Inside EPA quotes Fred Wagner and Tyler Welti on how the rewrite of NEPA can affect greenhouse gas and climate issues

2 min

Inside EPA featured comments from Fred Wagner and Tyler Welti on June 28, 2018, in an article about how industry attorneys speculate that the White House could use its pending rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rules to downplay the need for considering greenhouse gas and other climate issues by changing definitions of key terms as a subtler way to limit such reviews.

During a June 27, 2018, webinar, Mr. Welti and Mr. Wagner commented on the expectations for the rule rewrite and the implications on agencies.

Commenting on if the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) could say that climate change does not need to be evaluated under NEPA as part of the new regulation, Welti said, "CEQ could certainly reach this issue most likely in defining related broader NEPA terms, in particular the term 'reasonably foreseeable,' which is key to determining the scope of an agency's obligation to consider the direct and indirect impacts of an action. Depending on what CEQ says in redefining such terms, the new definition could at least limit an agency's obligation to consider greenhouse gases. I think it is unlikely that CEQ would specifically target climate impacts as something that need not be evaluated."

Wagner commented on whether CEQ could require agencies to implement its new rules without each agency having to redo its own NEPA implementing regulations, which could take a long time, and said, "That goes to how CEQ has a limited influence on each agency's NEPA process." But if CEQ is amending its regulations, then it should consider "creating some sort of authority that would give CEQ additional authority to influence what agencies can do."