Natural Gas Council urges CEQ to withdraw draft guidance on considering greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA reviews

The Natural Gas Council submitted comments in response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) “Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews.” The Natural Gas Council collectively represents segments along the entire natural gas value chain that produce, transport, deliver, and use clean, affordable, natural gas throughout the United States.  Natural gas pipeline and related facility projects must undergo National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and, therefore, the Natural Gas Council value chain has a direct interest in the outcome of this proceeding.

The Natural Gas Council urged CEQ to withdraw this revised draft guidance because it is inconsistent with NEPA, the implementing regulations and established case law and, if allowed to stand, could have serious impacts on the development of our nation’s critical natural gas infrastructure.  The revised draft guidance is adverse to our members’ interests because it would create unnecessary litigation, delays, costs and inefficiencies in the permitting of natural gas infrastructure projects while providing only speculative environmental benefits.

The CEQ revised draft guidance does not recognize a federal agency’s existing discretion to tailor NEPA reviews to address climate change, including the possibility that an agency may not consider climate change at all if it is too removed, unforeseeable, or speculative in relation to the proposed project. The CEQ revised draft guidance contradicts established Supreme Court precedent that an agency only is required to consider environmental impacts in a NEPA review if the impacts are proximately caused by the proposed action and the agency has control over such impacts. See U.S. Dep’t of Transp. v. Public Citizen, 541 U.S. 752 (2004). The CEQ regulations and relevant case law require that impacts be both reasonably foreseeable and significant before they must be analyzed.
The Natural Gas Council stated that CEQ should help accelerate, not hinder, our nation’s ability to meet this Administration’s goals for increasing access to cleaner, reliable and affordable energy through the expanded use of natural gas.