changing his weather.'' \7\ 
By issuing guidance applicable to all Federal agencies, CEQ aims to 
ensure consistency and certainty about whether and how agencies should 
address GHG emissions and impacts of climate change in their NEPA 
analyses and documents. The revised draft guidance affirms that NEPA 
and the CEQ Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of 
NEPA, 40 CFR parts 1500-1508 (hereinafter ``CEQ Regulations''), 
establish a process which accounts for uncertainty and requires 
agencies to address the relevance of, and ability to obtain, incomplete 
and unavailable information.\8\ It also highlights the existence of 
widely-available tools and methodologies that can be used to calculate 
estimates of GHG emissions and carbon storage.
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    \6\ ``Recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders 
Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience,'' November 2014, 
at page 20 (recommendation 2.7) available at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/task_force_report_0.pdf; see GAO report: 
``Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local 
Infrastructure Decision Makers,'' (Apr. 12, 2012), available at 
gao.gov/products/GAO-13-242; see also International Center for 
Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra 
Club, ``Petition Requesting That the Council on Environmental 
Quality Amend its Regulations to Clarify That Climate Change 
Analyses be Included in Environmental Review Documents,'' (Feb. 28, 
2008) (the petition requested CEQ issue guidance and the petition to 
amend the regulations was denied on August 7, 2014).
    \7\ Council on Environmental Quality, ``Environmental Quality: 
The First Annual Report,'' at 93.
    \8\ See 40 CFR 1502.22.
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    The revised draft guidance emphasizes that the NEPA analysis and 
documentation should present a reasonably thorough discussion of 
probable environmental consequences.\9\ Similarly, this revised 
guidance affirms that agencies should take into account both short- and 
long-term effects and benefits of their actions over their entire 
duration. We welcome the public's further comments on this issue.
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    \9\ Agencies apply the ``rule of reason'' to ensure that their 
discussions pertain to the issues that deserve study and deemphasize 
issues that are less useful to the decisions regarding the proposal, 
its alternatives, and mitigation options. See 40 CFR 1500.4(f), 
1500.4(g), 1501.7 and 1508.25.
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1. How should NEPA documents regarding long-range energy and resource 
management programs assess GHG emissions and climate change impacts?

    Several commenters pointed to programmatic environmental impact 
statements on long-range energy and resource management programs as 
providing the best level for analysis, and which could be relied upon 
in subsequent, tiered analyses of specific proposed actions if 
necessary. Commenters maintained that such an approach would address 
long-range energy and resource management program or planning 
activities guided by the terms and mandates of land and resource 
management statutes, such as the Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act. It would also enable agencies to take both short- and long-term 
impacts of actions or sets of actions into account. These commenters 
generally touted this approach as offering an effective framework for 
identifying and implementing policy choices that would improve the 
process as well as the outcomes. Finally, some commenters, focusing on 
projects or activities involving energy production and use, recommended 
the guidance clarify that combustion of extracted fuel sources should 
be evaluated, and others recommended evaluating a life-cycle analysis 
that considered the entire fuel chain. Others stated that such an 
analysis would include actions too far

[[Page 77804]]

removed from the agencies' statutory obligations to be meaningful for 
decisionmakers.
    Commenters generally recommended that CEQ guidance ensure some 
level of consistency in assessing GHGs and climate change for land and 
resource management actions, and allow for the consideration of 
tradeoffs between long- and short-term impacts and benefits. Several 
commenters proposed that long-term forest and grassland health and 
habitat should be considered when assessing short-term emissions from 
proposed land and resource management actions.\10\ The use of 
prescribed burns is an example of where balancing long- and short-term 
impacts and benefits are useful to the decisionmaker and the public 
(for example, while short-term emissions will result, there is the 
potential for long-term benefits for ecosystem health). Several 
commenters expressed the view that agencies taking land and resource 
management actions need to be afforded sufficient flexibility and 
discretion to develop specific protocols that build on existing 
procedures and experience.
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    \10\ This is important in avoiding unintended consequences of 
management actions. See ``Global Climate Change Impacts in the 
United States,'' Karl, Thomas R., Melillo, Jerry M., Peterson, 
Thomas C. (eds.) at 156, Cambridge University Press (2009).
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    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance makes it clear that agencies should 
apply their best judgment and expertise when determining how to 
consider the level of GHG emissions and impacts of climate change at 
the programmatic and project- or site-specific level of NEPA analysis 
and documentation. The revised draft guidance also provides for 
agencies to use their discretion to determine the appropriate 
comparison and balancing of long- and short-term emissions and impacts 
of climate change with other long- and short-term resource impacts and 
benefits. The guidance acknowledges that there are many established 
tools and methods for GHG calculation and provides several examples. 
The revised draft guidance calls upon agencies to exercise their expert 
judgment and provide the basis for determining whether and how to 
analyze GHG emissions. We welcome the public's further comments on this 
issue.

2. What should be included in specific NEPA guidance for projects 
applicable to the Federal land management agencies? and

3. What should be included in specific NEPA guidance for land 
management planning applicable to the Federal land management agencies?

    Several commenters expressed the concern that without CEQ guidance, 
agencies would overlook or fail to analyze GHG emissions and climate 
change impacts. Focusing on land and resource management actions, many 
comments referred to both broad, programmatic land and resource 
management actions and to more focused, project-level land and resource 
management actions. Consequently, comments on Questions 2 and 3 are 
presented together, followed by a response.
    Several commenters expressed concerns that NEPA analysis of 
climate-related impacts for site-specific projects was much more 
difficult than analysis at the programmatic level because of the lack 
of scientific study and modeling at smaller scales and the difficulty 
in establishing a foreseeable causal link between emissions associated 
with agency proposed actions and localized climate impacts. Several 
other commenters noted that scientific study of climate change is 
increasingly focused on regional and localized impacts on the 
environment and human populations, and this scientific study will 
continue to expand our knowledge of regional and localized impacts.
    Some commenters went on to remind CEQ that precise quantification 
is not necessary when analyzing GHG emissions and climate change 
impacts. Most commenters on this issue maintained that CEQ should 
stress the basic requirements and principles of the NEPA process and 
guide Federal agencies to identify and consider credible climate 
information as it becomes available. An interagency effort to establish 
a clearinghouse for climate change information and modeling was 
proposed by several commenters who noted that such a clearinghouse 
would help avoid duplicative efforts and ensure a more robust coverage 
of issues.
    Several commenters pointed to the Interagency Climate Change 
Adaptation Task Force and noted that the Task Force was studying models 
to predict changes in large-scale vegetation and population patterns 
that should be used when assessing the long-term environmental effects 
of climate change at a landscape or resource level. One of the most 
commonly-cited recommendations for broad scale programmatic analyses, 
as well as project specific analyses, was to support decision-making 
that would protect landscape linkages that allow species to migrate or 
disperse to a more favorable habitat as climate conditions change.
    For analyses that consider a particular use or treatment of Federal 
lands that is repeated over a large area, commenters maintained that 
the guidance should set the temporal and spatial boundaries for 
analysis based on projected cumulative impacts. Additionally, 
commenters noted that agencies conducting analysis of permitted 
activities that contribute to climate change, where these activities 
are considered as ongoing management practices, should consider the 
cessation of the permitted activity as a reasonable alternative.
    A few commenters made specific recommendations for agencies that 
have multiple use mandates. For example, they asked that the guidance 
include a summary of options or tools for measuring the relationships 
between land and water systems and climate change, and for considering 
each individual use relative to other multiple uses (including fossil 
fuel extraction, electric generation, and transmission). Some 
commenters argued that CEQ should direct Federal agencies to use 
cooperative and incentive-based programs to address climate change 
because Federal lands should not be managed primarily to offset 
unsustainable practices elsewhere. Finally, several commenters focused 
on forest management and urged CEQ to direct Federal agencies to 
conduct life-cycle analyses of the effects of timber management 
practices on forest carbon pools so that the reasonably foreseeable 
effects of management actions on sources and sinks of GHG could be 
considered in conjunction with natural disturbance regimes, efforts to 
maintain existing stores of carbon in mature and old growth forests 
(e.g., ``carbon banks''), or re-growing plantations and other 
intensively managed forests to earlier conditions.
    Some commenters suggested applying general NEPA principles and 
practices to land and resource management analyses. Their suggestions 
included: Considering alternatives to mitigate emissions and climate 
change impacts; using the best available science and credible 
methodologies; and disclosing the methods and assumptions underlying 
the analysis. Other commenters provided practical advice (such as 
advocating the use of graphics in NEPA documents) while some focused on 
calling for specific types of analyses such as life-cycle and economic 
assessment of the

[[Page 77805]]

consequences of GHG emissions and global climate change. Further, 
commenters cited the CEQ Regulations as providing a method to address 
incomplete or unavailable information. Similarly, it was noted that 
agencies engaged in land use and resource planning should consider how 
the cumulative effects of implementing the proposed plan alternatives 
will or will not adapt to, exacerbate, or mitigate the effects of 
climate change on the affected planning area.
    Some commenters favored using programmatic analyses for land and 
resource management actions for various reasons. Some urged that 
programmatic analyses for land and resource management actions that are 
repeated across a region can best assess the cumulative impacts on a 
broad, landscape scale. One commenter asserted that many Federal land 
and resource management activities are repeated with little variation 
across millions of acres of Federal land. Some commenters favored 
programmatic analyses to address climate change mitigation and 
consideration of alternative technologies and methods at the program 
level, while others called for Federal land management agencies to 
develop programmatic NEPA analyses that include full life-cycle 
modeling to evaluate the carbon released or stored by various types of 
land and resource management activities.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance sets out the broad principles to assist 
agencies when they make determinations on how to conduct NEPA analyses 
with respect to the effects of GHGs and climate change and calls upon 
the agencies to provide reasoned analyses and an explanation of the 
determinations being made. The guidance recognizes the current limits 
of knowledge and science and calls upon agencies to consider future 
advancements tailored to the types of actions they undertake.
    When using tiered analyses, agencies should consider whether and 
how the issues of GHG emissions and climate change effects should be 
addressed in NEPA analyses and documentation prepared at either or both 
the programmatic and project- or site-specific level of decision-
making. It is the agency's responsibility to: Determine the level and 
detail of analysis that is appropriate to the decision at hand; to set 
the temporal and spatial boundaries for the analysis of GHG emissions, 
carbon sequestration, and climate change; and to determine the 
appropriate level of discussion to accompany that information. The 
information should be presented in a way that is useful to the public 
and decisionmakers. Agencies should also use their expertise and 
professional judgment to determine the appropriate comparison and 
balancing of long- and short-term emissions and impacts of climate 
change with other long- and short-term resource impacts and benefits, 
and to ensure that this is done when dealing with multiple uses.
    In response to the comments received on the appropriate range of 
alternatives, the revised draft guidance incorporates the NEPA 
principle that agencies should consider a reasonable range of 
alternatives consistent with the purpose and need for the proposal, 
and, if such information would be useful to advance a reasoned choice, 
a comparison of alternatives and potential mitigation that addresses 
GHG emissions, carbon sequestration, and the impacts of climate change. 
This does not dictate that the decisionmaker must select the 
alternative with the lowest net level of GHG emissions, but simply 
allows for the careful consideration of GHG emissions, among all the 
factors being considered by the decisionmaker.
    In response to commenters supporting the use of life-cycle analyses 
for GHG emissions, CEQ recommends that agencies rely on basic NEPA 
principles and consider all reasonably foreseeable effects that may 
result from their proposed actions using reasonable temporal and 
spatial parameters in their NEPA analyses rather than engaging in 
analyses that focus on speculative downstream emissions. We welcome the 
public's further comments on the issue of life-cycle analyses.

4. Should CEQ recommend any particular protocols for assessing land 
management practices and their effect on carbon release and 
sequestration?

    Many commenters did not support the identification of specific 
protocols by CEQ. Some commenters recommended against naming specific 
protocols so as not to discourage Federal agencies from using other, 
better-suited protocols or from adopting new protocols based on 
scientific advancements. Other commenters stated that no specific 
protocol could be recommended because of the inadequacy of existing 
science. Instead of focusing on consideration of a possible CEQ 
specification of particular protocols, commenters generally discussed 
either the existence of current protocols to support the issuance of 
this guidance or the absence of existing protocols to explain why no 
guidance should be issued.
    In support of the issuance of this guidance, in general, many 
commenters cited existing protocols. These commenters provided ways to 
account for the consideration of carbon emissions and sequestration 
from land and resource management actions, including: (1) Existing 
forest inventory data; (2) work being done pursuant to the U.S. 
Department of Energy's 1605(b) guidelines \11\; and (3) carbon 
sequestration accounting protocols. Also, commenters referenced the 
Climate Action Reserve's standardized measurement protocols. Commenters 
noted that well-developed scientific tools, including error estimates, 
confidence intervals, and sensitivity analyses, are already available 
for incorporation of uncertainty into decision processes. While citing 
existing protocols to support the ability of agencies to analyze land 
and resource management actions and their effects on carbon release and 
sequestration, most commenters did not support the idea of CEQ 
selecting specific protocols.
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    \11\ Energy Policy Act of 1992, Pub. L. 102-486, 106 Stat. 2776.
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    Some commenters noted that, to the extent there may remain 
scientific uncertainty with protocols, NEPA already provides for how 
such uncertainty should be analyzed pursuant to 40 CFR 1502.22. 
According to these commenters, the existence of incomplete and 
unavailable information does not alter the NEPA requirement to consider 
scientific information or set forth the circumstances surrounding the 
unavailable information. Other commenters maintained there is a lack of 
an established Federal protocol for assessing the impacts of land and 
resource management actions on atmospheric carbon release and 
sequestration at a landscape level, and, therefore, no protocol should 
be recommended. Commenters raised concerns that current protocols were 
unreliable because they were only in the developmental stages. If, 
however, CEQ were to apply a specific protocol, commenters raised 
specific concerns that must be addressed. There would need to be more 
Federal research, analysis at the programmatic level of carbon sinks, 
consideration of land use changes, the establishment of appropriate 
temporal limitations, and consideration of biogenic carbon cycles.
    Response to Comments:
    CEQ reviewed all the comments and also met with agencies at various 
sites around the country regarding the establishment of scientific 
protocols. The meetings with agencies and other stakeholders provided 
valuable insight

[[Page 77806]]

on existing protocols and those being implemented. Some agencies have 
applied GHG emission calculators and models when assessing land and 
resource management actions in their NEPA reviews. These are done on 
both the landscape and project- or site-specific levels. Finally, the 
agencies and stakeholders explained that there are many protocols, 
models, and calculators that are being developed and they expect the 
protocols and models to continue to evolve over time. Agency 
experiences also helped CEQ shape its proposal for this revised draft 
guidance.
    Basic sources of data already exist and are set forth in the 
revised draft guidance such as the U.S. Global Change Research 
Program's National Climate Assessment. Further, pursuant to Executive 
Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic 
Performance, all agencies are required to report their GHG emissions at 
least at an aggregate level. Specific parameters and metrics for this 
reporting have been established. These sources are examples of studies 
that identify GHG emissions from particular actions and effects of 
climate change at various programmatic and project levels and can be 
incorporated by reference when appropriate.
    Accordingly, CEQ did not identify particular protocols that would 
be required for assessing GHG emissions and climate change impacts for 
specific actions; however, examples are provided in the revised draft 
guidance. The revised draft guidance allows agencies to continue 
employing protocols that are currently working well and to apply new 
scientific information to update protocols on an ongoing basis when 
considering new projects. Not specifying a particular protocol that 
must be used allows agencies to select the most appropriate protocols 
on either a programmatic or project level basis, consistent with 
existing and evolving science. The guidance reminds agencies to provide 
a reasoned basis for their determinations. We welcome the public's 
further comments on this issue.

5. How should uncertainties associated with climate change projections 
and species and ecosystem responses be addressed in protocols for 
assessing land management practices?

    Many commenters stated that the CEQ Regulations already provide the 
necessary framework to address uncertainties with climate change 
projections and species and ecosystem responses.\12\ Commenters also 
noted that well-developed scientific tools, like error estimates, 
confidence intervals, and sensitivity analyses, are available for 
addressing uncertainty with decision processes. In addition, some 
commenters expressed a preference that agencies consider all factors 
and not simply those that are readily quantified using existing tools. 
Moreover, some commenters indicated that uncertainty can often be 
addressed with adaptive management.
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    \12\ See 40 CFR 1502.22(b).
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    Response to Comments:
    In the revised draft guidance, CEQ advises Federal agencies to 
analyze GHG emissions and impacts of climate change consistent with the 
CEQ Regulations and by using available information. Section 1502.22 
addresses how incomplete or unavailable information should be addressed 
in an EIS if it is essential to a reasoned choice among alternatives 
and there are reasonably foreseeable significant adverse effects on the 
human environment.\13\ CEQ proposes that agencies should analyze 
reasonably foreseeable effects of a proposed action in light of 
incomplete or unavailable information when preparing an EA or an EIS 
and not stop developing their NEPA reviews to await projected or 
pending studies or methodologies. Agency analyses must reflect the 
reasoning behind the agency's conclusions and, as called for in the CEQ 
Regulations, agencies shall ensure the scientific integrity of the 
discussions and analyses they prepare.\14\ We welcome the public's 
further comments on this issue.
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    \13\ Section 1502.22 requires that, if incomplete information 
relevant to reasonably foreseeable significant adverse impacts is 
essential to a reasoned choice among alternatives and the overall 
costs of obtaining it are not exorbitant, then that information must 
be included in the EIS. If, however, the overall cost of obtaining 
incomplete or unavailable information is exorbitant or the means to 
obtain it are unknown, the agency must include in the EIS: (1) A 
statement that the information is incomplete or unavailable; (2) a 
statement of the relevance of the information to evaluating 
reasonably foreseeable significant adverse impacts; (3) a summary of 
relevant existing credible scientific evidence; and (4) evaluation 
of the impacts based upon theoretical approaches or research methods 
generally accepted in the scientific community.
    \14\ 40 CFR 1502.24 (requiring agencies to ensure the 
professional and scientific integrity of the discussions and 
analyses in environmental impact statements).
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6. How should NEPA analyses be tailored to address the beneficial 
effects on GHG emissions of Federal land and resource management 
actions?

    Many commenters observed that under NEPA, agencies are obligated to 
analyze the effects of proposed actions and reasonable alternatives, 
regardless of whether the effects are beneficial or adverse.\15\ They 
contend that the anticipated effects of some actions, such as thinning 
forests, production of biofuels, or development of alternative energy 
projects, could be beneficial. Commenters wrote that the merits of 
agency proposals could be determined only after the proposal goes 
through an impartial and rigorous NEPA analysis.
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    \15\ See 40 CFR 1508.8(b).
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    Some commenters suggested that agencies will have to engage in 
substantial literature and project reviews in order to consider 
beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts of agency action with 
respect to climate change. For example, one commenter suggested that 
NEPA analysis involving a new natural gas-fired electric generating 
plant should be informed by comprehensive literature review of: The 
life cycle of the plant; releases during extraction through pipeline 
leaks and incomplete combustion; life cycles of nitrous oxide warming; 
and ground level ozone effects. This commenter went on to suggest that 
such NEPA analysis should compare all GHG emissions from the preferred 
option of plant construction to the GHG emissions produced by 
alternatives such as renewable energy development, rate adjustments, 
and improvements for a smarter transmission grid.
    Commenters suggested that the CEQ guidance should recommend the use 
of interagency consultation and independent, multi-disciplinary 
scientific consultation for NEPA reviews involving larger programs, new 
techniques, or complex assessments. Other commenters, however, noted 
examples of actions taken based on what was believed to be sound 
environmental review, but turned out to be premised on faulty 
information. Specifically, commenters raised concerns regarding the 
possible implications of such mistaken actions in the context of land 
and resource management actions.
    Response to Comments:
    CEQ recommends in the revised draft guidance that short- and long-
term benefits can and should be considered as part of the analysis of a 
proposal and alternatives. The agency's purpose and need for action as 
well as the projected timeframe for the effects of the proposed action 
and any proposed mitigation will be important to this analysis, and 
agencies should explain how they have determined the appropriate 
lifespan for analysis of a project. This approach is consistent with 
the analysis of any potential impact under NEPA. For example, when 
analyzing the GHG emissions of a proposed prescribed burn

[[Page 77807]]

conducted to minimize future ecosystem destruction through wildfires or 
insect infestations, agencies should consider both the immediate loss 
of stored carbon dioxide (CO2) together with the long-term 
CO2 sequestration that a resulting healthy ecosystem will 
provide. This would inform the public and the decisionmaker about both 
the detrimental and beneficial impacts of the proposal. The revised 
draft guidance clearly indicates that the agency should describe how it 
considered both short-term actions and long-term effects in fully 
evaluating both beneficial and detrimental effects. We welcome the 
public's further comments on this issue.

7. Should CEQ provide guidance to agencies on determining whether GHG 
emissions are ``significant'' for NEPA purposes? At what level should 
GHG emissions be considered to have significant cumulative effects? In 
This Context, Commenters May Wish to Consider the Supreme Court 
Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 524 (2007).

    Most commenters expressed a preference that CEQ should not provide 
guidance to agencies about determining whether GHG emissions are 
significant for NEPA purposes. Some commenters urged CEQ simply to 
reaffirm that the multi-factor analysis set out in the CEQ Regulations 
is the appropriate way to consider significance, and to clarify that 
nothing in the draft GHG guidance modifies the CEQ Regulations. Other 
commenters said that CEQ should affirm in the introduction of the 
guidance that the level of GHG emissions is only one factor among many 
in determining significance. Within the existing NEPA framework, it 
would be inappropriate, according to some commenters, to establish a 
quantitative level of GHG emissions that would serve as a threshold for 
significance.
    Commenters cited a passage in the 2010 draft guidance that 
encourages Federal agencies ``to consider, in scoping their NEPA 
analysis, whether analysis of the direct and indirect GHG emissions 
from their proposed actions may provide meaningful information to 
decisionmakers and the public,'' and raised concerns that the word 
``meaningful'' could be confused with ``significant.'' Other commenters 
observed that CEQ was careful to note that the suggested reference 
point in the 2010 draft guidance is not ``an absolute standard of 
insignificant effects,'' or by inference, a standard for significant 
effects.
    Many commenters said that the 2010 draft guidance leaves the 
question of what constitutes a ``significant'' GHG emission level to 
the Federal agencies, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Some 
commenters supported that approach as consistent with current NEPA 
requirements. Other commenters said a case-by-case approach: Gives 
agencies an unacceptable level of discretion; creates uncertainty for 
applicants and others working with Federal agencies; and gives project 
opponents grounds for litigation. Finally, CEQ received comments on the 
relevance of Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), and one 
commenter maintained that the case should guide CEQ to instruct 
agencies to reduce cumulative effects of GHG emissions from their 
operations.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance sets forth a reference point of 25,000 
metric tons CO2-equivalent emissions on an annual basis 
below which a quantitative analysis of GHG emissions is not recommended 
unless quantification is easily accomplished, taking into account the 
availability of quantification tools and appropriate input data. 
Neither the 2010 draft guidance nor this revised draft guidance intend 
the reference point to be equivalent to a determination of 
significance. In this revised guidance, CEQ reaffirms that significance 
remains subject to the standards set forth in CEQ Regulations. The CEQ 
Regulations require consideration of both context and intensity and set 
out ten factors that should be taken into account.\16\ These include, 
among others, the degree to which the proposal affects public health or 
safety, the degree to which its effects on the quality of the human 
environment are likely to be highly controversial from a scientific 
perspective (i.e., where there is disagreement over what the likely 
effects of an action will be), and the degree to which its possible 
effects on the human environment are highly uncertain or involve unique 
or unknown risks. This reaffirmation of the significance factors should 
eliminate any confusion over the utility of the GHG emission reference 
point in NEPA reviews and reasserts existing NEPA law and practice.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ 40 CFR 1508.27.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As the Supreme Court noted in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 
523-25 (2007), the issues of global climate change and GHG emissions 
cannot be addressed in one fell swoop and, although CEQ agrees, the 
guidance does not rely upon this case. CEQ recognizes that government 
action occurs program-by-program and step-by-step. Therefore, in 
evaluating the potential climate impacts, it is important for agencies 
to assess comparative emissions scenarios associated with alternatives, 
in situations where these may be meaningful to the decision, and pay 
particular attention to the duration of expected emissions-producing 
actions, cumulative effects, and the relative scale of emissions. We 
welcome the public's further comments on this issue.

II. Summary of Comments on 2010 Draft Guidance

1. Project-specific Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Qualitative and 
Quantitative Analyses

a. Climate Change as a ``Global Problem''
    Many comments on the 2010 draft guidance focused on the subject of 
climate change as a global phenomenon. Many individuals and groups who 
submitted comments emphasized that climate impacts are different from 
most environmental impacts. Commenters highlighted that climate change 
is a global problem and there is little (if any) relationship between 
greenhouse gas emissions from a project in a particular location and 
the possible environmental effects of climate change in that location. 
Instead, it is the total global accumulation of greenhouse gas 
emissions over a long period of time that matters, according to these 
commenters. The global climate change problem, therefore, is much more 
the result of numerous and varied sources, each of which might seem to 
make a relatively small addition to global atmospheric greenhouse gas 
concentrations. One commenter even urged CEQ to provide agencies with a 
suggested statement that would be appropriate and sufficient to include 
in their analyses to reflect the notion of climate change as a global 
problem. This statement would be: ``[The proposed Federal project] may 
result, directly or indirectly, in an increase in greenhouse gas 
emissions. The increase is estimated to be approximately __, which 
represents __ % of global greenhouse gas emissions. Because greenhouse 
gas emissions and climate change are a strictly global phenomenon, and 
because the estimated increase would be negligible, impacts of 
greenhouse gas emissions from this project would not be significant.'' 
Some commenters suggested, however, that there are major emitters of 
greenhouse gases and that these sources can be segregated from the 
relatively smaller sources, with insignificant effects. Commenters 
urged CEQ to clarify which sources are likely to be covered and provide 
definitive

[[Page 77808]]

categorical exclusions (CEs) to those that are not, to prevent undue 
burden to not only small entities, but to those entities contributing 
negligible emissions.
    Response to Comments:
    This revised draft guidance notes the scientific record that has 
been created with substantial contributions from the United States 
Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) on the effects of GHG emissions 
and climate change, and that NEPA requires Federal agencies to support 
international cooperation by recognizing the global character of 
environmental problems and lending support to initiatives, resolutions, 
and programs. While it is not useful, for NEPA purposes, to link GHG 
emissions from a proposal to specific climatological changes to a 
particular site, it is important to discuss these connections. When 
considering the GHG emissions, agencies do not need to calculate a 
proposal's GHG emissions as a percentage of nationwide or worldwide GHG 
emissions unless the agency determines that such information would be 
helpful to decisionmakers and the public to distinguish among 
alternatives and mitigations, or that the emissions and sequestration 
associated with a proposed action may rise to a significant level. 
Agencies should remain alert to those proposal-specific situations 
where the level of GHG emissions compared to agency-wide, nationwide, 
or worldwide emissions would provide a helpful point of comparison.
    The revised draft guidance recommends that agencies address GHG 
emissions and the effects of climate change for all proposed actions. 
If revising or updating their NEPA implementing procedures, agencies 
should consider whether their categorical exclusions and extraordinary 
circumstances and procedures for developing environmental assessments 
and environmental impact statements take GHG emissions and climate 
change impacts into account. That consideration should reflect the 
aggregate nature of the climate challenge which decisionmakers will 
face when making relevant choices based on a programmatic or project-
by-project NEPA review.
b. Project-level Analyses
    Many comments also detailed the legal barriers to requiring 
agencies to include in their NEPA analyses a discussion of project-
level greenhouse gas impacts on climate change. They cite Dep't of 
Transp. v. Public Citizen, 541 U.S. 752, 767 (2004), where the U.S. 
Supreme Court stated that the obligation of an agency to discuss 
particular effects turns on ``a reasonably close causal relationship 
between the environmental effect and the alleged cause.'' These same 
comments stressed that climate change is global in nature and the 
attempt to ``qualitatively'' link proposed individual project emissions 
and climate change would be arbitrary and speculative.
    Response to Comments:
    In light of the difficulties in attributing specific climate 
impacts to individual projects, the revised draft guidance provides a 
framework for agencies to use when analyzing GHG emissions from and the 
effects of climate change on a proposed action and its reasonable 
alternatives. The guidance requires agencies to exercise independent 
judgment and discretion in determining whether and how potential GHG 
emissions and climate change effects should be disclosed and considered 
in preparing their NEPA analyses and documentation. It also emphasizes 
that the extent of agency analyses should be proportional to the 
quantity of projected GHG emissions. Moreover, if an agency determines 
that evaluating the effects of GHG emissions or climate change would 
not be useful to the decisionmaker or the public in distinguishing 
between alternatives or mitigations, then the agency should document 
its rationale for not conducting such an analysis. Furthermore, 
agencies can rely on basic NEPA principles to determine and explain 
reasonable temporal and spatial parameters of their analyses to 
disclose the reasonably foreseeable effect that may result from their 
proposed actions. However, agencies should still take into account the 
aggregate nature of the climate challenge which calls upon 
decisionmakers to make relevant choices on a programmatic or project-
by-project basis.
c. Qualitative/Quantitative Analyses
    As to qualitative and quantitative analyses, some comments stated 
that the issue merits a greater discussion of the ``rule of reason'' 
that must go into the agency's decision-making process. The U.S. 
Supreme Court has long held that NEPA's mandate is ``essentially 
procedural . . . to insure a fully informed and well-considered 
decision,'' and the Federal agency is left with wide discretion to draw 
the conclusions.\17\ The rule of reason is employed to determine 
whether an environmental impact statement contains a ``reasonably 
thorough discussion of the significant aspects of probable 
environmental consequences.'' \18\ Under this standard, the review 
consists only of ensuring that the agency has taken a ``hard look'' at 
the environmental consequences of the decision. The rule of reason, 
according to some comments, should ``take the uncertainty and 
speculation involved with secondary impacts into account in passing on 
the adequacy of the discussion of secondary impacts.'' \19\ Moreover, 
the agency is not constrained by NEPA from deciding that other values 
outweigh the environmental costs.\20\ The guidance, according to these 
comments, should do a better job of discussing how the application of 
the ``rule of reason'' will affect the agency's decision-making process 
in light of the present uncertainty surrounding greenhouse gas 
emissions. Unlike most other environmental consequences, according to 
these commenters, the analysis of whether a project's greenhouse gas 
emissions are significant cannot be determined by objectively comparing 
the projects emissions to commonly accepted scientific thresholds. As 
noted above by some comments, there is no consensus about the causes 
and effects of greenhouse gases. Consequently, these commenters believe 
that the agency's determination necessarily must be qualitative, not 
quantitative, in nature. Given the global scale of the problem as well 
as the limitations of the existing models, it is unclear whether a 
quantitative project-level analysis would provide meaningful 
information for decision-making. In addition, this type of analysis has 
the potential, according to the comments, to mislead decisionmakers and 
the public by creating the impression that there are meaningful 
differences among alternatives, when in fact there is no valid 
statistical basis for distinguishing among them. Their concern is that 
requiring such an analysis would create an additional source of 
complexity, cost, delay, and litigation risk, without contributing to 
informed decision-making. Qualitative assessments, focused on statewide 
and regional trends, have greater potential to provide useful 
information for decisionmakers. Some commenters stressed, however, that 
even qualitative assessments, given the global nature of climate 
change, are often difficult to accomplish and should not be required. 
Finally, other

[[Page 77809]]

commenters felt that particularly in the face of the high level of 
uncertainty surrounding the effects of greenhouse gases, the guidance 
should unambiguously recognize wide discretion by the agencies to 
determine what information is relevant and adequate for their analysis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ See Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 
519, 558 (1978).
    \18\ See Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Lowe, 109 F.3d 521, 
526 (1997).
    \19\ See Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 
332, 346 (1989).
    \20\ Id. at 350.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some commenters stated that while they value and indeed insist on 
the inclusion of credible scientific quantitative analyses when 
available, the lack of availability should not in any way deter 
agencies from engaging in professionally accepted qualitative 
assessments and identification of appropriate alternatives and 
mitigation strategies. According to these comments, because agencies 
repeatedly state that the climate crisis is a classic, and the 
ultimate, cumulative impact problem, it is used as an excuse for not 
disclosing their analysis because the agency's sole action will not 
stop climate change by itself, and/or will only contribute a ``small'' 
amount to overall greenhouse gas levels or climate impacts when 
measured quantitatively. An exclusive or over emphasis on quantitative 
analysis can in fact increase the risk of agencies falling into this 
trap. This is especially true when agencies attempt to calculate the 
increase in global temperatures that will result from their actions.
    Similarly, some commenters stated that because NEPA requires 
Federal agencies to take a ``hard look'' at the potential environmental 
consequences of the proposed action, agencies must link the effects of 
a proposed action (and alternatives) to specific environmental 
consequences. Commenters maintain that a general discussion of an 
environmental problem (e.g., climate change) across a large area does 
not satisfy NEPA. Simply quantitatively reporting an area or an amount 
of a resource impacted also does not satisfy this ``hard look'' 
requirement. The guidance, according to these commenters, takes exactly 
this quantitative reporting approach. Reporting of emission levels is 
not useful, according to these comments, and cannot serve as a proxy 
for an analysis of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the 
environment. Many comments asked CEQ for examples of specific 
qualitative and/or quantitative analyses in NEPA environmental 
analyses.
    Response to Comments:
    This revised draft guidance gives each agency responsibility for 
selecting the appropriate level at which to disclose the effects of GHG 
emissions and climate change, so long as it sets forth a reasoned 
explanation based on accepted science and whether that information is 
helpful for decisions. The revised draft guidance recommends that 
agencies use a reference point to determine when GHG emissions warrant 
a quantitative analysis taking into account the availability of GHG 
quantification tools and input data that are appropriate for proposed 
agency actions. Agencies should evaluate emissions over the life of the 
project, including a quantitative comparison of the GHG emissions of 
the alternatives if this would be useful to decisionmakers and the 
public in deciding among alternatives. Such an evaluation would take 
into account the availability of reliable calculators for providing 
quantitative or qualitative analyses. As previously noted, the 
aggregate nature of the climate change challenge may require 
decisionmakers to consider a detailed analysis when making reasoned 
choices among alternatives and mitigations.
d. Other Comments
    Other comments received stressed the utility of using programmatic 
NEPA analyses to consider GHG emissions and climate. They encouraged 
CEQ to allow the use of a metropolitan planning organization, regional 
greenhouse gas analysis, or perhaps even statewide greenhouse gas 
analysis that can be incorporated by reference. This kind of 
information may provide a better perspective on greenhouse gas 
emissions rather than a specific project-level analysis, like a 
transportation project. In fact, some transportation commenters 
observed that the guidance should more explicitly recognize the 
applicability of transportation system-level analyses and explicitly 
allow for analysis at the transportation planning level.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance addresses the use of programmatic 
approaches. It can be useful to describe agency GHG emissions in the 
aggregate, as part of a programmatic analysis of agency activities or 
environmental trends that can be incorporated by reference into 
subsequent NEPA analyses for agency actions. In addition, Federal 
programs that affect emissions or sinks, and proposals such as those 
related to long-range energy, transportation, and resource management 
programs, may lend themselves to a programmatic NEPA review. For 
example, if GHG emissions or climate change and related effects are 
included in a broad (i.e., programmatic) NEPA review for a policy, 
plan, or program, then the subsequent NEPA analyses for project level 
actions implementing that policy, program, or plan should tier from the 
programmatic statement and summarize the relevant issues discussed in 
the programmatic statement.\21\ A tiered approach is used for many 
types of Federal actions and is particularly relevant to addressing 
proposed land and resource management actions. When using a tiered 
approach, agencies should determine whether it is appropriate to 
compare GHG emissions and assess climate change impacts at either or 
both the programmatic and project-specific level of analysis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ 40 CFR 1502.20, 1508.28.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Determining a Level of Significance and the 25,000 Metric Ton 
Disclosure Threshold

a. The Level of Significance in NEPA Analyses
    CEQ received many comments on the 25,000 metric ton disclosure 
threshold that the 2010 draft guidance indicated may warrant further 
quantitative or qualitative analysis in NEPA reviews. Some commenters 
expressed the view that the 25,000 metric ton threshold is not 
explained clearly. These commenters interpreted the 2010 draft guidance 
as meaning that the 25,000 metric ton emission level should serve as a 
threshold indicator for NEPA review. Simultaneously, they cited the 
2010 draft guidance as saying that CEQ does not propose this as an 
indicator of a threshold of significant effects, but rather as an 
indicator of a minimum level of GHG emissions that may warrant some 
description in the appropriate NEPA analysis for agency actions 
involving direct emissions of GHGs. The commenters found this 
distinction unclear and urged CEQ to clarify the distinction. If CEQ 
intended to establish 25,000 metric tons of GHG emissions annually as a 
threshold for NEPA analysis of GHG emissions, this threshold would 
sufficiently meet the ``may have a significant effect'' standard 
requiring preparation of an EIS. Therefore, CEQ must clearly articulate 
this standard in the guidance. Some groups implored CEQ to ensure and 
further clarify in the guidance that agencies should not equate 
individual project greenhouse gas emissions at or above 25,000 metric 
tons per year as a ``significant effect'' warranting the preparation of 
an environmental impact statement. According to these commenters, some 
groups may treat the guidance limit as a threshold of ``significance,'' 
rather than just a reporting or ``meaningful analysis'' standard. This 
increases the uncertainties and the different

[[Page 77810]]

understandings that various groups will attach to the draft guidance.
    Other commenters were adamant that the 2010 draft guidance was 
unacceptably vague on the key issue of the threshold level of GHG 
emissions that determines the depth of analysis required under NEPA. 
For example, they cited the draft guidance that would require, 
``Federal Agencies to consider, in scoping their NEPA analysis, whether 
analysis of the direct and indirect GHG emissions from their proposed 
actions may provide meaningful information to decisionmakers and the 
public.'' Then, the commenters noted that CEQ attempted to clarify the 
word ``meaningful'' by suggesting that if agencies actions are 
``reasonably anticipated to cause direct emissions of 25,000 metric 
tons or more of CO2[hyphen]equivalent GHG emissions on an 
annual basis, agencies should consider this an indicator that a 
quantitative and qualitative assessment may be meaningful to 
decisionmakers and the public.'' Some comments indicated that it was 
unclear if the 2010 draft guidance attempted to define the term 
``meaningful.'' Commenters noted that CEQ proposed a quantitative 
reference point as an indicator of a level of GHG emissions for which 
an agency ``should'' consider action-specific evaluation of GHG 
emissions and disclosure of that analysis in NEPA documents. The 
commenters observed that CEQ was careful to note in the 2010 draft 
guidance that the suggested reference point is not ``an absolute 
standard of insignificant effects,'' or by inference, not a standard 
for significant effects. Therefore, many commenters said that the draft 
guidance leaves the question of what constitutes a ``significant'' 
greenhouse gas emission level to the Federal agencies to be determined 
on a case-by-case basis. This approach, according to the commenters, 
leaves agencies with an unacceptable level of discretion, entities 
seeking Federal permits with little certainty, and project opponents 
with important litigation tools.
    Other commenters urged CEQ to reaffirm the multi-factor approach to 
determining significance in NEPA regulations and documents. They 
impress upon CEQ to affirm in the introduction of the guidance that the 
level of GHG emissions is only one factor, among other criteria, that 
should be considered within the existing NEPA framework and that 
evaluation of significance under NEPA is done by the agency based on 
the categorization of actions in agency NEPA procedures and action-
specific analysis of the context and intensity of the environmental 
impacts as set forth in 40 CFR 1508.27. Within the existing NEPA 
framework, it would be inappropriate, according to these commenters, in 
a guidance memorandum to establish a single factor--a quantitative 
level of greenhouse gas emissions--that would be considered to mark 
significant impacts, thereby automatically triggering the preparation 
of an environmental impact statement without regard to other criteria 
laid out in CEQ's NEPA regulations.
    Response to Comments:
    This revised draft guidance sets forth a reference point of 25,000 
metric tons CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) emissions on 
an annual basis below which a quantitative analysis of the GHG 
emissions is not recommended unless quantification is easily 
accomplished based on the availability of quantification tools and 
appropriate input data.
    The 2010 draft guidance did not intend the disclosure threshold to 
be equivalent to or substitute for a determination of significance. In 
this revised draft guidance, CEQ reaffirms that significance remains 
subject to the standards set forth in CEQ Regulations. The Regulations 
require consideration of both context and intensity and set out ten 
factors that should be considered. These include, among others, the 
degree to which the proposal affects public health or safety, the 
degree to which its effects on the quality of the human environment are 
likely to be highly controversial, and the degree to which its possible 
effects on the human environment are highly uncertain or involve unique 
or unknown risks. This reaffirmation of the significance factors should 
eliminate any confusion over the utility of the GHG emission reference 
point in NEPA reviews and reasserts existing NEPA law and practice.
b. The 25,000 Metric Tons of CO2 Disclosure Threshold
    Many comments called for the GHG disclosure threshold to be raised 
from 25,000 metric tons to between 75,000 to 100,000 metric tons per 
year in order to be consistent with the Environmental Protection 
Agency's (``EPA'') Tailoring Rule. These commenters noted that, in 
fact, 25,000 metric tons represented only 5/100.000th of 1 percent 
(0.00005%,) of the 49 billion tons of global GHG emissions. In its 
final, Prevention of Significant Deterioration (``PSD'') Tailoring Rule 
(announced May 13, 2010), EPA raised the thresholds of the PSD and 
Title V programs applicable to GHGs to 75,000 and 100,000 metric tons 
per year respectively, rather than the 25,000 metric tons per year 
identified in the initial, proposed rule. The rationale provided for 
the 2010 draft guidance's 25,000 metric tons threshold, according to 
these commenters, was that it has been used and proposed in rulemakings 
under the Clean Air Act, specifically referencing EPA's Mandatory 
Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Final Rule (40 CFR 86, 87, 89, et al.). 
Subsequently, EPA finalized the ``Tailoring Rule,'' establishing GHG 
emissions thresholds for certain Clean Air Act permitting programs for 
stationary sources (40 CFR 51, 52, 70, and 71). There EPA set the 
initial threshold for Clean Air Act permitting requirements for GHG 
emissions at 75,000 metric tons CO2-e per year. Beginning in 
July 2011, the triggering threshold was raised to 100,000 metric tons 
CO2-e per year for new sources, but remains at 75,000 metric 
tons CO2-e per year for existing sources undergoing 
modifications. Since the Tailoring Rule establishes GHG emissions 
thresholds for Clean Air Act permitting programs, these commenters 
believed that these thresholds were more appropriate indicators of the 
levels of GHG emissions for which an agency may consider action-
specific evaluation of GHG emissions under NEPA than the thresholds in 
the Clean Air Act's reporting program requirements. This is because, if 
EPA does not intend to require PSD review or Title V permits for a 
facility, one could easily argue that facilities below these thresholds 
should not be required to conduct more in-depth environmental impact 
analyses based on their GHG emission. Rather, facilities below these 
thresholds should normally meet NEPA requirements through an 
environmental assessment resulting in a finding of no significant 
impact. Therefore, many commenters urged CEQ to bring the indicator 
level of GHG emissions in the guidance in line with the thresholds in 
EPA's final Tailoring Rule, establishing the indicator at 75,000 or 
100,000 metric tons CO2-e per year.
    Some commenters went so far as to say that there should be no 
analysis of GHG emissions in the NEPA context. Some stated that there 
is no reason to draw the draft guidance's 25,000 metric tons disclosure 
threshold from the EPA reporting and the Clean Air Act rules, for these 
rules and NEPA serve different ends and are considerably different in 
purpose and scope. Because NEPA is focused on providing information 
needed to make better decisions, NEPA necessarily sweeps in more than 
just those impacts that would violate substantive mandates in other 
laws. Thus, agencies should quantify and disclose GHG emissions levels 
and

[[Page 77811]]

consider alternatives that may reduce those emissions, regardless of 
whether they ultimately determine that the impacts are significant for 
NEPA purposes. Other commenters stated that, when compared with 
nationwide or global GHG emissions, a 25,000 metric ton disclosure 
threshold is too low to be meaningful for the purposes of a NEPA 
analysis. CEQ's guidance would be most helpful, according to these 
comments, if it indicated that individual project GHG emissions 
typically will be miniscule compared to global emissions and so do not 
need to be studied in any substantial detail in the NEPA context. The 
guidance should therefore be limited to requiring publication of the 
activity's projected annual GHG emissions levels and nothing more.
    In contrast, some commenters noted that GHG emissions of less than 
25,000 metric tons may have an adverse effect on climate and the 
environment, especially in the context of all worldwide emissions. 
Recent science, according to these commenters, suggests the target 
atmospheric level of CO2 should be 350 ppm to achieve 
climate stabilization and avoid disastrous global consequences. Given 
atmospheric levels of 389 ppm at the time comments were made, 
commenters stated that we are already on a trajectory that is not 
sustainable, and we therefore must decrease GHG emissions more rapidly 
and to a greater extent than previously thought. Thus, any additional 
contribution of CO2 would be a step further from target 
levels and would contribute to a significant cumulative effect. These 
current conditions coupled with the potential consequences of global 
warming, according to the commenters, further underscore the need for 
recommendation and adoption of a zero threshold standard.
    Other comments did not quarrel, per se, with the 25,000 metric tons 
indicator proposed in the 2010 draft guidance. Rather, they strongly 
recommended CEQ revisit the language used in this guidance and either 
remove the language allowing the analysis of projects emitting less 
than 25,000 metric tons of CO2, or provide specific examples 
of projects that should be subject to this disclosure threshold despite 
falling below the minimum threshold. Similarly, the 25,000 metric tons 
reference point was developed for use in reporting emissions of 
stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Some commenters detailed 
that the analysis of transportation projects differs greatly from that 
of stationary sources and questioned CEQ's proposal to specify one 
single reference point for all types of projects performed or 
authorized by every Federal agency. A comment recommended the CEQ 
guidance be revised to recognize that Federal and/or state agencies may 
already have developed thresholds/criteria for performing GHG analyses 
and that these thresholds/criteria may be more appropriate for agency 
use than the 25,000 metric tons disclosure threshold specified in the 
draft guidance.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance sets forth a reference point of 25,000 
metric tons CO2-equivalent GHG emissions on an annual basis 
below which a quantitative analysis of GHG emissions is not recommended 
unless quantification is easily accomplished, in light of the 
availability of quantification tools and appropriate input data. CEQ 
strongly encourages agencies to use their experience and expertise to 
determine when a more detailed analysis of GHG emissions is required to 
ensure that they do not expend their analytical and environmental 
review resources on those actions for which a quantitative analysis is 
not helpful in analyzing the environmental impacts or comparing among 
alternatives and mitigations. When an agency determines that a 
quantitative analysis is not appropriate, an agency should complete a 
qualitative analysis and explain its basis for doing so. We welcome the 
public's further comments on this issue.

3. Adaptation and Considering the Effects of Climate Change

a. Comments Indicating That Climate Change Effects on Proposed Actions 
Should Not Be a Part of the Guidance
    Some commenters noted that the 2010 draft guidance suggests that 
NEPA documents should include the effects of climate change on the 
proposed project. This type of analysis and discussion, according to 
these commenters, would violate the ``rule of reason'' as it would 
necessarily involve a ``crystal ball inquiry'' into the complex 
interrelationships of ecosystems and local climates. Again, the rule of 
reason is employed to determine whether an environmental impact 
statement contains ``reasonably thorough discussion of the significant 
aspects of probable environmental consequences.\22\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ See Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Lowe, 109 F.3d 521, 
526 (1997).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Even the most sophisticated climatological modeling, according to 
these commenters, cannot predict precisely how the climate in a 
particular area will change and how, for instance, water resources will 
be impacted. Because of the limits of climatological modeling, any such 
discussion would necessarily be pure conjecture and would not provide 
information helpful to decisionmakers or the public. Other comments 
noted that there is presently no generally accepted model for gauging 
broad-based climate change, let alone assessing how such change (if 
any) affects individual, Federally-permitted projects. In the absence 
of generally accepted emissions modeling, these commenters believe that 
advising agencies to examine the potential impacts of climate change 
invites agencies (and perhaps even the individual project analysts 
within an agency) to estimate climate change effects by whatever means 
they think reasonable, which would result in disparities and even 
conflicts between agencies and analysts inevitable. If the draft 
guidance goes forward as proposed, the resulting conflict and confusion 
will cause Federal permits to be significantly delayed if not 
completely gridlocked, according to the commenters. Some comments 
called for the use of adaptive management in localities, as opposed to 
the issuance of guidance for climate change effects. These commenters 
claim adaptive management works best when the local land managers have 
as much flexibility and tools as possible at their disposal to respond 
to changing conditions. Therefore, it was suggested by these comments 
that references to analysis of the effects of climate change on the 
project or Federal action be removed from the final guidance.
    Response to Comments:
    NEPA is intended to inform decision-making by disclosing not only 
the reasonably foreseeable effects of a proposed action on the 
environment, but also any effects that environmental processes may have 
on the proposed action and on resources anticipated to be impacted by 
the proposed action. As such, NEPA supports decision-making that helps 
strengthen Federal resources and investments and make them more 
resilient against environmental impacts. The revised draft guidance 
encourages agencies to determine whether and to what extent to prepare 
an analysis based on the availability of information, the usefulness of 
that information to the decision-making process, and the extent of the 
anticipated environmental consequences. See also the response to the 
next comment.
b. Comments Indicating That Climate Change Effects on Proposed Actions 
Should Be a Part of the Guidance
    Other commenters believe that the effects of climate change should 
be included in the guidance. As the

[[Page 77812]]

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated ``climate changes are 
being imposed on ecosystems experiencing other substantial and largely 
detrimental pressures.'' CEQ therefore appropriately recognizes, in the 
view of these commenters, that ``[c]limate change can increase the 
vulnerability of a resource, ecosystem, or human community,'' 
exacerbating the impacts of actions that previously might have had more 
limited effects. These commenters believe that this recognition and the 
attendant analysis under NEPA is essential in meeting the goals of 
Executive Order 13514 which requires Federal agencies to assess their 
risk and vulnerabilities in light of a changing climate and in meeting 
the goals of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. One 
comment even noted that climate change interactions are pervasive, 
making it rarely appropriate, if ever, to confine ``discussion of 
climate change in an environmental assessment or environmental impact 
statement [in] a separate section,'' as CEQ suggested in its guidance. 
Instead, the commenter suggested that CEQ should recognize that such 
synergisms are not only common, but may render some minor impacts 
significant, either directly or by undermining mitigation strategies. 
This integrated consideration should extend from impact analysis to 
shaping alternatives and mitigation decisions. Agencies, according to 
the comment, should recognize that ecosystems may be declining or 
changing even under a ``no action'' alternative, and should forecast 
the likely nature of those changes. From this baseline, the comment 
suggested that agencies should design and select between alternatives 
with the understanding that reducing ecosystem stressors, including 
those resulting from the proposed action, will often be necessary in 
order to limit significant environmental impacts. The comment 
emphasized that CEQ should provide guidelines to ensure that agencies: 
(a) Analyze the impacts of climate change on the affected environment 
and include those effects in their baseline for analysis of 
alternatives, mitigation, and in the ``no action'' alternative; (b) 
include in their cumulative effects analysis the impacts of climate 
change on the affected environment combined with the impacts of the 
proposed action and other reasonably foreseeable effects; and (c) 
include in their alternatives analysis actions that may avoid, reduce, 
and/or otherwise ameliorate the direct, indirect, and cumulative 
effects of climate change and the proposed action on the affected 
environment.
    Some comments indicated that climate change should be a 
consideration in project analysis when located in areas that are 
considered vulnerable to specific effects of climate change within the 
project's lifetime. Because the impacts from climate change are 
predictions and can vary so widely by region, NEPA, according to the 
comments, should be open to allowing for differences in analysis. As to 
geographic scale, comments noted that climate change effects on 
temperature, stream flow, and precipitation patterns are likely to be 
characterized at the regional level and interpolated to a more 
localized level, if possible. However, overall, the commenters praised 
the 2010 draft guidance for recognizing that there are ``limitations 
and variability in the capacity of climate models to reliably project 
potential changes at the regional, local, or project level.'' Some 
other comments suggested that at present, there are few, if any, 
downscaling models that are sufficiently accurate and robust to make 
useful predictions about the effects of climate change on local or even 
regional resources, including effects on water availability, at the 
watershed level or at a specific project location. Thus, until such 
downscaling models exist, the commenters suggested that any analysis of 
the regional and local effects of climate change on water resources, 
among other environmental resources, would be purely speculative and 
Federal courts have held that Federal agencies should not consider 
speculative effects under NEPA. These comments did not categorically 
rule out the assessment of climate change effects on projects, but were 
rather more tentative in their recommendations, conditioning their 
recommendations on the existence of appropriate models. One commenter 
cited recently introduced Federal legislation supporting the conduct of 
regional emission analysis and assessing regional adaptation to the 
effects of climate change as part of the metropolitan transportation 
planning process. Despite the aforementioned limits of the methods of 
assessing climate change impacts, one commenter said that it would be 
reasonable to use existing studies, such as the New York State Energy 
Research and Development Authority's ClimAID study, to qualitatively 
assess climate change effects occurring in a project area.
    As a part of the broader effort to assess climate change impacts 
and undertake adaptation, one commenter proposed that CEQ direct 
agencies to produce their own specific procedures (whether in the form 
of guidance or rulemaking) to explain how they will consider 
environmental impacts on a changed environment. Many agencies have very 
specific mandates with very specific environmental effects, and 
directing them to tailor this consideration to their own efforts should 
produce improved analysis of climate changed environments related to 
the agencies' actions. By having each agency conduct its own process, 
the agencies will (1) benefit from input from the public that works 
most closely with them; (2) be able to create protocols to gather all 
available and easily determined data on changed environments in areas 
under their jurisdiction; and (3) consider creating protocols to 
formally cooperate and share information with other Federal agencies, 
state and local government, and tribes on expected local changes in the 
environment. These commenters contend, as noted above, that much 
information is currently fragmented. If agencies had a formal procedure 
for continually consulting with other agencies, relevant information 
would be dispersed more quickly and effectively. Such an approach would 
require agencies that rely on ``adaptive management'' when accounting 
for unknown environmental changes to specify a regular procedure for 
gathering information and using that information to make decisions 
going forward, including revisiting earlier agency actions.
    Other comments, which also called for CEQ's NEPA guidance to 
incorporate climate change effects, requested that CEQ limit the 
consideration of the impacts of climate change on proposed actions to 
those actions that will occur far enough in the future that changes 
might be both evident and material. It is a waste of agency resources 
and not relevant to the agency decision, according to these commenters, 
to require a consideration of climate change impacts on an action that 
will be concluded in 5, 10 or even 20 years. For purposes of NEPA 
analysis, it was suggested that the 2010 draft guidance be revised to 
advise agencies that NEPA documents should consider the potential 
impacts of climate change on those resources affected by climate only 
when those impacts are expected to extend at least beyond 2050.
    Some commenters agreed that the observed and projected effects of 
climate change that warrant consideration in a NEPA document should 
typically be described as part of the proposed action's ``affected

[[Page 77813]]

environment.'' \23\ However, according to these commenters, as the 2010 
draft guidance correctly recognized, ``agencies should ensure that they 
keep in proportion the extent to which they document their assessment 
of the effects of climate change.'' In this light, the commenters 
suggested that the draft guidance should fully explain how climate 
change effects should be considered as part of the ``affected 
environment.'' For example, the commenters requested that the guidance 
distinguish between a project's GHG emission-related effects on the 
environment and the effects of climate change on the area covered by a 
project. With respect to the former, climate change is a global 
phenomenon and, as recognized by the 2010 draft guidance, changes in 
global temperatures cannot be linked to specific sources of emissions. 
Consequently, the guidance should recognize that the ``affected 
environment'' of a GHG emitting project cannot be the entire world, and 
it should provide some direction on how the ``affected environment'' 
will be determined for climate change-related effects. Other commenters 
were confused as to why CEQ suggested that the observed and projected 
effects of climate change warranting consideration are most 
appropriately described as part of the current and future state of the 
proposed action's ``affected environment.'' Section 1502.15 of the CEQ 
Regulations does not suggest, according to these commenters, that this 
section discuss future states of the affected environment, but instead 
states that the affected environment describe the environment of the 
area to be affected by the project alternatives. There is an implicit 
understanding that there is natural change in ecosystems and 
environmental resources; these systems and resources are not static. It 
was unclear to commenters why climate change effects would best be 
discussed as part of the affected environment rather than as a 
cumulative impact.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ See 40 CFR 1502.1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance proposes that climate change effects 
should be considered in the analysis of projects that are designed for 
long-term utility and involve resources considered vulnerable to 
specific effects of climate change within the timeframe of the proposed 
project's anticipated useful life. The focus of this analysis should be 
on those aspects of the environment that, based on the interaction 
between the proposed action and the human environment, are affected by 
the proposed action and on the significance of climate change on those 
aspects of the environment. Agencies should consider the specific 
effects of the proposed action (including the proposed action's effect 
on the vulnerability of affected ecosystems and communities), the nexus 
of those effects with projected climate change effects on the same 
aspects of our environment, and the implications for the environment to 
adapt to the projected effects of climate change. In addition, the 
particular impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities may be 
considered in the design of the action or the selection among 
alternatives so that the proposed action will be more resilient and 
sustainable and thereby have lesser impacts on those communities. Using 
NEPA's ``rule of reason'' that governs the level of detail in any 
environmental effects analysis, agencies should ensure that they keep 
the extent to which they document their assessment of the effects of 
climate change in proportion to the potential for impacts.

4. Indirect Effects and Emissions

    CEQ received many comments that used the terms ``indirect effects'' 
and ``indirect emissions'' interchangeably, when in fact these two 
terms have distinct meaning. Note that the summaries of the comments, 
below, also use the terms interchangeably to reflect how these comments 
were presented to CEQ.
a. Indirect Effects
    Many commenters noted that CEQ should clarify the circumstances 
under which it is necessary and appropriate to consider the indirect 
effects of GHG emissions. The 2010 draft guidance, according to these 
views, provides little instruction on how to analyze appropriately the 
indirect impacts (assuming that those impacts are brought about as a 
result of the Federal action and are reasonably foreseeable, which are 
prerequisites to analysis under NEPA), and could prompt more calls for 
similar modeling exercises. CEQ, according to these commenters, could 
provide valuable guidance to Federal agencies that such indirect 
impacts, which have been demonstrated to be negligible and 
predominantly attributable to other independent factors, need not be 
exhaustively analyzed as part of a NEPA review. Other commenters 
thought that agencies should be further reminded that the indirect 
effects of a proposed action are to be analyzed only if the impact is 
reasonably foreseeable.\24\ Although they commended CEQ for 
acknowledging that any analysis of indirect impacts must be bounded by 
the limits of feasibility, they urged CEQ to include the ``reasonable 
foreseeability'' language consistent with 40 CFR 1508.8.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \24\ See 40 CFR 1508.8.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Additionally, they criticized CEQ for not providing an alternative 
threshold for considering indirect effects. Commenters noted that given 
the long-term nature of global warming, it is difficult to conceive of 
a climate change situation where the direct effects of a decision are 
significant, but the indirect effects are not significant. Other 
commenters agreed with CEQ and stated that only direct emissions should 
be considered when determining whether an environmental impact 
statement is required for a particular project above the threshold. The 
guidance should make clear, according to these commenters, that a 
project's indirect GHG emissions do not constitute a ``significant 
impact'' for two reasons. First, according to these commenters, these 
indirect emissions are inherently insignificant compared to global GHG 
emissions and do not cause ``significant'' impacts. NEPA directs 
Federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for 
``major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the 
human environment.'' Second, they contend that indirect GHG emissions 
should not trigger the requirement that a Federal agency prepare an 
environmental impact statement because these indirect effects are too 
remote from the alleged cause. These commenters point out how the U.S. 
Supreme Court has held that if there is a reasonably close causal 
relationship between the environmental effect and the alleged cause, 
then an environmental impact statement is required. The court compared 
this type of causation to the tort law doctrine of proximate cause; a 
``but for'' causal relationship is insufficient for an alleged cause to 
require an environmental impact statement for a project.
    Some commenters thought that climate change impacts should be 
treated as indirect effects, rather than direct effects of GHG 
emissions. Under the CEQ's regulations, direct effects are those caused 
by the action and occur at the same time and place. However, because 
climate change does not occur at the same time and place as the GHG 
emissions, these commenters believe that these impacts are not properly 
considered ``direct effects.'' Rather, they conclude, it would be more 
appropriate to consider potential climate impacts as an indirect effect 
or cumulative impacts of a project's projected GHG emissions. Indirect 
effects are caused by the action

[[Page 77814]]

but are removed in time and distance, even though the effects are 
reasonably foreseeable. The 2010 draft guidance conceded that climate 
change is the result of ``numerous and various small sources,'' and 
that each of the sources only makes a ``relatively small addition to 
the global atmospheric conditions.'' Accordingly, the commenters 
observed that because the climate impacts from the emissions from a 
single project are a tiny fraction of the global emissions, treatment 
of these impacts as an indirect effect, or a cumulative effect, is more 
appropriate.
b. Indirect Emissions
    CEQ should clarify its discussion of indirect emissions, according 
to some commenters. The guidance, according to these commenters, should 
state that only those indirect emissions that are reasonably 
foreseeable as a result of the project and meet the necessary level of 
significance, should be considered. Emissions, which are theoretical or 
otherwise not dependent on the proposed action for their occurrence, 
should be eliminated from the analysis. Thus, the final guidance should 
clarify that Federal agencies must recognize and discuss the known 
uncertainties of GHG emissions, and as the ability to quantify 
emissions or accurately assess the link between emissions and climate 
effects decreases. Some commenters suggest that the ``indirect 
effects'' definition helps establish ``indirect emissions.'' At the 
same time, they emphasize that indirect emissions are not akin to 
indirect effects. Specifically, they contend that NEPA requires 
consideration of ``indirect effects'' (limited to non-speculative 
environmental consequences that are proximately caused by a major 
Federal action). Commenters maintain that ``indirect'' GHG emissions 
are not truly ``indirect effects'' of an action. An emission is not an 
effect, and any resulting harm to the environment is the environmental 
consequence of interest to an agency. In applying the concept of 
``indirect effects,'' CEQ, according to these commenters, should advise 
agencies that they need not consider ``indirect'' GHG emissions unless 
those emissions (1) bear ``a reasonably close causal relationship'' to 
the major Federal action being reviewed; (2) are ``reasonably 
foreseeable;'' and (3) are not speculative. Thus, the issue of whether 
to consider ``indirect emissions'' should be governed by the same test 
applicable to ``indirect effects.'' This clarification, they assert, 
will allow agencies to expend their resources wisely and focus their 
analysis without speculating about potential indirect emissions not 
clearly associated with or caused by the major Federal action being 
reviewed.
    In terms of clarifying what is meant by ``indirect emissions,'' 
other commenters believe that it may be helpful for CEQ to consider 
adopting, with one minor modification, the definition of ``indirect 
emissions'' from the EPA regulations implementing the conformity 
provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) for this purpose.\25\ The 
conformity regulations apply only to emissions of criteria pollutants 
from Federal actions in nonattainment areas. Nevertheless, the 
commenters argue, these regulations provide a serviceable definition of 
indirect air emissions that has been applied by Federal agencies for 
many years. The conformity regulations define ``indirect emissions'' as 
those emissions that ``(1) [a]re caused by the Federal action, but may 
occur later in time and/or may be further removed in distance from the 
action itself but are still reasonably foreseeable; and (2) [t]he 
Federal agency can practicably control and will maintain control over 
due to the continuing program responsibility of the Federal Agency.'' 
Under the air conformity program, emissions are ``caused by'' a Federal 
action if the emissions ``would not otherwise occur in the absence of 
the Federal action.'' Overall, commenters asserted the need for the 
final guidance to clarify what CEQ means by ``direct'' and ``indirect'' 
emissions versus ``direct'' and ``indirect'' effects.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ See 40 CFR 93.152.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition to providing clarity on the concept of indirect 
emissions, some commenters noted that on page 5 of the 2010 draft 
guidance CEQ addressed the treatment of ``the energy requirements of a 
proposed action and the conservation potential of its alternatives.'' 
CEQ went on to state that agencies should evaluate GHG emissions 
associated with energy use and mitigation opportunities. An important 
additional consideration, according to these commenters, would be an 
evaluation of the direct and indirect effects of the alternatives 
themselves on potential GHG emissions.
    A few commenters thought CEQ's proposal for indirect GHG emissions 
analysis should be removed in its entirety. Indirect GHG emissions 
analysis would encompass sources that are upstream and downstream of 
the action, with no discernable limit or boundary. Other commenters 
felt that if indirect emissions are not included, the Federal goals of 
energy conservation and reduced energy use could not be fully realized. 
Estimating many types of indirect emissions, they assert, is entirely 
possible and it is in the project design phase where energy efficiency 
measures and access choices can most effectively be incorporated. Thus, 
according to these commenters, even a brief qualitative analysis of 
both the direct and indirect GHG emissions of a proposal may reveal 
cost-effective reduction measures. A well-done qualitative analysis may 
also provide a rough quantitative estimate that can help the lead 
agency determine whether or not the analysis is adequate.
    Finally, there were some transportation issues raised, concerning 
the concept of indirect emissions. The introduction to the 2010 draft 
guidance advises agencies to consider in the scoping process whether 
the direct and indirect GHG emissions of a proposed action may provide 
meaningful information to decisionmakers and the public. It is not 
clear, according to some commenters, what would be considered direct 
emissions as opposed to indirect emissions for transportation projects. 
The distinction is critical in determining how to interpret the 
suggested indicator value. The determination of how to define direct 
and indirect impacts for transportation projects, and the decision of 
how to apply the indicator value, is best left to the discretion of 
Federal transportation agencies, according to these commenters. 
Similarly, for transportation infrastructure projects, direct and 
indirect GHG emissions should not be defined to include the emissions 
associated with the production (drilling, refining, etc.) or 
distribution of fuel to the vehicles that use the transportation 
infrastructure. This would place an unreasonable burden on 
transportation agencies, according to commenters, and would require an 
analysis that is not completed for any other resource evaluated under 
NEPA. Under this approach, the project impact should be the increase 
(or decrease) of emissions from the increase (or decrease) in vehicles 
using the transportation infrastructure due to the project.
    Response to Comments:
    Statutes, Executive Orders, and agency policies, establish the 
Federal government commitment to eliminating or reducing GHG emissions. 
Information on GHG emissions (qualitative or quantitative) that is 
useful and relevant to the decision should be used when deciding among 
alternatives. The revised draft guidance reminds agencies that, as with 
all impacts, agencies are required to consider reasonably foreseeable 
direct and indirect effects, and the cumulative nature of those effects 
when analyzing proposed Federal actions. The revised draft

[[Page 77815]]

guidance explains that agencies should consider the affected 
environment by looking for effects of past, present, and reasonably 
foreseeable future actions that will increase or change in combination 
with the direct and indirect effects of the proposal. Agencies should 
apply the rule of reason which states that agencies determine whether 
and to what extent to prepare their NEPA reviews based on the 
usefulness of potential information to the decision-making process, and 
to focus their analyses on issues that deserve study.
    CEQ is rejecting a hard and fast rule requiring or prohibiting 
consideration of indirect emissions. The focus should be and remains on 
the foreseeability of identifying potential effects and the extent of 
those effects.

5. Life-cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    Many commenters claim CEQ should direct Federal agencies to employ 
life-cycle GHG assessments (including consideration of avoided GHG 
emissions) to determine the full GHG impacts of proposed agency actions 
and associated private-sector activities and processes. The 
environmental impact of the life cycle of the proposed action--and not 
just of the project--must be assessed, according to commenters. 
Agencies should be scoping ways not only to minimize or mitigate 
potential adverse impacts but to restore and improve the environment 
and atmosphere at the same time. There is no reasoned justification, 
according to these commenters, for focusing on a project's annual, 
rather than lifetime, emissions as the indicator level of significance. 
Nothing in NEPA, they assert, restricts the agencies' impacts analysis 
to a rate or a one-year time scale. If CEQ does not delete the 
discussion of an indicator level from the final guidance, according to 
these commenters, it should at least buttress its indicator level with 
a life-cycle or life-of-the-project ``volume'' indicator. That level 
should be set low enough to capture actions that may not emit the full 
threshold rate in any given year, but would still contribute to the 
larger overall volume of GHG emissions over the life of the project. 
Thus, the commenters suggested that if CEQ wishes to indicate a level 
of significant emissions, it must ensure that its indicator accounts 
both for the rate and volume of the emissions over the life of the 
project.
    One of the commenters recommended that CEQ should affirmatively 
direct agencies to assess GHG impacts of agency actions in accordance 
with the following guidelines: (1) GHG impacts should be assessed on a 
life-cycle basis, as appropriate, taking account of direct, indirect, 
and avoided GHG emissions; (2) direction should be provided to use peer 
reviewed and agency life-cycle assessment tools and models; (3) GHG 
impacts should not be limited to source emissions as reported under 
EPA's GHG Reporting Rule and other EPA GHG inventory tools; (4) the 
Global Warming Potential (``GWP'') of each GHG should be based on the 
latest consensus scientific data, which, as of this date, should 
reflect the GWP values set forth in the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report; (5) consistent with 
international and EPA precedent, the primary focus should be on 
anthropogenic sources of GHGs, including fossil CO2 and 
methane; and (6) uncertainties in data, models, methods, and resulting 
calculations should be analyzed in assessing direct and indirect life-
cycle GHG emissions, but the existence of such uncertainty should not 
preclude use of life-cycle assessment of GHG emission impacts. Another 
commenter contends that if a full life-cycle analysis is required, 
rather than using the length of time of all the phases and elements of 
the proposed action over its expected life, the guidance should also 
require the calculation to include the life of the pollutant or the 
traceable lifetime of the effect of the action on the climate, such as 
the sequestration lost through a large clear-cutting of forest when 
selective harvesting might have retained more carbon in the standing 
trees and soil. Moreover, the commenter stated that guidance should be 
provided to Federal agencies to retain existing carbon stores in carbon 
dense systems such as mature and old-growth forests.
    CEQ received comments that requested further clarification in the 
guidance that a full life-cycle analysis is not required (for example, 
the GHG analysis for a highway project should not include the emissions 
associated with the manufacturing of the vehicles using the 
transportation facility), at least until this type of information 
becomes available. These commenters indicated that full life-cycle 
analyses are not readily available at this time and should not be used 
anyway as they will result in double counting of emissions among 
various parties. On a related note, commenters pointed to several 
provisions of the 2010 draft guidance which they thought suggested use 
of an alternative NEPA reference point based on a project's 
``lifetime'' cumulative GHG emissions rather than annual emissions. The 
comments highlighted the following passage from pages 1 and 2 of the 
2010 draft guidance as an illustration of this approach: ``For long-
term actions that have annual direct emissions of less than 25,000 
metric tons of CO2-equivalent, CEQ encourages Federal 
agencies to consider whether the action's long-term emissions should 
receive similar analysis.'' Commenters stress that the 2010 draft 
guidance offers no specific reference point based on cumulative, 
lifetime emissions, probably because this metric is not used in the 
EPA's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, EPA's Tailoring Rule, the various 
proposals for climate change legislation, or any other commonly 
regarded policy. A lifetime emissions standard, particularly one with 
no reference point, according to commenters, threatens to expand NEPA 
analysis to a vast new array of Federal actions. The recognized metric 
for GHG policy analysis and regulatory standard setting, as reflected 
in EPA's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, EPA's Tailoring Rule, and 
elsewhere, is annual emissions. CEQ, according to the commenters, has 
no empirical or legal basis for suggesting a NEPA analysis reference 
point based on lifetime, cumulative GHG emissions, and this aspect of 
the proposed guidance should be withdrawn in its entirety.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance states that analysis of GHG emissions 
sources should follow the same basic NEPA principles and account for 
all phases and elements of an action, including both short- and long-
term effects and benefits, over the expected life of the project and 
the duration of the generation of emissions. It is important to 
recognize that agency-proposed land and resource management actions can 
result in both carbon emissions and carbon sequestration, and agency 
analyses should reflect a comparison of net GHG emissions and carbon 
stock changes that are relevant in light of the proposed actions and 
the timeframes under consideration. Agencies have substantial 
experience estimating GHG emissions and sequestration, and numerous 
tools and methods are available to efficiently make such estimates. The 
revised draft guidance encourages agencies to use tools for 
quantification when a quantitative analysis would be useful for 
informing decisionmakers and the public. When a quantitative analysis 
would not be useful, a qualitative analysis should be completed, and an 
agency should explain its basis for doing so.

[[Page 77816]]

6. Preserving the Procedural Mandate of NEPA

    Some commenters noted that certain statements in the 2010 draft 
guidance could be misinterpreted by other Federal agencies and the 
public as creating new, binding substantive or procedural obligations. 
The commenters suggested that CEQ should clarify that the guidance is 
not intended to do so. These commenters point to the statutory language 
and court decisions, which detail that NEPA is an action-informing 
statute, and not an action-forcing document. Additionally, some 
comments cited Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens, 49 U.S. 332, 333 
(1989), where the Court held that ``it is well settled that NEPA itself 
does not impose substantive duties mandating particular results, but 
simply prescribes the necessary process for preventing uninformed-
rather than unwise-agency action.'' Statements such as, ``CEQ proposes 
to advise Federal agencies that they should consider opportunities to 
reduce GHG emissions caused by proposed Federal actions and adapt their 
actions to climate change impacts throughout the NEPA process and to 
address these issues in their agency NEPA procedures[,]'' concern 
certain commenters. These commenters also point to statements that, 
when a proposed action meets an applicable threshold for quantification 
and reporting of GHG emissions, ``CEQ proposes that the agency should 
also consider mitigation measures and reasonable alternatives to reduce 
action-related GHG emissions.'' This direction, according to the 
commenters, appears to go beyond the scope of NEPA. It goes, they 
contend, beyond describing how and when to analyze environmental 
impacts and what environmental impacts are to be considered, thereby 
transforming the NEPA process into an action-forcing process by 
advising agencies that they need to consider or even require agencies 
to include mitigation and adaptation measures as part of their 
decisions. It also appears, these commenters contend, to elevate 
considerations of GHG emissions and impacts of climate change above 
other environmental impacts for purposes of assessing alternatives. 
Environmental assessments or environmental impact statements are likely 
to evaluate a number of different environmental factors in addition to 
GHG emissions and impacts of climate change which may have greater 
impacts on the environment than those produced by GHG emissions or 
climate change, according to commenters. Similarly, commenters said 
that a direction to consider mitigation and adaptation measures may 
inhibit or restrict agency decision-making with respect to other 
alternatives. Other commenters point to the same introduction to the 
2010 draft guidance and indicate that the statement on the reduction of 
GHG emissions would include projects requiring Federal permit 
decisions. They are concerned that the guidance will be used as a 
backdoor to impose mandatory Federal GHG emission reductions, for 
example through mitigation required as a quid pro quo in order to 
obtain a finding of no significant impact. The goal of reducing GHG 
emissions through mandatory emission limits should be accomplished 
through comprehensive national climate legislation, rather than through 
NEPA guidance documents, according to these comments.
    Other commenters stressed that NEPA can be used to have an 
influence on agencies' substantive policies. These commenters said that 
NEPA provides that ``the policies, regulations, and public laws of the 
United States shall be interpreted and administered in accordance with 
the policies set forth in this Act.'' \26\ The commenters highlight 
that some agencies have taken a step forward, at least at the broad 
policy level. For example, they cite the Department of the Interior 
(``Department'') which, through a secretarial order, has acknowledged 
that ``climate change is impacting natural resources that the 
[Department] has the responsibility to manage and protect.'' \27\ The 
secretarial order ``ensures that climate change impacts are taken into 
account in connection with Department planning and decision-making.'' 
\28\ The secretarial order does this by requiring the Department to 
``consider and analyze potential climate change impacts'' when it: 
Undertakes ``long[hyphen]range planning exercises''; ``set[s] 
priorities for scientific research and investigations''; ``develop[s] 
multi[hyphen]year management plans''; ``and/or'' ``mak[es] major 
decisions regarding the potential utilization of resources under the 
Department's purview.'' \29\ The commenter state's that while the 
Department's secretarial order can certainly be strengthened, in 
particular in terms of its implementation, all Federal agencies should 
be encouraged to take similar policy action and to ensure that those 
policies are implemented through actual management decisions. Indeed, 
the commenters believe that CEQ guidance could help raise Federal 
agencies' comfort level in using their substantive and procedural 
authorities to address GHG emissions and climate change. These 
commenters welcomed this result.
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    \26\ See 42 U.S.C. 4332(1).
    \27\ U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Sec. Or. 3226, Section 1 (Jan. 
19, 2001).
    \28\ Id.
    \29\ Id. at Section 3.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance points out that NEPA is intended to 
promote disclosure and consideration of potential environmental 
effects, and to provide the opportunity to mitigate them. NEPA 
recognizes that Federal activities affect the environment and mandates 
that Federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their 
proposed actions, and any reasonable alternatives and mitigations, 
before deciding to take action. The revised draft guidance does not 
create any new or additional regulatory requirements for project 
proponents. It simply instructs agencies on how to consider and address 
the GHG emissions from and the effects of climate change on their 
proposed actions within the existing NEPA regulatory framework.
    Climate change impacts will have important consequences for the 
resilience of Federal actions, including more frequent heat waves and 
high-intensity precipitation events, rising sea levels, and more 
prolonged droughts. The revised guidance emphasizes that agencies 
should consider mitigation measures and reasonable alternatives to 
reduce action-related GHG emissions in the same fashion as they 
consider them for any other environmental effects.

7. Incomplete or Unavailable Scientific Information

    The CEQ guidance on the analysis of GHG emissions under NEPA 
should, according to some commenters, make clear that NEPA regulatory 
provisions regarding incomplete or unavailable information should be 
appropriately used in addressing any analysis of GHG emissions. Some 
commenters have serious concerns over the validity of the modeling and 
assessment tools currently available for climate change. They contend 
that the CO2 emissions estimates from these models are only 
useful for a comparison between alternatives. These commenters say that 
the numbers are not necessarily an accurate reflection of what true 
CO2 emissions will be because CO2 emissions are 
dependent on other factors which are not part of the models that are 
currently available. Further, in terms of assessment, the comments 
point to uncertainty over assessing an individual project's effect on 
climate change and they place an emphasis on the need for better tools 
to assess the

[[Page 77817]]

climate change effects on a project's environment. Along the same 
lines, other commenters pointed to what they perceive as conflicting 
parts of the 2010 draft guidance when it mentions that `` . . . 
environmental documents reflect this global context and be realistic in 
focusing on ensuring that useful information is provided to 
decisionmakers for those actions that the agency finds are a 
significant source of greenhouse gases,'' but then the guidance goes on 
to refer to `` . . . the scoping process to set reasonable spatial and 
temporal boundaries for this assessment and focus on aspects of climate 
change that may lead to changes in the impacts, sustainability, 
vulnerability, and design of the proposed action and alternative 
courses of action.'' These comments indicate that agencies will be left 
with the daunting task of developing assessment protocols and standards 
to evaluate the impact of local actions in a global context in the 
absence of air quality standards or models. Given the lack of generally 
accepted protocols for modeling climate change, an agency's NEPA 
procedures, these commenters contend, should be limited to: (1) 
Quantifying the project's reasonably anticipated GHG emissions; (2) 
noting that the project's incremental contribution to global GHGs is 
extremely small; and (3) observing that there is no standard 
methodology to determine how incremental GHG contributions of this 
magnitude translate into effects on global climate.
    Some commenters called for CEQ to provide more guidance to agencies 
as to how to address uncertainties and to recognize that there are very 
large levels of uncertainty associated with the relationship between 
agency actions and climate change effects. The range of outputs of 
climate models is huge, varying even more in their predictions about 
any particular region. They differ in predictions of both temperature 
and precipitation, as well as in seasonal trends of each. Therefore, 
the commenters concluded that these limitations make scenario 
uncertainty enormous. As a result, they encourage CEQ to recommend an 
approach that agencies should follow for handling uncertainties under 
NEPA. That approach should include explicit acknowledgment of the 
uncertainties and estimates of how they affect emission possibilities 
as well as climate change projections, if any. The commenters point to 
the documents that CEQ recommends as the ``best scientific information 
available on the reasonably foreseeable climate change impacts'' to 
show that climate change science cannot yet establish an agreed-upon 
baseline of environmental conditions to track the effects of climate 
change, and likely never will.\30\ These commenters contend that the 
2010 draft guidance directs Federal agencies to the ``Synthesis and 
Assessment Products of the U.S. Global Change Research Program'' 
(``USGCRP'') as a source of the ``best scientific information available 
on the reasonably foreseeable climate change impacts'' to identify a 
baseline. However, the commenters point out that this latest 2009 
Assessment includes an entire chapter, ``An Agenda for Climate Impacts 
Science,'' focusing on what the USGCRP does not know about ``climate 
change impacts and those aspects of climate change responsible for 
those impacts.'' \31\ Most notably, the 2009 Assessment indicates that 
``agreed-upon baseline indicators and measures of environmental 
conditions that can be used to track the effects of changes in 
climate'' do not yet exist.\32\ The commenters contend that without an 
agreed-upon baseline, it is difficult to understand how a NEPA analysis 
(or any scientific analysis for that matter) can proceed with any 
accuracy. Ultimately, according to the commenters, the 2009 Assessment 
highlights significant, and arguably insurmountable, shortcomings in 
climate change science that will inhibit an agency's ability to conduct 
the informed and realistic analysis required by NEPA. Assuming that 
climate change analysis can be conducted consistent with NEPA, the 
scientific uncertainties must be clearly disclosed, according to 
commenters. The comments cite the NEPA implementing procedures for when 
an agency is faced with ``incomplete or unavailable information, the 
agency shall always make clear that such information is lacking.'' \33\ 
Therefore, commenters said that because the USGCRP documents show that 
a baseline from which to predict the rate, scope, and effects of 
climate change simply does not yet exist, any NEPA analysis of climate 
change and/or GHGs must clearly disclose the existence of these 
uncertainties and avoid speculative conclusions. CEQ guidance should, 
according to these commenters, include a clear statement of the 
uncertainties and provide guidance that the statement should be 
included in every NEPA document that analyzes climate change.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \30\ See Draft 2010 Guidance at p. 8.
    \31\ See ``Synthesis and Assessment Products of the U.S. Global 
Change Research Program'' at p. 153.
    \32\ Id. at 155.
    \33\ See 40 CFR 1502.22.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Other commenters urge CEQ to wait to issue its final guidance 
because a variety of companies, trade organizations, small businesses, 
and individuals have recently challenged the EPA's Endangerment Finding 
in Federal court, in addition to several other legal challenges to 
aspects of EPA's regulation of GHGs. These challenges come from fifteen 
states, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, including sixteen Members of 
Congress, the National Association of Manufacturers, and many other 
groups. Some commenters believe strongly that CEQ should delay the 
issuance of its guidance.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance is clear that agencies should use 
current scientific information and methodologies for assessing GHGs and 
climate effects. Agencies are reminded of Section 1502.22 of the CEQ 
Regulations stating that when evaluating reasonably foreseeable 
significant adverse effects on the human environment in an 
environmental impact statement, if information essential to a reasoned 
choice among alternatives is incomplete and the overall costs of 
obtaining that information are not exorbitant, then an agency shall 
obtain and include that information.\34\ If the information does not 
exist or would be too costly to obtain, agencies must determine whether 
the adverse effects are reasonably foreseeable and significant, 
consistent with section 1508.27 of the CEQ Regulations. Agencies will 
also need to set forth the relevant, existing, and credible scientific 
evidence. There is a growing body of scientific evidence on GHG 
emissions and impacts of climate change that agencies may already be 
able to rely on, provided they set forth clear reasoning for using that 
science.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \34\ 40 CFR 1502.22(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

8. Concerns With Using EPA Methodologies

    Many of the comments on the 2010 draft guidance were directed at 
the 25,000 metric ton disclosure threshold. Commenters opposing the 
25,000 metric ton threshold do not believe that this threshold has a 
sound legal or factual basis for the purposes to which CEQ proposes to 
apply it. EPA chose the threshold for use in the regulation of air 
pollutant emissions from large stationary sources that is required 
under the Clean Air Act; this is a program of limited scope, applicable 
to a well-

[[Page 77818]]

defined and small universe of sources. EPA chose this number based on 
administrative necessity, judging that it was 1) low enough to pull in 
the majority of large stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions, 
but also 2) high enough to limit the number of sources covered that 
state and local air pollution permitting agencies could feasibly 
handle. Administrative necessity underlies the EPA thresholds, and EPA 
made a factual case for the need for this threshold, based on actual 
staffing, resources needed for permit processing, and financial data 
from state and local permitting agencies. CEQ, according to the 
commenters, has not presented any comparable data in its proposal that 
would necessitate the artificial, non-science-based 25,000 metric tons 
per year threshold it proposes for its NEPA guidance. Without such data 
or other comparable justification, the proposal does not reflect a 
scientific judgment about whether a particular quantity of emissions 
will ``meaningfully'' affect the global climate. Similarly, several 
commenters note that the Clean Air Act rules and NEPA serve different 
ends and are considerably different in purpose and scope. NEPA requires 
consideration and disclosure of impacts to inform decision-making and 
the public, with the goal of implementing the nation's environmental 
policies; the Clean Air Act focuses on quantitative standards with 
specific regulatory consequences. Therefore, these commenters believe 
that, because NEPA is focused on providing information needed to make 
better decisions, NEPA necessarily sweeps in more than just those 
impacts that would violate substantive mandates in other laws, and 
therefore, inappropriately uses Clean Air Act standards.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance gives agencies the discretion to select 
the appropriate method of analysis for assessing the effects of GHG 
emissions and climate change, so long as the agency sets forth a 
reasoned explanation based on accepted science and whether that 
information is helpful to inform the decisionmaker and the public. The 
revised draft guidance sets forth a reference point of 25,000 metric 
tons CO2-equivalent emissions on an annual basis below which 
a quantitative analysis of GHG emissions is not recommended unless 
quantification is easily accomplished, taking into account the 
availability of quantification tools and appropriate input data. CEQ 
strongly encourages agencies to use their experience and expertise to 
determine when a more detailed analysis of GHG emissions will assist 
with analyzing the environmental impacts or comparing among 
alternatives and mitigations. When an agency determines that a 
quantitative analysis is not appropriate, an agency should complete a 
qualitative analysis and explain its rationale for doing so.

9. NEPA Inefficiencies

    Many commenters assert that CEQ's 2010 draft guidance attempted to 
expand NEPA analyses to include the effects of greenhouse gas 
emissions. These commenters claim that expanding the scope of NEPA will 
only serve to exacerbate the delays and inefficiencies they currently 
perceive in the environmental review and approval process. Until these 
procedural inefficiencies of NEPA are addressed, these commenters would 
caution against expanding the reach of the statute. Specifically, some 
commenters thought that if a quantitative threshold were to be 
implemented, it would be duplicative of those that other agencies 
already use in evaluating greenhouse gas emissions under their 
statutory authorities and that many of the protocols identified in the 
2010 draft guidance are unreasonably expensive and difficult to 
implement. Other commenters argue that the guidance would increase the 
time and expense of NEPA reviews while also increasing the potential 
for litigation because the guidance fails to create bright lines and 
safe harbors for the scope of NEPA reviews. The guidance, in their 
view, proposes uncertain and unclear standards for both the situations 
in which NEPA reviews should be conducted on the basis of climate 
impacts and the scope of climate impacts to be assessed in the NEPA 
reviews. For instance, they point to the statement in the 2010 draft 
guidance that the Federal agency's analysis should ``qualitatively 
discuss the link between [the project's] greenhouse gas emissions and 
climate change.'' The guidance, according to commenters, however, 
provides no examples of what this qualitative analysis should involve, 
even as the CEQ acknowledges the difficulty in understanding the link 
between an individual facility's emissions and specific climatological 
changes. Similarly, other commenters said that despite its legislative 
history and judicial precedent, NEPA has been increasingly abused 
forcing Federal agencies to spend time and scarce resources defending 
lawsuits. They claim the NEPA guidance issued by CEQ will only 
exacerbate this situation, as agencies are ill equipped to address GHG 
and climate change issues. According to these commenters, real data on 
climate change is questionable. Moreover, the elements that contribute 
to greenhouse gas emissions are so integrated into our markets that 
consideration of all of them as part of the NEPA review could have 
devastating consequences for every aspect of our economy. The result 
will, according to commenters, be longer permitting lines, higher 
project costs, and more litigation. At a time when jobs are scarce and 
the economy vulnerable, these commenters are concerned that the 
government is creating new barriers to economic development. These 
commenters urge CEQ to reconsider this guidance and work with 
stakeholders in making necessary reforms to NEPA. Reforms such as 
eliminating delays in the permitting process, allowing for greater 
public participation and stronger involvement by stakeholders, 
eliminating excessive litigation, and facilitating better Federal 
coordination they claim will go a long way to reestablishing the 
appropriate balance between economic development and environmental 
preservation.
    Other commenters want CEQ to adopt an effective date for the 
guidance. The commenters noted that the 2010 draft guidance states: 
``CEQ does not intend this guidance to become effective until its 
issuance in final form.'' However, they argue that the 2010 draft 
guidance does not address how the guidance in final form is to be 
applied and whether CEQ intends to adopt an effective date. Although 
they understand that CEQ believes that this guidance merely clarifies 
what NEPA documents should already include, they say that the guidance 
explains, for the first time, how agencies are to conduct the analysis 
for effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Without a 
clear effective date, draft documents will be subject to uncertainty, 
litigation, and delay, even if they include an analysis of climate 
change impacts. Because the guidance has the potential to cause 
unnecessary uncertainty, delay, and costs to projects that are well 
underway, commenters believe that it is critical that CEQ adopt an 
effective date and clarify that the final guidance only applies to 
draft NEPA documents issued after the effective date.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance will be effective immediately once 
finalized for newly proposed actions and is designed to help Federal 
agencies develop their analyses of GHG emissions and climate change to 
ensure they are useful. By providing a clearer explanation of what 
should be disclosed and considered regarding GHG emissions and climate

[[Page 77819]]

change, this guidance should lessen litigation driven by uncertainty. 
Finally, this revised draft guidance does not suggest that agencies 
retrospectively prepare an analysis for decisions already made or 
projects that are underway.

10. Mitigation, Alternatives, and Miscellaneous Comments

a. Mitigation
i. Types of Mitigation
    Several commenters were concerned that the 2010 draft guidance only 
briefly addresses the need for agencies to consider mitigation measures 
and reasonable alternatives to reduce action-related greenhouse gas 
emissions. CEQ was encouraged to significantly strengthen this section. 
The guidance should concentrate more on ensuring that useful 
information is provided to decisionmakers regarding alternatives and 
mitigation measures for actions with significant greenhouse gases, 
according to these commenters. Many commenters also expressed that the 
guidance should focus more attention on mitigation than on assessment. 
Commenters would also like more discussion of the need to analyze 
mitigation measures. CEQ should accordingly provide Federal agencies 
with resources on measures to mitigate greenhouse gases. Multiple 
commenters suggested that if CEQ were to provide and update a list of 
mitigation measures, the process would be easier for individual 
agencies to implement. CEQ was encouraged to assist in developing 
categories of measures that would allow agencies to consider 
alternatives. Some mitigation measures, commenters noted, particularly 
offsite mitigation, can be implemented for projects regardless of 
project type (California, Massachusetts, and New York already do this 
for their State NEPA-like programs). The commenters urged CEQ to 
therefore provide a list of both onsite and offsite mitigation measures 
in categories such as building design and construction and mobile 
source emissions. One commenter stated that explicit guidance will be 
needed regarding which greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy 
use (referenced on the second paragraph on page 5) should be included 
in the analysis and as potential mitigation. Alternatively, CEQ should 
consider directing other Federal agencies to take a more direct role in 
providing technical expertise and guidance for the development of 
mitigation alternatives, another commenter suggested. Finally, one 
commenter proposed that NEPA lead agencies should consider not only 
their own authority or control, but also consequences of actions under 
the authority of other governmental units that are or could be 
influenced by information from the Federal agency. In this regard, 
identification of mitigation that could be considered by other 
regulatory authorities would also be useful.
    Other commenters assert that CEQ should remind agencies of key 
points in the NEPA process that specifically relate to the 
identification of alternatives and mitigation measures that reduce 
greenhouse gas emissions and related effects. One example given was 
that agencies should perhaps identify greenhouse gas mitigation 
opportunities during scoping or as a part of the comparison of energy 
use between alternatives under 40 CFR 1502.16(e).
ii. Discretionary vs. Mandatory Mitigation
    Although the 2010 draft guidance proposes that mitigation and 
reasonable alternatives be considered to reduce action-related 
greenhouse gas emissions, some commenters believe that CEQ should 
explicitly acknowledge that adoption of mitigation measures considered 
under NEPA are not per se required, and should not be required under 
the NEPA statute. Some of these commenters argue that it may not even 
be possible to mitigate GHGs for projects. One commenter interpreted 
the language in the guidance to mean that agencies should consider, but 
are not required to implement, mitigation measures. This commenter 
suggests that it may be appropriate for CEQ to encourage the 
implementation of measures to mitigate greenhouse gas impacts resulting 
from a project when cost-effective and fitting to the nature of the 
project.
    Conversely, other commenters advocate mandatory consideration of 
mitigation, reasoning that a NEPA process requirement that enforces a 
mandatory consideration of greenhouse gas emissions would establish an 
enforceable obligation on agencies to properly evaluate methods to 
mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. One commenter requests that CEQ 
clarify that agencies should or must consider the direct effects of 
greenhouse gas emissions by ``(1) quantify[ing] cumulative emissions . 
. . (2) discuss[ing] measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . . 
and (3) qualitatively discuss[ing] the link between such greenhouse gas 
emissions and climate change (rather than stating that ``it would be 
appropriate'' to engage in such analysis).'' Overall, there was 
confusion among the many commenters on discretionary versus mandatory 
mitigation, and commenters urged CEQ to clarify this subject in the 
final guidance.
iii. Carbon Offsets
    Commenters interpreted the 2010 draft guidance to infer, but not 
explicitly identify, carbon offsets as a potential option available to 
Federal agencies to mitigate GHG emissions. Purchasing and subsequently 
retiring carbon offsets from third-party verified projects is an 
established method for mitigating GHG emissions, commenters reason. 
They envision that carbon offset programs could be integrated into 
mitigation plans developed through the NEPA process to compensate for 
GHG emissions associated with Federal agency actions. Including 
specific reference to carbon offsets in the language of the memorandum, 
according to these commenters, would help to provide clarification to 
agencies evaluating possible mitigation alternatives as part of their 
NEPA analysis requirements.
    Other commenters took a more cautious approach to mitigation 
through carbon offsets. If carbon offsets are allowed for GHG emissions 
mitigation under NEPA, commenters state that CEQ should provide 
additional guidance on the criteria they must meet in order to uphold 
standards for quality. Strict monitoring and public reporting 
requirements required by carbon offset projects would ensure that 
Federal greenhouse gas mitigation activities are readily quantifiable 
and transparent to the public. Although the comments express the 
possibility that offsets could be external to a Federal agency project, 
the location of the offset would be important. One comment suggests 
that the NEPA process require that carbon offsets be achieved only in 
local markets. For offsets on tribal lands, the offset project should 
support new or established tribal programs. Another comment recommends 
against using offsets in place of reductions at the source as a major 
component of public policy. Similarly, regarding offsite mitigation 
generally, another commenter requested CEQ to encourage agencies to 
prioritize onsite mitigation measures that avoid or minimize emissions, 
while allowing agencies to use offsite measures where onsite mitigation 
is not available.
iv. Other
    Commenters directed CEQ to review the approaches taken by proactive 
states and nations on mitigation and alternatives before completing the 
final guidance. Another commenter

[[Page 77820]]

expressed concerns for funding availability for mitigation, stating 
that beyond operational and maintenance improvements, current and 
foreseeable funding levels may curtail greenhouse gas mitigation 
options, as well as the ability to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas 
emissions to target levels. Some commenters believe the guidance should 
recognize that the effectiveness of many mitigation measures is still 
difficult to quantify, and that a qualitative discussion would be 
appropriate where analytical tools are not yet sufficient to estimate 
reliably greenhouse gas reductions from mitigation measures.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance advises agencies to consider mitigation 
measures and reasonable alternatives that reduce GHG emissions. By 
statutes, Executive Orders, and agency policies, the Federal Government 
is committed to the goals of energy conservation, reducing energy use, 
eliminating or reducing GHG emissions, and promoting the deployment of 
renewable energy technologies that are cleaner and more efficient. 
Agencies whose actions implicate these goals should consider useful and 
relevant GHG emissions information when deciding among alternatives. 
Reasonable alternatives that may be considered for their ability to 
reduce or mitigate GHG emissions include enhanced energy efficiency, 
lower GHG-emitting technology, increasing the use of renewable energy, 
planning for carbon capture and carbon sequestration, sustainable land 
management practices, and capturing or beneficially using fugitive 
methane emissions. In cases where mitigation measures are designed to 
address the effect of climate change, the agency's final decision 
should identify those mitigation measures and the agency should 
consider adopting an appropriate mitigation monitoring program.
b. Alternatives
    Many commenters stated that CEQ should provide better guidance on 
how Federal agencies must, relative to climate change, ``[r]igorously 
explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives'' and 
specifically ``[i]nclude the alternative of no action.'' \35\ This duty 
is critical, according to commenters; operating in concert with NEPA's 
mandate to address environmental impacts, an agency's fidelity to 
alternatives analysis allows agencies to ``sharply define the issues 
and provide a clear basis for choice among options by the decisionmaker 
and the public.'' \36\ The commenters stated that CEQ should remind 
Federal agencies that they are obligated under NEPA to identify, 
disclose, and analyze the effects of alternatives on climate change, 
and identify alternatives/mitigation that would lessen or eliminate 
those effects.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \35\ See 40 CFR 1502.14(a), (d).
    \36\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some commenters also request that CEQ clarify that the alternatives 
identified are merely suggestions for alternatives to GHG-emitting 
actions that may be considered if they are reasonable in light of the 
purpose of the action and other technical and economic factors. 
Furthermore, CEQ should acknowledge that Federal agencies may evaluate 
these suggested alternatives as part of a ``no action'' alternative. 
CEQ should also clarify, according to these commenters, that the 
reasonably foreseeable future condition of the affected environment 
(discussed on the third paragraph of page 7) should be discussed in the 
no action alternative. One commenter opined that the language in the 
third paragraph of page 9 (``all possible approaches to a particular 
project which would alter the environmental impact and the cost-benefit 
balance'') is too strong, and that the alternatives considered do not 
have to be exhaustive. The commenter wrote that NEPA requires only the 
consideration of reasonable alternatives, not all alternatives. A 
commenter raised the concern that if an action creates beneficial 
effects such that a quantifiable benefit toward reducing GHGs is 
produced, this could conceivably make the no action alternative 
(continuing not to offset carbon-based generation) have a significant 
negative comparative effect.
    Since NEPA should help Federal agencies understand options that no 
one officer or official is likely to know offhand, some commenters 
recommended that a list or category of alternative measures, mitigation 
measures, or even legal duties and other reasons for choosing the no 
action alternative should be developed under CEQ's convening authority 
for this guidance and its agency-specific progeny. Commenters urge that 
with every decision, Federal agencies should address: (1) Whether 
direct GHG emissions can be reduced; (2) whether indirect or cumulative 
greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced via, e.g., improved efficiency 
of operations; (3) whether an agency can take action which protects and 
restores the resiliency of the environment to provide a means of best 
withstanding climate change impacts; and (4) whether the reality of 
climate change warrants a very different management focus for the 
agency, or, at the least, warrants a decision not to take a particular 
action. Before recommending an alternative, the Federal action agency 
should, according to these commenters, clearly identify the likely 
effects its decision will have on net production of GHG emissions. 
Another commenter encourages CEQ to require agencies to explain the 
reasons for rejecting alternatives that would produce fewer GHG 
emissions. One commenter recommended that CEQ should enumerate the 
indicators an agency should use when the agency determines it will 
quantify GHG emissions. Specifically, if the agency identifies 
alternatives with significantly lower GHG emission potential, including 
the ``no action'' alternative, then all alternatives should be an 
indicator that the agency and the public may benefit from a 
quantification of GHG emissions. Some argue that CEQ should avoid any 
policy that would allow qualitative consideration of GHG emissions 
where there are more than de minimis differences in GHG emissions 
between alternatives.
    Other commenters propose that agencies should be directed to look 
at the relative percentage of improvements an alternative could produce 
compared to the baseline carbon performance. To accurately identify 
alternatives that will best mitigate climate change effects, agencies 
should set an accurate baseline that will allow for a fact-based 
comparison of alternatives' effects and the value of mitigation. CEQ 
guidance should then, according to these commenters, specifically 
require that the ``no action'' alternative analysis project and 
evaluate climate change impacts on resources over time and evaluate the 
effects of the proposed action, as well as the efficacy of mitigation 
measures, against that changing baseline. A commenter notes that the 
relative percentage of greenhouse gas emissions reductions an 
alternative could produce could be compared to the baseline carbon 
performance regardless of absolute magnitude of emissions.
    Response to Comments:
    Consideration of a range of reasonable alternatives is fundamental 
to the NEPA process, and is meant to ensure that agencies have the 
opportunity to make the best informed, and potentially most beneficial, 
decision. NEPA currently provides agencies with the ability to consider 
appropriate project alternatives and their impacts, including the 
consideration of GHG emissions and climate change impacts. The revised

[[Page 77821]]

draft guidance preserves agency discretion in scoping, analyzing, and 
considering alternatives in NEPA review and the tradeoff considerations 
involved, including changes in emissions, based on the differing 
effects of those alternatives. If a comparison of alternatives based on 
GHG emissions, and any potential mitigation measures to reduce 
emissions, would be useful to advance a reasoned choice among 
alternatives and mitigations, then an agency should compare the levels 
of GHG emissions caused by each alternative--including the no-action 
alternative--and mitigations to provide information to the public and 
decisionmaker.
c. Miscellaneous Comments
i. The Definition of a Greenhouse Gas
    Commenters requested that the definition of GHGs be altered. 
Multiple commenters requested that an all-encompassing definition of 
climate forcing agents or precursor emissions be added to the guidance, 
including but not limited to black carbon, not just the six GHGs 
defined in Executive Order 13514. Some commenters recommended that the 
GHG definition should be expanded such that Federal agencies evaluate 
all GHGs and precursor emissions associated with the wide range of 
activities undertaken or authorized by the Federal government, 
including but not limited to construction, electricity use, fossil fuel 
use, downstream combustion of fossil fuels extracted or refined by the 
project, water consumption, water pollution, waste disposal, 
transportation, the manufacture of building materials, land conversion, 
agriculture, logging and other forestry practices, and livestock 
grazing. Another commenter stated that the CEQ guidance should make 
clear that at least the six GHGs are covered by NEPA, but to leave open 
the possibility that additional GHGs may need to be addressed in the 
future, depending on the action and current state of scientific 
knowledge. One commenter advised that the CEQ guidance should be 
revised to recognize that the six GHGs vary in importance depending on 
the project type and agency activity and to clarify that not all six of 
the GHGs need to be analyzed for all projects.
    Response to Comments:
    This revised draft guidance includes a definition of GHGs in 
accordance with Section 19(i) of Executive Order 13514 (i.e., carbon 
dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, 
and sulfur hexafluoride). The guidance does not preclude consideration 
of additional gases or particulates, or the reduction of particular 
emissions such as methane, if that information would be useful to the 
decisionmaker and the public in considering and advancing a reasoned 
choice among alternatives and mitigations.
ii. Environmental Justice/Vulnerable Communities & Ecosystems
    Some commenters emphasized that specific environmental justice 
guidance in the context of climate change is warranted. These 
commenters believe that the agency consideration of climate change 
impacts on vulnerable communities should be required, rather than 
advisory. Other commenters assert that Federal agencies responsible for 
making resource decisions on or near tribal lands should have explicit 
guidance regarding how to weigh the impacts of their decisions on 
indigenous cultural and spiritual ``resources'' in the context of an 
environment changing due to climate change. Another commenter reminded 
CEQ of its responsibilities to consult with Native American tribes, and 
responsibilities under Executive Order 12898, which established ``the 
Environmental Justice Doctrine.'' One commenter claims that 
``vulnerability'' is a vaguely defined term and explanations of the 
statutory authorities that justify regulations remain unexplained; 
thereby making consideration of impacts on so-called vulnerable species 
and ecosystems suspect.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance advises agencies to consider the 
particular impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities where 
this may affect the design of the action or the selection among 
alternatives and mitigations. Tribal and Alaska Native communities that 
maintain their close relationship with the cycles of nature have 
observed the changes that are already underway, including the melting 
of permafrost in Alaska, disappearance of important species of trees, 
shifting migration patterns of elk and fish, and the drying of lakes 
and rivers. These climate impacts affect the survival of these groups 
and their members in terms of both their livelihood and their culture. 
Consequently, agencies should be cognizant of the evolving policies and 
information relevant to such changes when those changes are important 
to the alternatives and mitigation determinations at hand.
iii. Transportation Concerns
    Transportation agency commenters expressed the possible 
difficulties that might occur in the application of the guidance. 
Quantifying cumulative emissions over the life of alternatives for 
highway projects may prove difficult for projects that are based on a 
20-year traffic analysis, according to commenters. Some commenters 
stated that because the majority of transportation projects do not 
increase vehicle miles traveled, they do not generate increased GHG 
emissions. Conversely, other commenters strongly contend that projects 
with major sources of indirect emissions--most notably electricity 
consumption and vehicle miles traveled--should be included in the 
guidance. Analyzing most individual transportation projects will thus 
result in the expenditure of scarce transportation funds with no 
benefit realized, according to commenters. Additionally, a commenter 
added that it is likely that the bulk of text in a NEPA document would 
actually be explaining the assumptions and uncertainties involved in 
the analysis, rather than the analysis itself. Therefore, the commenter 
questioned whether results would provide meaningful information that is 
reliable enough to inform a decision between alternatives for a 
specific project. Another comment stated that because of large 
categorically excluded actions, simply having to determine whether the 
projects exceed the threshold in the guidance may significantly delay 
project delivery while offering little program benefit, and would be 
inconsistent with the approach to categorical exclusions.
    One transportation commenter reported that many transportation 
agencies currently estimate CO2, methane (CH4), 
and nitrous oxide (N2O), and that forcing these agencies to 
estimate the additional three GHGs would pose a burden with little 
additional value. Transportation project analysts, according to these 
comments, will be required to adapt or develop methods to apply the 
guidance. This commenter also noted that none of the methods of 
assessing GHG emissions described in the 2010 draft guidance appear to 
be applicable to transportation projects. Multiple transportation 
commenters recommend that, as an alternative, CEQ provide additional 
guidance for transportation sources in the final guidance. One comment 
also requested additional instruction and collaboration with Federal 
agencies on particular projects and on agency implementation 
procedures.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance states that agencies must consider 
direct, indirect, and cumulative effects when analyzing major Federal 
actions, regardless of the sector--such as transportation--

[[Page 77822]]

proposing the action under consideration. Agencies addressing 
transportation-related actions should, in accordance with the proposed 
guidance, develop the scope of a particular NEPA analysis using NEPA's 
``rule of reason'' which allows the analysis to be tailored to the 
specific proposal to take into account any particular characteristics 
of the sector involved, and ensures that the level of effort expended 
in analyzing GHG emissions or climate change effects is reasonably 
proportionate to the importance of climate change related 
considerations to the agency action under evaluation. Agencies also 
have the ability to draw from their experience and expertise to 
determine which planning level--the broad programmatic level or the 
project- or site-specific level--is better suited for addressing GHG 
emissions and climate change impacts. Furthermore, agencies have the 
discretion to perform quantitative or qualitative analyses, whichever 
is more appropriate, as long as they document the rationale behind 
choosing one form of analysis over the other.
iv. Carbon Sinks
    Some commenters indicated that guidance for comprehensive 
consideration of climate change impacts under NEPA should include an 
analysis of both GHG emissions and any changes to the environmental 
capacity to mitigate additional emissions (e.g., estimated inventory of 
losses and gains to local carbon sequestration capacity), as this would 
likely inform the analysis of the cumulative impacts of a proposed 
action and its alternatives. Commenters suggested that CEQ direct 
agencies to analyze and disclose any emissions, degradation, or 
reduction of sequestration or carbon sinks regardless of the level of 
emissions or loss of sequestration. Commenters stated that agencies 
must document the steps they plan to take to avoid, minimize or 
mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or damage to carbon sinks. Where the 
2010 draft guidance discusses Federal policies relevant to determining 
when to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions (pages 3-4), and the factors 
that agencies should consider as part of their greenhouse gas 
evaluation (pages 4-6), these commenters propose that the project 
agency should also be expected to consider local, regional, and 
statewide plans to control greenhouse gas emissions and related 
planning documents that describe or evaluate sources and carbon sinks 
that could contribute to the cumulative effect of the project 
(consistent with CEQ's existing regulations for evaluating the 
environmental consequences of an agency's action in light of existing 
land use plans, policies, and controls, in accordance with 40 CFR 
1502.16(c)).
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance reiterates that agencies should consider 
the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of GHG emissions 
potentially resulting from their proposed actions, as is required for 
any other environmental stressor under NEPA. It also states that 
agencies should take into account the expected effects of GHG emissions 
resulting from all phases and components over the life of a project, 
including short- and long-term adverse and beneficial effects. The 
guidance specifically recognizes that land and resource management 
actions are unique since they can produce carbon emissions and 
contribute to carbon sequestration. Agencies should thus analyze the 
net GHG emissions and climate change effects in light of the quantity 
of emissions and carbon sequestration potential, and any other factors 
particular to a proposed land and resource management action that would 
inform the decision-making process and aid in distinguishing between 
reasonable alternatives and potential mitigation measures. Agencies 
have the discretion to determine the type (quantitative or qualitative) 
and level (broad programmatic or project- or site-specific) of analysis 
that is more appropriate, and the analysis should be proportional to 
the amount of GHG emissions projected. In addition, agencies are 
encouraged to frame their analyses of the effects of GHG emissions and 
climate change within the context of agency, state, and local emissions 
reduction goals if it provides useful information to the decisionmaker 
and the public. Lastly, agencies should incorporate by reference any 
management plans, inventories, assessments, and research related to 
potential changes in carbon stocks.
v. Energy
    A commenter requests that CEQ clarify which kinds of Federal 
projects ``implicate'' the goals of energy conservation, reducing 
energy use, eliminating or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and 
promoting renewable energy technology. CEQ should provide, according to 
a commenter, guidance regarding analysis of the efficiency and 
propriety of the different types of energy projects by conducting 
evaluations of Energy Return on Energy Invested (``EROEI''). Another 
commenter offered that while in many cases the adoption of low 
emissions technologies can augment the power consumption needs and 
partially reduce the greenhouse gas emissions component, the need for 
constant reliable large base load energy supply may make total reliance 
on low emitting technologies infeasible at the present time. 
Additionally, another commenter suggested that while an agency may 
spend time determining the emissions from a gas or oil development 
project on Federal lands, and may even decide against continued 
authorization of the project if the projected impact on climate change 
is deemed too great, in the absence of that domestic development the 
energy will simply be replaced by energy from another part of the 
country or overseas, resulting in the same net effect. Ultimately, the 
net effect of restricting domestic oil and gas extraction and 
production may actually be increased global greenhouse gases.
    Comments suggest that Federal agencies should engage their long-
range energy and resource management programs with four goals in mind, 
consistent with NEPA's purpose and goals: (1) Reducing if not 
eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, taking advantage of opportunities 
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sources and use greenhouse gas 
emissions sinks; (2) assisting our transition from dirty fossil fuels 
to the responsible and efficient use of renewable energy; (3) 
addressing the efficiency and full life-cycle impacts of energy-related 
projects by, for example, evaluating and improving upon EROEI; and (4) 
protecting and restoring the resiliency of our communities and 
environment to best withstand climate change impacts.
    Several commenters requested that CEQ should establish exemptions 
or ``pre-clear'' certain actions from any disclosure threshold, in an 
effort to advance energy goals. Major Federal actions that stem from 
exceptional Federal assistance (e.g., stimulus funding) and major 
Federal actions that sequester greenhouse gas emissions and/or improve 
energy efficiency and/or meet Federal or state performance criteria 
were proposed for exemption. A commenter asks CEQ to distinguish 
between fossil-fuel based and other anthropogenic emissions of 
CO2 versus renewable or biogenic emissions of 
CO2. Another commenter requests CEQ to advise lead agencies 
that biogenic CO2 emissions exert no net adverse impact on 
the environment. Several commenters urge CEQ to discuss hydropower as a 
positive force in offsetting carbon emissions and a major component of 
carbon avoidance in producing electricity.
    Response to Comments:
    The revised draft guidance notes that NEPA requires Federal 
agencies to recognize the global character of environmental problems 
and lend

[[Page 77823]]

support to initiatives, resolutions, and programs designed to address 
those problems. In addition, by statutes, Executive Orders, and agency 
policies, the Federal government is committed to the goals of energy 
conservation, reducing energy use, eliminating or reducing GHG 
emissions, and promoting the deployment of renewable energy 
technologies that are cleaner and more efficient. Where a proposal for 
Federal agency action implicates such goals, information on GHG 
emissions (qualitative or quantitative) that is useful and relevant to 
the decision should be used when deciding among alternatives and 
mitigations. The agency's ``responsibility is not simply to sit back, 
like an umpire, and resolve adversary contentions . . . Rather, it must 
itself take the initiative of considering environmental values at every 
distinctive and comprehensive stage of the process beyond the staff's 
evaluation and recommendation.'' \37\ Regarding the establishment of a 
de minimis threshold, the revised draft guidance sets forth a reference 
point of 25,000 metric tons CO2-equivalent emissions on an 
annual basis below which a quantitative analysis of GHG emissions is 
not warranted unless quantification below that reference point is 
easily accomplished taking into account the availability of 
quantification tools and appropriate input data. CEQ strongly 
encourages agencies to use their experience and expertise to determine 
when a more detailed analysis of GHG emissions will assist with 
analyzing the environmental impacts or comparing among alternatives and 
mitigations. When an agency determines that a quantitative analysis is 
not appropriate, an agency should complete a qualitative analysis and 
explain its basis for doing so. Finally, the revised draft guidance 
specifically provides special considerations for biogenic sources of 
GHG emissions from land management actions and instructs agencies on 
how to account for GHG emissions, carbon sequestration potential, and 
the change in carbon stocks that are relevant to decision-making in 
light of the actions proposed and the timeframes under consideration. 
It also recognizes that such analyses may be more appropriately 
conducted on a broad programmatic or landscape-scale level that could 
be tiered to when performing project-specific analyses.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \37\ Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Comm., Inc. v. US Atomic Energy 
Comm'n, 449 F.2d 1109, 1119 (D.C. Cir. 1971).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Revised Draft Guidance

    CEQ issues the following Revised Draft Guidance for Federal 
Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions 
and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews. The guidance is 
provided here and is available on the CEQ Web site at 
www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa.

(Authority: 42 U.S.C. 4332, 4342, 4344 and 40 CFR parts 1500, 1501, 
1502, 1503, 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508)

    Dated: December 18, 2014.
Brenda Mallory,
General Counsel, Council on Environmental Quality.

The Guidance

I. Introduction

    The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issues this guidance to 
provide Federal agencies direction on when and how to consider the 
effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions \1\ and climate change in 
their evaluation of all proposed Federal actions \2\ in accordance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the CEQ Regulations 
Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (CEQ Regulations).\3\ 
The guidance will facilitate compliance with existing legal 
requirements under NEPA, thereby improving the efficiency and 
consistency of reviews of proposed Federal actions for agencies, 
decisionmakers, project proponents, and the interested public.\4\ This 
guidance is designed to encourage consistency in the approach Federal 
agencies employ when assessing their proposed actions, while also 
recognizing and accommodating a particular agency's unique 
circumstances.
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    \1\ For purposes of this guidance, CEQ defines GHGs in 
accordance with Section 19(i) of Executive Order 13514 (carbon 
dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, 
perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride). Also for purposes of 
this guidance, ``emissions'' includes release of stored GHGs as a 
result of destruction of natural GHG sinks such as forests and 
coastal wetlands, as well as future sequestration capability. The 
common unit of measurement for GHGs is metric tons of CO2 
equivalent (mt CO2-e). ``Tons'' in this guidance 
generally refers to mt CO2-e.
    \2\ The CEQ 2010 draft guidance had carved out the question of 
how land and resource management actions should be considered in 
NEPA reviews. That distinction is no longer retained.
    \3\ 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; 40 CFR parts 1500-1508.
    \4\ This guidance is not a rule or regulation, and the 
recommendations it contains may not apply to a particular situation 
based upon the individual facts and circumstances. This guidance 
does not change or substitute for any law, regulation, or other 
legally binding requirement, and is not legally enforceable. The use 
of non-mandatory language such as ``guidance,'' ``recommend,'' 
``may,'' ``should,'' and ``can,'' is intended to describe CEQ 
policies and recommendations. The use of mandatory terminology such 
as ``must'' and ``required'' is intended to describe controlling 
requirements under the terms of NEPA and the CEQ regulations, but 
this document does not establish legally binding requirements in and 
of itself.
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    Overall, this guidance is designed to provide for better and more 
informed Federal decisions regarding GHG emissions and effects of 
climate change consistent with existing NEPA principles. Climate change 
is a particularly complex challenge given its global nature and 
inherent interrelationships among its sources, causation, mechanisms of 
action, and impacts; however, analyzing the proposed action's climate 
impacts and the effects of climate change relevant to the proposed 
action's environmental outcomes can provide useful information to 
decisionmakers and the public and should be very similar to considering 
the impacts of other environmental stressors under NEPA. Climate change 
is a fundamental environmental issue, and the relation of Federal 
actions to it falls squarely within NEPA's focus.\5\ Focused and 
effective consideration of climate change in NEPA reviews \6\ will 
allow agencies to improve the quality of their decisions. Environmental 
outcomes will be improved by identifying important interactions between 
a changing climate and the environmental impacts from a proposed 
action, and can contribute to safeguarding Federal infrastructure 
against the effects of extreme weather events and other climate related 
impacts.
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    \5\ NEPA recognizes ``the profound impact of man's activity on 
the interrelations of all components of the natural environment.'' 
(42 U.S.C. 4331). It was enacted to, inter alia, ``promote efforts 
which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and 
biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man.'' (42 U.S.C. 
4321).
    \6\ The term ``NEPA review'' is used to include analysis, 
process, and documentation. While this document focuses on NEPA 
reviews, agencies are encouraged to analyze greenhouse gas emissions 
early in the planning and development of proposed projects.
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    Agencies meet their NEPA responsibilities using a Categorical 
Exclusion (CE), Environmental Assessment (EA), or Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS). This guidance will help Federal agencies ensure their 
analyses of GHG emissions and climate change in an EA or an EIS are 
useful by focusing on assessing those proposed actions that involve 
emissions, or that have a long lifespan such that a changing climate 
may alter the environmental consequences associated with the proposed 
action. CEQ expects that agencies will continue to consider potential 
GHG emissions and climate impacts when applying an existing CE

[[Page 77824]]

or when establishing a new CE.\7\ The analysis in an EA or EIS should 
be proportionate to the effects of the proposed action. More consistent 
and appropriately proportioned NEPA reviews can help agencies minimize 
controversy, thereby avoiding potential project delays. This guidance 
should also reduce the risk of litigation driven by uncertainty in the 
assessment process as it will provide a clearer expectation of what 
agencies should consider and disclose.
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    \7\ CEQ Memorandum to Heads of Federal Agencies, Establishing, 
Applying, and Revising Categorical Exclusions under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, November 23, 2010, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/ceq_regulations/NEPA_CE_Guidance_Nov232010.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Agencies should consider the following when addressing climate 
change:
    (1) The potential effects of a proposed action on climate change as 
indicated by its GHG emissions; and
    (2) the implications of climate change for the environmental 
effects of a proposed action.
    Agencies continue to have substantial discretion in how they tailor 
their NEPA processes to accommodate the concerns raised in this 
guidance, consistent with the CEQ Regulations and their respective 
implementing regulations and policies, so long as they provide the 
public and decisionmakers with explanations of the bases for their 
determinations. This approach is on par with the consideration of any 
other environmental effects and this guidance is designed to be 
implemented without requiring agencies to develop new NEPA implementing 
procedures. CEQ recommends that when agencies conduct their usual 
review of their NEPA implementing policies and procedures, they then 
make any updates they deem necessary or appropriate to facilitate their 
consideration of GHG emissions and climate change.
    This guidance also reviews the application of other routine and 
fundamental NEPA principles and practices to the analysis of GHG 
emissions and climate change. This guidance:
     Discusses direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts 
analysis of a proposed action's reasonably foreseeable emissions and 
effects;
     Highlights the consideration of reasonable alternatives 
and points to the need to consider the short-term and long-term effects 
and benefits in the alternatives analysis and mitigation to lower 
emissions;
     Recommends that agencies use a reference point to 
determine when GHG emissions warrant a quantitative analysis taking 
into account available GHG quantification tools and data that are 
appropriate for proposed agency actions;
     Recommends that an agency select the appropriate level of 
action for NEPA review at which to assess the effects of GHG emissions 
and climate change, either at a broad programmatic or landscape-scale 
level or at a project- or site-specific level, and that the agency set 
forth a reasoned explanation for its approach;
     Counsels agencies to use the information developed during 
the NEPA review to consider alternatives that are more resilient to the 
effects of a changing climate; and
     Advises agencies to use existing information and tools 
when assessing future proposed actions, and provides examples of some 
existing sources of scientific information.
    Agencies should apply this guidance to the NEPA review of new 
proposed agency actions moving forward and, to the extent practicable, 
to build its concepts into on-going reviews.

II. Background

A. NEPA Fundamentals

    NEPA is designed to promote disclosure and consideration of 
potential environmental effects on the human environment \8\ resulting 
from proposed actions, and to provide decisionmakers with alternatives 
to mitigate these effects. NEPA ensures that agencies take account of 
environmental effects as an integral part of the agency's own decision-
making process before decisions are made. It informs decisionmakers by 
ensuring agencies consider environmental consequences as they decide 
whether to proceed with a proposed action and, if so, how to take 
appropriate steps to eliminate or mitigate adverse effects. NEPA also 
informs the public, promoting transparency of and accountability for 
consideration of significant environmental effects. A better decision, 
rather than better--or even excellent--paperwork is the goal of such 
analysis.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ 40 CFR 1508.14 (``Human environment'' shall be interpreted 
comprehensively to include the natural and physical environment and 
the relationship of people with that environment).
    \9\ 40 CFR 1500.1(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Inherent in NEPA and the CEQ Regulations is a rule of reason which 
ensures that agencies are afforded the discretion, based on their 
expertise and experience, to determine whether and to what extent to 
prepare an analysis based on the availability of information, the 
usefulness of that information to the decision-making process and the 
public, and the extent of the anticipated environmental 
consequences.\10\ It is essential, however, that Federal agencies not 
rely on boilerplate text to avoid meaningful analysis, including 
consideration of alternatives or mitigation.\11\
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    \10\ See e.g., Idaho Conservation League v. Mumma, 956 F.2d 
1508, 1519 (9th Cir. 1992).
    \11\ 40 CFR 1500.2, 1502.2. For example, providing a paragraph 
that simply asserts, without qualitative or quantitative assessment, 
that the emissions from a particular proposed action represent only 
a small fraction of local, national, or international emissions or 
are otherwise immaterial is not helpful to the decisionmaker or 
public.
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B. Climate Change

    The science of climate change is evolving, and is briefly 
summarized here to illustrate the sources of scientific information 
that are presently available for consideration. CEQ's first Annual 
Report in 1970 discussed climate change, concluding that ``[m]an may be 
changing his weather.'' \12\ At that time, the mean level of 
atmospheric carbon dioxide had been elevated to 325 parts per million 
(ppm). Since 1970, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has 
increased at a rate of about 1.6 ppm per year (1970-2012) to 
approximately 395 ppm in 2014 (current globally averaged value).\13\
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    \12\ Environmental Quality: The First Annual Report at 93.
    \13\ See U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration Earth Systems Research Laboratory, 
available at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It is now well established that rising global atmospheric GHG 
emission concentrations are significantly affecting the Earth's 
climate. These conclusions are built upon a scientific record that has 
been created with substantial contributions from the United States 
Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), formerly the Climate Change 
Science Program, which informs our response to climate and global 
change through coordinated Federal programs of research, education, 
communication, and decision support.\14\ Studies have projected the 
effects of increasing GHGs on water availability, ocean acidity, sea-

[[Page 77825]]

level rise, ecosystems, energy production, agriculture and food 
security, and human health.\15\
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    \14\ Public Law 101-606. For additional information on the 
Global Change Research Program, go to http://www.globalchange.gov. 
USGCRP coordinates and integrates the activities of 13 Federal 
agencies that conduct research on changes in the global environment 
and their implications for society. USGCRP began as a Presidential 
initiative in 1989 and was codified in the Global Change Research 
Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-606). USGCRP-participating agencies are the 
Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior, 
Health and Human Services, State, and Transportation; the U.S. 
Agency for International Development, the Environmental Protection 
Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the 
National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution.
    \15\ U.S. Global Change Research Program, Climate Change Impacts 
in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment (Jerry 
M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe eds.) (2014) 
[hereinafter Third National Climate Assessment], available at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov; Fifth Assessment Report, 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014, available at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/index.shtml; see also www.globalchange.gov.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Based primarily on the scientific assessments of the USGCRP and the 
National Research Council, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
has issued a finding that the changes in our climate caused by 
increased concentrations of atmospheric GHG emissions endanger public 
health and welfare.\16\ Adverse health effects and other impacts caused 
by elevated atmospheric concentrations of GHGs occur via climate 
change.\17\ Broadly stated, the effects of climate change observed to 
date and projected to occur in the future include more frequent and 
intense heat waves, more severe wildfires, degraded air quality, more 
heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea-level 
rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to 
agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems.\18\
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    \16\ Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for 
Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, 74 FR 
66496 (Dec. 15, 2009). See also Standards of Performance for 
Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Stationary Sources: Electric 
Utility Generating Units, 79 FR 1429-1519 (Jan. 8, 2014).
    \17\ 74 FR 66497-98 (For example, ``[t]he evidence concerning 
how human-induced climate change may alter extreme weather events 
also clearly supports a finding of endangerment, given the serious 
adverse impacts that can result from such events and the increase in 
risk, even if small, of the occurrence and intensity of events such 
as hurricanes and floods. Additionally, public health is expected to 
be adversely affected by an increase in the severity of coastal 
storm events due to rising sea levels.'').
    \18\ See www.globalchange.gov/climate-change/impacts-society.
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III. Considering the Effects of Ghg Emissions and Climate Change

    This guidance is applicable to all Federal proposed actions, 
including individual Federal site-specific actions, Federal grants for 
or funding of small-scale or broad-scale activities, Federal rulemaking 
actions, and Federal land and resource management decisions.\19\ 
Federal agencies, to remain consistent with NEPA, should consider the 
extent to which a proposed action and its reasonable alternatives 
contribute to climate change through GHG emissions and take into 
account the ways in which a changing climate over the life of the 
proposed project may alter the overall environmental implications of 
such actions.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ 40 CFR 1508.18 (Federal actions that require a NEPA 
evaluation include policies, plans, programs, and specific projects. 
They do not include bringing judicial or administrative civil or 
criminal enforcement actions. They also do not include actions over 
which the agency has no discretion or control such as ministerial 
actions carrying out the direction of Congress or funding assistance 
solely in the form of general revenue sharing with no Federal agency 
control over the subsequent use of the funds.).
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A. Considering the Impacts of the Proposed Action

    In light of the difficulties in attributing specific climate 
impacts to individual projects, CEQ recommends agencies use the 
projected GHG emissions and also, when appropriate, potential changes 
in carbon sequestration and storage, as the proxy for assessing a 
proposed action's potential climate change impacts.\20\ This approach 
allows an agency to present the environmental impacts of the proposed 
action in clear terms and with sufficient information to make a 
reasoned choice between the no-action and proposed alternatives and 
mitigations, and ensure the professional and scientific integrity of 
the discussion and analysis.\21\
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    \20\ 40 CFR 1502.16, 1508.9 (providing that environmental impact 
statements and environmental assessments must succinctly describe 
the environmental impacts on the area(s) to be affected or created 
by the alternatives under consideration). This guidance only 
addresses analyzing the impacts of GHG emissions and climate change 
under NEPA.
    \21\ 40 CFR 1500.1, 1502.24 (requiring agencies to use high 
quality information and ensure the professional and scientific 
integrity of the discussions and analyses in environmental impact 
statements).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    CEQ recognizes that many agency NEPA analyses to date have 
concluded that GHG emissions from an individual agency action will have 
small, if any, potential climate change effects. Government action 
occurs incrementally, program-by-program and step-by-step, and climate 
impacts are not attributable to any single action, but are exacerbated 
by a series of smaller decisions, including decisions made by the 
government.\22\ Therefore, the statement that emissions from a 
government action or approval represent only a small fraction of global 
emissions is more a statement about the nature of the climate change 
challenge, and is not an appropriate basis for deciding whether to 
consider climate impacts under NEPA. Moreover, these comparisons are 
not an appropriate method for characterizing the potential impacts 
associated with a proposed action and its alternatives and mitigations. 
This approach does not reveal anything beyond the nature of the climate 
change challenge itself: The fact that diverse individual sources of 
emissions each make relatively small additions to global atmospheric 
GHG concentrations that collectively have huge impact.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ See Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 523-25, (2007) 
(``Agencies, like legislatures, do not generally resolve massive 
problems in one fell regulatory swoop. They instead whittle away at 
them over time, refining their preferred approach as circumstances 
change and as they develop a more nuanced understanding of how best 
to proceed.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addressing GHG emissions, agencies should be guided by the 
principle that the extent of the analysis should be commensurate with 
the quantity of projected GHG emissions. This concept of 
proportionality is grounded in the fundamental purpose of NEPA to 
concentrate on matters that are truly important to making a decision on 
the proposed action.\23\ When an agency determines that evaluating the 
effects of GHG emissions from a proposed Federal action would not be 
useful to the decision-making process and the public to distinguish 
between the no-action and proposed alternatives and mitigations, the 
agency should document the rationale for that determination.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ 40 CFR 1500.1(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Agencies are required to consider direct, indirect, and cumulative 
effects when analyzing any proposed Federal actions and projecting 
their environmental consequences.\24\ When assessing the potential 
significance of the climate change impacts of their proposed actions, 
agencies should consider both context and intensity, as they do for all 
other impacts.\25\
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    \24\ 40 CFR 1508.7 and 8 (stating that: (1) NEPA analyses shall 
consider direct and indirect effects and cumulative impacts; (2) 
indirect effects include reasonably foreseeable future actions such 
as induced growth and its effects on air and water and other natural 
systems; and (3) cumulative impacts consider the incremental 
addition to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future 
actions. This NEPA requirement applies to all proposed actions and 
calls for the disclosure of the full range of effects that flow from 
the action, regardless of the ability to control or regulate those 
effects.). See also, 52 FR 22517 (Jun. 12, 1987) (``The scope of 
analysis issue addresses the extent to which the proposed action is 
identified as a federal action for purposes of compliance with NEPA. 
. . . Once the scope of analysis is determined, the agency must then 
assess the direct, indirect and cumulative effects of the proposed 
federal action.'').
    \25\ 40 CFR 1508.27(a), 1508.27(b) (context is the situation in 
which something happens, and which gives it meaning; intensity is 
the severity of impact).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When assessing direct and indirect climate change effects, agencies 
should take account of the proposed action--including ``connected'' 
actions \26\--

[[Page 77826]]

subject to reasonable limits based on feasibility and practicality. In 
addition, emissions from activities that have a reasonably close causal 
relationship to the Federal action, such as those that may occur as a 
predicate for the agency action (often referred to as upstream 
emissions) and as a consequence of the agency action (often referred to 
as downstream emissions) should be accounted for in the NEPA 
analysis.\27\
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    \26\ 40 CFR 1508.25 (actions are connected if they: 
Automatically trigger other actions which may require environmental 
impact statements; cannot or will not proceed unless other actions 
are taken previously or simultaneously; or are interdependent parts 
of a larger action and depend on the larger action for their 
justification).
    \27\ 40 CFR 1508.8.
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    After identifying and considering the direct and indirect effects, 
an agency must consider the cumulative impacts of its proposed action 
and reasonable alternatives.\28\ CEQ does not expect that an EIS would 
be required based on cumulative impacts of GHG emissions alone. In the 
context of GHG emissions, there may remain a concern that an EIS would 
be required for any emissions because of the global significance of 
aggregated GHG emissions. ``Cumulative impact'' is defined in the CEQ 
Regulations as the ``impact on the environment that results from the 
incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and 
reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency 
(Federal or non-federal) or person undertakes such other actions.'' 
\29\ Consequently, agencies need to consider whether the reasonably 
foreseeable incremental addition of emissions from the proposed action, 
when added to the emissions of other relevant actions, is significant 
when determining whether GHG emissions are a basis for requiring 
preparation of an EIS.
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    \28\ CEQ Memorandum to Heads of Federal Agencies, Guidance on 
the Consideration of Past Actions in Cumulative Effects Analysis, 
June 24, 2005, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/regs/Guidance_on_CE.pdf.
    \29\ 40 CFR 1508.7.
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    Agencies can rely on basic NEPA principles to determine and explain 
reasonable temporal and spatial parameters of their analyses to 
disclose the reasonably foreseeable effects that may result from their 
proposed actions.\30\ For example, a particular NEPA analysis for a 
proposed open pit mine could include the reasonably foreseeable effects 
of various components of the mining process, such as clearing land for 
the extraction, building access roads, transporting the extracted 
resource, refining or processing the resource, and using the resource. 
Depending on the relationship between any of the discrete elements in 
the process, as well as the authority under which such elements may be 
carried out, the analytical scope that best informs decision-making may 
be to treat these elements as the direct and indirect effects of phases 
of a single proposed action.
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    \30\ See 40 CFR 1502.16, 1508.9(b); see also Considering 
Cumulative Effects Under the National Environmental Policy Act, CEQ, 
January 1997, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/publications/cumulative_effects.html.
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    Furthermore, agencies should take into account both the short- and 
long-term effects and benefits based on what the agency determines is 
the life of a project and the duration of the generation of emissions. 
For example, development of a coal resource on Tribal trust lands 
(requiring the approval of a lease by the Bureau of Indian Affairs), or 
approval of solar energy development zones may offer important short-
term socioeconomic benefits to a particular community or region at the 
same time that the development produces GHG emissions with potential 
long-term climate change impacts. Similarly, a prescribed burn of 
forest or grasslands conducted to limit ecosystem destruction through 
wildfires or insect infestations may result in short-term GHG emissions 
and loss of stored carbon at the same time that a restored, healthy 
ecosystem provides long-term carbon sequestration.
    It is important to recognize that land management practices such as 
prescribed burning, timber stand improvements, fuel load reductions, 
scheduled harvesting, and grazing land management can result in both 
carbon emissions and carbon sequestration. Biogenic sources of carbon 
emissions from land management activities such as vegetation management 
in the form of prescribed burning, timber stand improvements and fuel 
load reductions present some unique considerations that are not 
included in fossil fuel source analyses and an agency's evaluation 
should reflect these unique considerations.
    For such vegetation management practices, NEPA analyses should 
include a comparison of net GHG emissions and carbon stock changes that 
would occur with and without implementation of the anticipated 
vegetation management practice. The analysis should take into account 
the GHG emissions (biogenic and fossil), carbon sequestration 
potential, and the net change in carbon stocks that are relevant in 
light of the proposed actions and time-frames under consideration. In 
some cases, analysis of climate impacts and GHG emissions have been 
considered during larger scale analysis supporting policy or 
programmatic decisions. In such cases, calculating GHG emissions and 
carbon stocks when implementing specific projects (e.g., a proposed 
vegetation management activity) may provide information of limited 
utility for decision makers and the public to distinguish between 
alternatives and mitigations. Rather, as appropriate, these NEPA 
analyses can incorporate by reference earlier programmatic studies or 
information such as management plans, inventories, assessments, and 
research that consider potential changes in carbon stocks, as well as 
any relevant programmatic NEPA reviews (see discussion in section III.C 
below).
    Finally, when discussing GHG emissions, as for all environmental 
impacts, it can be helpful to provide the decisionmaker and the public 
with a frame of reference. To provide a frame of reference, agencies 
can incorporate by reference applicable agency emissions targets such 
as applicable Federal, state, tribal, or local goals for GHG emission 
reductions to provide a frame of reference and make it clear whether 
the emissions being discussed are consistent with such goals.\31\ For 
example, Bureau of Land Management projects in California, especially 
joint projects with the State, look at how the agency action will help 
or hurt California in reaching its emission reduction goals under the 
State's Assembly Bill 32 (Global Warming Solutions Act), which helps 
frame the context for the BLM NEPA analysis.
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    \31\ See 40 CFR 1502.16(c), 1506.2(d). For example, see 
Executive Order 13514, October 5, 2009, 74 FR 52117, available at 
www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/2009fedleader_eo_rel.pdf. The 
Executive Order defines scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions which are 
typically separate and distinct from analyses and information used 
in an EA or EIS.
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B. Emissions Analyses

    Agencies should be guided by a ``rule of reason'' in ensuring that 
the level of effort expended in analyzing GHG emissions or climate 
change effects is reasonably proportionate to the importance of climate 
change related considerations to the agency action being evaluated. 
This concept of proportionality is grounded in the fundamental purpose 
of NEPA to concentrate on matters that are truly significant to the 
proposed action.\32\ An agency must present the environmental impacts 
of the proposed action in clear terms and with sufficient information 
to ensure the professional and scientific integrity of the discussion 
and analysis.\33\
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    \32\ 40 CFR 1500.4(b), 1500.4(g) and 1501.7.
    \33\ 40 CFR 1502.24 (requiring agencies to ensure the 
professional and scientific integrity of the discussions and 
analyses in environmental impact statements).

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[[Page 77827]]

    An agency's determination regarding the type of analysis--
quantitative or qualitative--to be prepared for any proposed action 
should also be informed by the tools and information available to 
conduct the analysis. GHG estimation tools have become widely 
available, and are already in broad use not only in the Federal sector, 
but also in the private sector, by State and local governments, and 
globally. If tools or methodologies are available to provide the public 
and the decision-making process with information that is useful to 
distinguishing between the no-action and proposed alternatives and 
mitigations, then agencies should conduct and disclose quantitative 
estimates of GHG emissions and sequestration. For example, tools exist 
that can provide estimates of GHG emissions and sequestration for many 
of the sources and sinks potentially affected by proposed land and 
resource management actions.\34\ Tools have been developed to assist 
institutions, organizations, agencies, and companies with different 
levels of technical sophistication, data availability, and GHG source 
profiles. These widely available tools address GHG emissions, including 
emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other activities. They also 
typically provide a choice of methods so that agencies can, for 
example, devote more time and effort to large sources while achieving 
efficient coverage for smaller sources. When considering tool options, 
it is important to consider the size of the project, spatial and 
temporal scale, and the availability of input data. It is also 
important to consider the investment of time and resources required by 
each tool, and agencies should determine which tool(s) to use by 
ensuring that the level of effort is reasonably proportional to the 
importance of climate change related considerations. When an agency 
determines that a quantitative analysis is not appropriate, an agency 
should complete a qualitative analysis and explain its basis for doing 
so.
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    \34\ For example, USDA's COMET-Farm tool can be used to assess 
the carbon sequestration of existing activities along with the 
reduction in carbon sequestration (emissions) of project-level 
activities, available at www.comet-farm.com.
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    Monetizing costs and benefits is appropriate in some, but not all, 
cases and is not a new requirement.\35\ A monetary cost-benefit 
analysis need not and should not be used in weighing the merits and 
drawbacks of the alternatives when important qualitative considerations 
are being considered. If a cost-benefit analysis is relevant to the 
choice among different alternatives being considered, it must be 
incorporated by reference \36\ or appended to the statement as an aid 
in evaluating the environmental consequences. When an agency determines 
it appropriate to monetize costs and benefits, then, although developed 
specifically for regulatory impact analyses, the Federal social cost of 
carbon, which multiple Federal agencies have developed and used to 
assess the costs and benefits of alternatives in rulemakings, offers a 
harmonized, interagency metric that can provide decisionmakers and the 
public with some context for meaningful NEPA review. When using the 
Federal social cost of carbon, the agency should disclose the fact that 
these estimates vary over time, are associated with different discount 
rates and risks, and are intended to be updated as scientific and 
economic understanding improves.\37\
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    \35\ 40 CFR 1502.23.
    \36\ 40 CFR 1502.21 (material may be cited if it is reasonably 
available for inspection by potentially interested persons within 
the time allowed for public review and comment).
    \37\ See Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for 
Regulatory Impact Analysis (Nov 2013), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/inforeg/technical-update-social-cost-of-carbon-for-regulator-impact-analysis.pdf.
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C. Special Considerations for Biogenic Sources of GHG Emissions From 
Land Management Actions

    With regard to biogenic GHG emissions from land management actions 
such as prescribed burning, timber stand improvements, fuel load 
reductions, scheduled harvesting, and livestock grazing,\38\ it is 
important to recognize that these actions contribute both carbon 
emissions and carbon sequestration to the global carbon cycle. For 
example, using prescribed fire to maintain natural ecosystem resilience 
is a human-caused influence on a natural system that both emits GHGs 
and results in enhanced regrowth and biological sequestration. Notably, 
the net effect of these agency actions resulting in biogenic emissions 
may lead to reductions of GHG concentrations through increases in 
carbon stocks or reduced risks of future emissions. In the forest 
management context, for example, whether a forest practice is a net 
carbon sink or source will depend on the climate region (i.e., growth), 
the rotation length (e.g., southern pine versus old growth), and the 
human activity (e.g., salvage logging, wood products, bioenergy, etc.).
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    \38\ These land management actions differ from biomass 
production for energy production.
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    Federal land management agencies are developing agency-specific 
principles and guidance for considering biological carbon in management 
and planning decisions.\39\ This guidance acknowledges the importance 
of: Sustaining long-term ecosystem function and resilience even when 
this goal may lead to short-term impacts from carbon dioxide emissions; 
considering carbon within the context of other management objectives 
and ecosystem service goals; and integrating carbon considerations as 
part of a balanced and comprehensive program of sustainable management 
and climate change adaptation.
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    \39\ See Priority Agenda Enhancing the Climate Resilience of 
America's Natural Resources, Council on Climate Change Preparedness 
and Resilience, at 52 (Oct. 2014), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/enhancing_climate_resilience_of_americas_natural_resources.pdf.
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    In addressing biogenic GHG emissions, land management agencies 
should include a comparison of net GHG emissions and carbon stock 
changes that would occur with and without implementation of the 
proposed land management actions. This analysis should take into 
account the GHG emissions (biogenic and fossil), carbon sequestration 
potential, and the change in carbon stocks that are relevant to 
decision-making that are relevant in light of the proposed actions and 
timeframes under consideration. CEQ recognizes that land management 
agencies have considered climate impacts and GHG emissions to be most 
important in analyses at a forest or landscape scale, including 
programmatic NEPA reviews supporting policy or programmatic decisions. 
In such cases, land management agencies may be able to reasonably 
conclude that calculating GHG emissions and carbon stocks for site-
specific projects (e.g., a proposed forest restoration) would provide 
information that is not useful to the public and the decision-making 
process. Rather, as appropriate, site-specific NEPA analyses can 
incorporate by reference landscape-scale or other programmatic studies 
or analyses, or tier to NEPA reviews that considered potential changes 
in carbon stocks (see section V.D., Programmatic--Broad Based--NEPA 
Reviews, below).

D. GHG Emissions That Warrant Quantitative Disclosure

    Providing a detailed quantitative analysis of emissions regardless 
of the quantity of emissions is not in keeping with the rule of reason 
or the concept of proportionality. In considering when to disclose 
projected quantitative GHG emissions, CEQ is providing a reference 
point of 25,000 metric tons of CO2-e emissions on an annual 
basis below

[[Page 77828]]

which a GHG emissions quantitative analysis is not warranted unless 
quantification below that reference point is easily accomplished. This 
is an appropriate reference point that would allow agencies to focus 
their attention on proposed projects with potentially large GHG 
emissions.
    When using this reference point, agencies should keep in mind that 
the reference point is for purposes of disclosure and not a substitute 
for an agency's determination of significance under NEPA. The ultimate 
determination of significance remains subject to agency practice for 
the consideration of context and intensity, as set forth in the CEQ 
Regulations.\40\
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    \40\ 40 CFR 1508.27.
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E. Alternatives

    Fundamental to the NEPA process is the consideration of 
alternatives when preparing an EIS or an EA.\41\ The requirement to 
consider alternatives is meant to ensure that agencies consider 
approaches with no, or less, adverse environmental effects as compared 
to the proposed action or preferred alternative. This requirement seeks 
to ensure that each agency decisionmaker has the information needed to 
take into account possible approaches to a particular project 
(including the no-action alternative) that would alter the 
environmental impact or the balance of other factors considered in 
making the decision. Consideration of alternatives provides an 
opportunity to make the best informed, and potentially most beneficial, 
decision. Such decisions are aided when there are comparisons among 
preferred and other reasonable alternatives in GHG emissions and carbon 
sequestration potential, in trade-offs with other environmental values, 
and in the risk from and the resilience to climate change inherent in a 
proposed design.
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    \41\ 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C) and (E); 40 CFR 1502.14 and 1508.9(b).
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    Agencies are required to consider a range of reasonable 
alternatives consistent with the purpose and need for the proposed 
action, as well as reasonable mitigation alternatives if not already 
included in the proposed action (see mitigation discussion below).\42\ 
Accordingly, if a comparison of these alternatives based on GHG 
emissions, and any potential mitigation to reduce emissions, would be 
useful to advance a reasoned choice among alternatives and mitigations, 
then an agency should compare the levels of GHG emissions caused by 
each alternative--including the no-action alternative--and mitigations 
to provide information to the public and enable the decisionmaker to 
make an informed choice.
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    \42\ See 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C), 4332(2)(E), and 40 CFR 
1502.14(f), 1508.9(b).
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F. Mitigation

    Mitigation is an important component of an agency's considerations 
under NEPA, and this is no less true as it pertains to climate change. 
Mitigation, by definition, includes considering the avoidance of the 
impacts, minimizing them by limiting them, rectifying the impact, 
reducing or eliminating the impacts over time, or compensating for 
them.\43\ Consequently, agencies should consider reasonable mitigation 
measures and alternatives as provided for under the existing 
regulations to lower the level of the potential GHG emissions.
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    \43\ 40 CFR 1508.20, 1508.25 (Mitigation includes avoiding the 
impact, limiting the degree or magnitude of the action, reducing or 
eliminating the impact over time. Alternatives include mitigation 
measures not included in the proposed action).
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    As Federal agencies evaluate proposed mitigation of GHG emissions 
or of interactions involving the affected environment, the quality of 
that mitigation--including its permanence, verifiability, 
enforceability, and additionality \44\--should be carefully evaluated. 
Among the alternatives that may be considered for their ability to 
reduce or mitigate GHG emissions and climate effects are enhanced 
energy efficiency, lower GHG-emitting technology (e.g., using renewable 
energy), carbon capture, carbon sequestration (e.g., forest and coastal 
habitat restoration), sustainable land management practices, and 
capturing or beneficially using fugitive GHG emissions such as methane.
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    \44\ Regulatory additionality requirements are designed to 
ensure that a GHG reduction credit is limited to an entity with 
emission reductions that are above regulatory requirements. See 
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/FAQ_GenInfoA.htm#Additionality.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Finally, the CEQ Regulations recognize the value of monitoring to 
ensure that mitigation is carried out as provided in a Finding of No 
Significant Impact or Record of Decision. In cases where mitigation 
measures are designed to address the effects of climate change, the 
agency's final decision should identify those mitigation measures and 
the agency should consider adopting an appropriate monitoring 
program.\45\
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    \45\ 40 CFR 1505.3; CEQ Memorandum to Heads of Federal Agencies, 
Appropriate Use of Mitigation and Monitoring and Clarifying the 
Appropriate Use of Mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact, 
January 14, 2011, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/current_developments/docs/Mitigation_and_Monitoring_Guidance_14Jan2011.pdf.
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IV. Considering the Effects of Climate Change on the Environmental 
Consequences of a Proposed Action

    An agency should identify the affected environment so as to provide 
a basis for comparing the current and the future state of the 
environment should the proposed action or any of its reasonable 
alternatives proceed.\46\ The current and expected future state of the 
environment without the proposed action represents the reasonably 
foreseeable affected environment that should be described based on 
available climate change information, including observations, 
interpretive assessments, predictive modeling, scenarios, and other 
empirical evidence.\47\ The temporal bounds for the future state of the 
environment are determined by the expected lifespan of the proposed 
project.\48\ Agencies should remain aware of the evolving body of 
scientific information and its clarification of climate impacts at a 
more localized level.\49\
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    \46\ 40 CFR 1502.16 and 1508.9 (providing that environmental 
impact statements and environmental assessments must succinctly 
describe the environmental impacts on the area(s) to be affected or 
created by the alternatives under consideration).
    \47\ See Considering Cumulative Effects (CEQ 1997), available on 
www.nepa.gov at https://ceq.doe.gov/current_developments/docs/Improving_NEPA_Efficiencies_06Mar2012.pdf.
    \48\ Id. Agencies should consider their work under Executive 
Order 13653 that considers how capital investments will be effected 
by a changing climate over time.
    \49\ See, e.g., http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/regions/coasts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The analysis of impacts on the affected environment should focus on 
those aspects of the human environment that are impacted by both the 
proposed action and climate change. Climate change can affect the 
environment of a proposed action in a variety of ways. Climate change 
can increase the vulnerability of a resource, ecosystem, human 
community, or structure, which would then be more susceptible to 
climate change and other effects and result in a proposed action's 
effects being more environmentally damaging. For example, a proposed 
action may require water from a stream that has diminishing quantities 
of available water because of decreased snow pack in the mountains, or 
add heat to a water body that is exposed to increasing atmospheric 
temperatures. Such considerations are squarely within the realm of 
NEPA, informing decisions on whether to proceed with and how to design 
the proposed action so as to minimize impacts on the environment, as 
well as informing possible adaptation measures to address these 
impacts,

[[Page 77829]]

ultimately enabling the selection of smarter, more resilient actions.
    According to the National Research Council,\50\ USGCRP, and others, 
GHGs already in the atmosphere will continue altering the climate 
system into the future, even with current or future emissions control 
efforts.\51\ Therefore, climate change adaptation \52\ and resilience 
\53\--defined as adjustments to natural or human systems in response to 
actual or expected climate changes--are important considerations for 
agencies contemplating and planning actions with effects that will 
occur both at the time of implementation and into the future.
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    \50\ The National Research Council is the operating arm of the 
National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. 
Through its independent, expert reports, workshops, and other 
scientific activities, NRC's mission is to improve government 
decision-making and public policy, increase public understanding, 
and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in 
matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. For 
more information about NRC, see http://www.nationalacademies.org/nrc/index.html.
    \51\ See Second National Climate Change Assessment, USGCRP, 
2009, available at http://www.globalchange.gov/what-we-do.
    \52\ Action that can be implemented as a response to changes in 
the climate to harness and leverage its beneficial opportunities 
(e.g., expand polar shipping routes) or ameliorate its negative 
effects (e.g., protect installations from sea level rise). National 
Research Council, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (2010), 
available at http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/sample-page/panel-reports/panel-on-adapting-to-the-impacts-of-climate-change.
    \53\ Capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and 
recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to 
social well-being, the economy, and the environment. Id. Ability of 
a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining 
the same basic structure and ways of functioning, capacity for self-
organization, and capacity to adapt to stress and change. M.L. Parry 
et al., Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment 
Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), 
available at http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_ipcc_fourth_assessment_report_wg2_report_impacts_adaptation_and_vulnerability.htm.
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    As called for under NEPA, the CEQ Regulations, and CEQ guidance, 
the NEPA review process should be integrated with planning at the 
earliest possible time.\54\ Decades of NEPA practice have shown that a 
NEPA process that is integrated with the planning process provides 
useful information that program and project planners can consider in 
the design of the proposed action and the alternatives. Climate change 
effects should be considered in the analysis of projects that are 
located in areas that are considered vulnerable to specific effects of 
climate change, such as increasing sea level or other ecological 
change, within the project's anticipated useful life. In such cases, a 
NEPA review will provide relevant information that agencies can use to 
consider alternatives with preferable overall environmental outcomes. 
For example, an agency considering a proposed action involving long-
term development of transportation infrastructure on a coastal barrier 
island will want to take into account climate change to avoid the 
environmental and, as applicable, economic consequences of rebuilding 
should potential climate change impacts such as sea level rise and more 
intense storms shorten the projected life of the project.\55\ Given the 
length of time involved in present sea level projections, such 
considerations typically will not be relevant to short-term actions. 
Individual agency adaptation plans and interagency adaptation 
strategies, such as the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate 
Adaptation Strategy, and the National Action Plan for managing 
freshwater resources in a changing climate, provide good examples of 
relevant and useful information that can be considered.\56\
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    \54\ 42 U.S.C. 4332 (agencies of the Federal Government shall . 
. . utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will 
insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the 
environmental design arts in planning and in decision-making); 40 
CFR 1501.2 (Agencies shall integrate the NEPA process with other 
planning at the earliest possible time); CEQ Memorandum to Heads of 
Federal Agencies, Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and 
Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy 
Act, March 6, 2012, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/regs/scope/scoping.htm.
    \55\ See Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on 
Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, 
(www.globalchange.gov/browse/reports/sap-47-impacts-of-climate-change-and-variability-on-transportation-systems-and), and Abrupt 
Climate Change (http://library.globalchange.gov/sap-3-4-abrupt-climate-change (discussing the likelihood of an abrupt change in sea 
level).
    \56\ See http://sustainability.performance.gov for agency 
sustainability plans, which contain agency adaptation plans. See 
also http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov and http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/2011_national_action_plan.pdf.
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    In addition, the particular impacts of climate change on vulnerable 
communities may be considered in the design of the action or the 
selection among alternatives so that the proposed action will be more 
resilient and sustainable and thereby have lesser impacts on those 
communities.\57\ For example, chemical facilities located near the 
coastline could have increased risk of spills or leakages due to sea 
level rise or increased storm surges, putting local communities and 
environmental resources at greater risk. Finally, considering climate 
change effects can help ensure that agencies do not generate additional 
GHGs--or expend additional time and funds--if the project has to be 
replaced, repaired, or modified.
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    \57\ See https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/5251/42462/45213/NPR-A_FINAL_ROD_2-21-13.pdf.
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V. Traditional NEPA Tools

A. Scoping and Framing the NEPA Review

    To effectuate integrated decision-making, avoid duplication, and 
focus the NEPA review, the CEQ Regulations provide for scoping.\58\ In 
scoping, the agency determines the issues that the EA or EIS will 
address and identifies the impacts related to the proposed action that 
will be considered in the analyses.\59\ An agency can use the scoping 
process to help it determine whether analysis is relevant and, if so, 
the extent of analysis appropriate for a proposed action, consistent 
with the purpose and need.\60\ When scoping for the issues associated 
with the proposed agency action that may be related to climate change, 
the nature, location, timeframe, and type of the proposed action will 
help determine the degree to which consideration of climate projections 
is warranted. Scoping a proposed action can help an agency determine 
whether climate change considerations warrant emphasis and detailed 
analysis and disclosure, and provide a basis for an agency 
determination that a detailed consideration of emissions is or is not 
appropriate for a proposed action.
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    \58\ See 40 CFR 1501.7 (``There shall be an early and open 
process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed and for 
identifying the significant issues related to a proposed action. 
This process shall be termed scoping.''); See also Memorandum for 
Heads of Federal Departments and Agencies: Improving the Process for 
Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ 2012), available on 
www.nepa.gov at https://ceq.doe.gov/current_developments/docs/Improving_NEPA_Efficiencies_06Mar2012.pdf (the CEQ Regulations 
explicitly address scoping for preparing an EIS, agencies can also 
take advantage of scoping whenever preparing an EA).
    \59\ 40 CFR 1500.4(b), 1500.4(g) and 1501.7.
    \60\ See 40 CFR 1501.7 (stating that the agency preparing the 
NEPA analysis use the scoping process to, among other things, 
determine the scope and identify the significant issues to be 
analyzed in depth) and CEQ, Memorandum for General Counsels, NEPA 
Liaisons, and Participants in Scoping (1981), available at https://ceq.doe.gov/publications/cumulative_effects.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Consistent with this guidance, agencies can develop practices and 
guidance for framing the NEPA review by determining whether an 
environmental aspect of the proposed action merits detailed analysis 
and disclosure. Grounded on the principles of proportionality and the 
rule of reason, such aids can help an agency determine the extent to 
which an analysis of GHG emissions and climate

[[Page 77830]]

change impacts are useful to the public and the decision-making process 
for distinguishing between the no-action and proposed alternatives and 
mitigations.\61\ The agency should explain such a framing process and 
its application to the proposed action to the decisionmakers and the 
public during the NEPA review and in the EA or EIS document.
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    \61\ See for example: Matthew P. Thompson, Bruce G. Marcot, 
Frank R. Thompson, III, Steven McNulty, Larry A. Fisher, Michael C. 
Runge, David Cleaves, and Monica Tomosy, The Science of 
Decisionmaking: Applications for Sustainable Forest and Grassland 
Management in the National Forest System, available at http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2013_thompson_m004.pdf; General 
Technical Report WO-88, July 2013; US Forest Service Comparative 
Risk Assessment Framework And Tools, available at http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/topics/fire_science/craft/craft; and Julien 
Martin, Michael C. Runge, James D. Nichols, Bruce C. Lubow, and 
William L. Kendall 2009. Structured decision making as a conceptual 
framework to identify thresholds for conservation and management. 
Ecological Applications 19:1079-1090, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/08-0255.1.
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B. Incorporation by Reference

    In accordance with NEPA's rule of reason and standards for 
obtaining information regarding reasonably foreseeable effects on the 
human environment, action agencies need not undertake exhaustive 
research or analysis of potential climate change impacts in the project 
area or on the project itself, but may instead summarize and 
incorporate by reference the relevant scientific literature.\62\ 
Incorporation by reference is of value in considering GHG emissions 
where an agency is considering the implications of climate change for 
the environmental effects of the proposed action. For example, agencies 
may summarize and incorporate by reference the major peer-reviewed 
assessments from the USGCRP and underlying technical reports such as 
their Synthesis and Assessment Products.\63\ Particularly relevant are 
the reports on climate change impacts on water resources, ecosystems, 
agriculture and forestry, health, coastlines, and arctic regions in the 
United States.\64\
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    \62\ 40 CFR 1502.21 (material may be incorporated by reference 
if it is reasonably available for inspection by potentially 
interested persons during public review and comment).
    \63\ http://www.globalchange.gov/browse/reports.
    \64\ See Third National Climate Assessment.
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    When using scenarios or climate modeling information (including 
seasonal, interannual, long-term, and regional-scale predictions), 
agencies should consider their inherent limitations and uncertainties 
and disclose these limitations in explaining the extent to which they 
rely on particular studies or projections.\65\ Agencies should take 
into account that the outputs of coarse-resolution global climate 
models, commonly used to predict or project climate change contingent 
on a particular emission scenario at a continental or national scale, 
may have limitations on how they can be used in regional or local 
impact studies.\66\
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    \65\ 40 CFR 1502.21, 1502.22.
    \66\ See Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and 
Limitations, available at http://data.globalchange.gov/assets/91/7e/0df45f584b652ea95e947ef813d0/sap3-1-final-all.pdf.
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C. Using Available Information

    Agencies are expected to make decisions using current scientific 
information and methodologies. Agencies are not required to conduct 
original research in NEPA analyses to fill scientific gaps. 
Consequently, agencies are not expected to await the development of new 
tools or scientific information to conclude their NEPA analyses and 
documentation.\67\ Agencies should exercise their discretion to select 
and utilize the tools, methodologies, and scientific and research 
information that are of high quality and most appropriate for the level 
of analysis and the decisions being made.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \67\ 40 CFR 1502.24 (requiring agencies to ensure the 
professional and scientific integrity of the discussions and 
analyses in environmental impact statements).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Agencies should be aware of the ongoing efforts to address the 
impacts of climate change on human health and vulnerable communities. 
Certain groups, including children, the elderly, and the poor, are most 
vulnerable to climate-related health effects and frequently lack the 
capacity to engage on issues that disproportionately affect them. We 
recommend that agencies periodically engage their environmental justice 
experts, and potentially the Federal Interagency Working Group on 
Environmental Justice,\68\ to identify interagency approaches to 
impacts that may have disproportionately high and adverse human health 
or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income 
populations.\69\
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    \68\ For more information on the Federal Interagency Working 
Group on Environmental Justice co-chaired by EPA and CEQ, see http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html.
    \69\ President's Memorandum for the Heads of All Departments and 
Agencies, Executive Order on Federal Actions to Address 
Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations, 
February 11, 1994, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/regs/eos/ii-5.pdf; Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, CEQ, December 1997, available at https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa/regs/ej/justice.pdf.
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D. Programmatic--Broad Based--NEPA Reviews

    Agency decisions can address different geographic scales that can 
range from the programmatic or landscape level, to the site- or 
project-specific level. Agencies sometimes conduct analyses or studies 
at the national level or on other broad scales (e.g., landscape, 
regional, or watershed) to assess the status of one or more resources 
or to determine trends in changing environmental conditions.\70\ In the 
context of long-range energy, transportation, and resource management 
actions, for example, an agency may decide that it would be useful and 
efficient to provide an aggregate analysis of GHG emissions or climate 
change effects in a programmatic analysis and then incorporate by 
reference that analysis into future NEPA reviews.
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    \70\ Such a programmatic study is distinct from a programmatic 
NEPA review which is appropriate when the action being considered is 
subject to NEPA requirements and is establishing formal plans, 
establishing agency programs, and approving a suite of similar 
projects.
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    A tiered, analytical decision-making approach using a programmatic 
NEPA review is used for many types of Federal actions \71\ and can be 
particularly relevant to addressing proposed land, oceanic, and 
resource management plans. Under such an approach, a broad-scale 
programmatic NEPA analysis is conducted for actions such as USDA Forest 
Service land and resource management plans, Bureau of Land Management 
resource management plans, or Natural Resources Conservation Service 
conservation programs. Subsequent NEPA analyses for site-specific 
decisions--such as projects that implement land, oceanic, and resource 
management plans--are tiered from the broader programmatic analysis, 
drawing upon its basic framework analysis to avoid repeating analytical 
efforts for each tiered decision. Examples of project- or site-specific 
actions that can benefit from a programmatic NEPA review include: 
Constructing transmission towers; conducting prescribed burns; 
approving grazing leases; granting a right-of-way; authorizing leases 
for oil and gas drilling; authorizing construction of wind turbines; 
and approving hard rock mineral extraction.
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    \71\ 40 CFR 1502.20, 1508.28. A programmatic NEPA review is 
appropriate when a decision is being made that is subject to NEPA, 
such as establishing formal plans, establishing agency programs, and 
approving a suite of similar projects.
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    A programmatic NEPA review may also serve as an efficient mechanism 
to describe Federal agency efforts to adopt

[[Page 77831]]

sustainable practices for energy efficiency, GHG emissions avoidance or 
reduction, petroleum product use reduction, and renewable energy use, 
as well as other sustainability practices.\72\ While broad department- 
or agency-wide goals may be of a far larger scale than a particular 
program or proposed action, an analysis that informs how an action 
affects that broader goal can be of value.
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    \72\ See Executive Order 13514--Federal Leadership in 
Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, 74 FR 52117-52127 
(Oct. 5, 2009); Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal 
Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, 72 FR 3919 
(Jan. 26, 2007), available at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2007-01-26/pdf/07-374.pdf.
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VI. Conclusion and Effective Date

    This guidance document informs Federal agencies on how to apply 
fundamental NEPA principles to the analysis of climate change through 
assessing GHG emissions and the effects of climate change for Federal 
actions subject to NEPA. It identifies opportunities for using 
information developed during the NEPA review process to take into 
account appropriate adaptation opportunities. Applying this guidance 
will promote an appropriate and measured consideration of GHG emissions 
and the effects of climate change in the NEPA process through a clearer 
set of expectations and a more transparent process, thereby informing 
decisionmakers and the public and resulting in better decisions. This 
guidance also addresses questions raised by other interested 
parties.\73\
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    \73\ Recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders 
Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, November 2014, at 
page 20 (recommendation 2.7), available at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/task_force_report_0.pdf; GAO report: Future 
Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure 
Decision Makers, April 12, 2012, available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-242; see also the International Center for 
Technology Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra 
Club Petition Requesting that the Council on Environmental Quality 
Amend its Regulations to Clarify that Climate Change Analyses be 
Included in Environmental Review Documents, February 28, 2008.
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    Agencies are encouraged to apply this guidance to all new agency 
actions moving forward and, to the extent practicable, to build its 
concepts into currently on-going reviews.

[FR Doc. 2014-30035 Filed 12-23-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3225-F5-P