New Climate “Guidance” Could Breed Anti-Energy Obstructionism

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) today released its final guidance on how federal agencies should consider climate change effects in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews of their proposed actions.

NEPA is the landmark 1969 statute requiring federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of “any major project—federal, state, or local—that involves federal funding, work performed by the federal government, or permits issued by a federal agency.” 

This being the Age of Global Warming, when all things are to be measured by their carbon footprints and all policies judged by their conformity to the climate agenda, the Obama administration’s push to elevate climate concerns in NEPA reviews was a foregone conclusion.  

CEQ’s fact sheet claims the final guidance “provides a level of predictability and certainty by outlining how Federal agencies can describe these impacts by quantifying greenhouse gas emissions when conducting NEPA reviews.” On the contrary, the NEPA process already empowers NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) and anti-energy activists to delay and block development projects with immense economic benefits and immeasurably small, hypothetical climate effects. The guidance will increase the role of climate politics, with all their irrationality and rancor, in NEPA reviews.

Back in March 2015, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and 14 other pro-market organizations submitted a comment letter to CEQ on its proposal. Our argument in a nutshell: NEPA review is an inappropriate framework for making climate policy. Trying to solve the “climate problem” one project at a time is a fool’s errand—unless the point is simply to block as many projects as possible (a policy today called “Keep It in the Ground”) and keep as many local activists as possible in a perpetual state of climate alarm.

The joint comment letter is rather detailed, but begins with a two-page summary highlighting key points.