OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a multistate comment letter applauding the Biden Administration’s decision to strengthen guidance for environmental reviews of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Climate Change promotes reduction GHG emissions caused by proposed federal actions by advising federal agencies on thorough analysis of the actions’ GHG emissions and climate change impacts. The Biden Administration’s new guidance has significant and immediate implications for energy and infrastructure projects, influencing all newly proposed actions as well as some ongoing NEPA reviews. In the comments, the coalition expresses their support for the new guidance, and urges the Administration to consider strengthening the guidance to better address the needs of communities that bear a disproportionate burden of GHG pollution, encourage federal agencies to consider state climate policies and goals, and facilitate the efficient review and approval of projects with low or negative emissions, such as green energy projects.
“I applaud the Biden Administration for giving our federal agency partners the tools they need to ensure robust environmental review when working to build sustainable, equitable infrastructure,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This new guidance is a crucial step towards reducing emissions, encouraging environmentally beneficial decision-making, and promoting environmental justice at every stage – from initial planning, to final review.”
Enacted in 1970, NEPA is one of the nation’s foremost environmental statutes. Before any federal agency undertakes a major action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, NEPA requires the agency to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed action, alternatives to the action, and any available measures to mitigate the action’s impacts. A wide range of federal actions, including the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects and key decisions concerning the management of federal public lands, require compliance with NEPA. Despite improvements to planning and enforcement, infrastructure construction and operations still account for roughly seventy percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This new NEPA guidance seeks to curtail these emissions and bolster community engagement.
Specifically, the comment letter commends the Biden Administration for recommending that developers of projects that need federal approval use a more rigorous analysis of GHG emissions, leverage best available science, and calculate the social cost of emissions. However, the letter also encourages the Biden Administration to strengthen this guidance by adding provisions that would:
Today’s letter represents the latest in a series of actions by the California Department of Justice aimed at protecting and strengthening the role of NEPA. Following the Trump Administration’s effort to undermine environmental review of federal projects, a coalition of 21 states, led by California and Washington, filed a lawsuit arguing that the rule violated NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act. Later, Attorney General Bonta co-led a multi-state coalition in applauding the Biden Administration for restoring rules that had been repealed under the Trump Administration, but urged them to further revise or repeal the Trump-era rules in their entirety. Today’s letter expresses support for the Biden Administration’s continued efforts to ensure meaningful environmental reviews of federal projects.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.