AGA CEQ NEPA GHG Guidance Comments 8.28.19
AGA filed comments with CEQ in response to draft guidance on the consideration of GHG emissions in NEPA documents. AGA supports the balanced approach taken by CEQ in the draft guidance. If implemented, the guidance will help clarify how federal agencies should consider the GHG emissions impacts of major project permitting decisions when conducting NEPA reviews. Uncertainty about when and how agencies should address emissions in NEPA documents has contributed to delays in the permitting of important infrastructure projects and resulted in costly and time-consuming litigation. AGA supports CEQ’s effort to focus federal agencies’ GHG analysis on those impacts that are reasonably foreseeable, not overly speculative, and that have a sufficiently close causal relationship to the proposed action or permitting decision. Additionally, AGA is pleased that the draft guidance provides federal agencies the flexibility to use either quantitative or qualitative means to assess GHG impacts, depending on whether GHG emissions “are substantial enough to warrant quantification, and when it is practicable to quantify them using available data and GHG quantification tools.” Of note, the draft guidance clearly states that agencies need not undertake new research or analysis of potential climate effects and may rely on available information and relevant scientific literature. Finally, AGA is pleased that the draft Guidance recognizes that neither NEPA nor CEQ’s implementing regulations require agencies to monetize costs and benefits of a proposed action. Specifically, AGA supports CEQ’s determination that Social Cost of Carbon estimates are not required under NEPA. If implemented, this guidance should improve the federal infrastructure permitting process by clarifying that detailed, time-consuming, and costly analysis of speculative and remote GHG effects is not required under NEPA. At the same time, the guidance provides a balanced and workable framework that enables federal agencies to adequately consider the potential impacts of GHG emissions resulting from proposed actions. AGA also offered several recommendations to CEQ that would further clarify the scope and implementation of the draft guidance. Finally, AGA encouraged CEQ to continue its work to improve the NEPA process by improving agency accountability, reducing the time and cost of completing environmental reviews, and providing predictability in review schedules.