In July, the Council on Environmental Quality proposed revisions to the implementing regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Proposed Rule reflects a more holistic approach to informing agency decisions with a robust and balanced analysis of environmental impacts. In our comment letter, we suggested improvements to the proposal that would help ensure robust and balanced treatment of environmental impacts in NEPA reviews.
Specifically, our comment offered the following insights and recommendations:
- The Proposed Rule’s treatment of climate change, environmental justice, transboundary impacts, and alternatives is consistent with judicial and regulatory precedent and represents a sensible approach to ensuring that agencies robustly assess key environmental impacts under NEPA.
- CEQ should incorporate certain general principles from its recent greenhouse gas guidance into the NEPA implementing regulations—namely, the importance of quantifying and contextualizing environmental effects.
- CEQ should amend § 1502.22 of the NEPA implementing regulations to recognize that cost-benefit analysis can be useful and appropriate even when some benefits or costs are unmonetized.
- CEQ should amend §§ 1502.21 and 1502.23 to more clearly specify that the standards for scientific accuracy and incomplete information apply to environmental assessments.
- CEQ should amend § 1505.2 to require agencies to explain why they did not select the environmentally preferable alternative when they did not.
- CEQ should further amend § 1502.23 to clarify that agencies should use projections appropriate to the geographic scope of the effect being analyzed when available, and should consider other relevant projections when an appropriately scaled projection is not available.
- CEQ should bolster its regulatory impact analysis by discussing further why it repudiates many of the findings from its 2020 RIA and providing more reasoning to reinforce its conclusion that benefits justify costs.
Our comment letter further details each of these points.