Apparently, President Obama is close to announcing one way he will address climate change without involving Congress – and fossil fuel companies are already freaking out about it.
For the first time, federal agencies would have to consider the global warming impacts before approving major projects, reports Bloomberg.
Some agencies already do that, but the new guidelines would apply across-the-board to all federal reviews.
The announcement, to be made in the next few weeks, would provide standards for agencies to use as guidance, but not requirements.
Initially proposed n 2010, the standards ask agencies to consider the increase in greenhouse gases a project would cause, and also a project’s vulnerability to floods, drought or other climate-change-related weather.
Reports would be necessary for only those projects that emit 25,000 metric tons of carbon or more a year.
That could mean significant delays – and if analyzed correctly, cancellations – of projects that clearly fuel climate change, such as modifying ports for coal exports.
At the least, they would tie up lots of projects in lawsuits or extended delays.
To build a port to export coal, which people are fighting in the Northwest, officials already must analyze the impact on water and air pollution. The EPA and the environmental community want that broadened to include the greenhouse gases generated by shipping the coal to China where it will be burned.
You never know, but an analysis like this could be the turning point against the Keystone tar sands pipeline. And it could impact the growth of leases on federal land for fossil fuel drilling, coal extraction and mining.
"If the new White House guidance is structured correctly, it will require just those kinds of lifecycle reviews," Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg. They have sued to press for this approach, and Snape says lawsuits along these lines are certain if the Keystone pipeline is approved.
The standards would extend the National Environmental Policy Act, signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon. It requires agencies to consider environmental impacts before approving major projects.
NEPA requires agencies to consider and publish what they see as potential environmental impacts of projects, but it doesn’t force them to make a decision based on that. They require the public to have an opportunity to comment before a decision is made and to challenge decisions in court.