The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Trump Administration Guts Climate Change Reviews for Federal Actions


The Trump administration issued proposed guidance today restricting when and how federal agencies can consider climate change impacts when they complete environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The nine-page guidance -- a quarter as long as the previous Obama-era guidance -- encourages the federal agencies to do only a bare-minimum, qualitative and cursory review of the impacts and emissions of greenhouse gases. It would be used when an agency is considering a new project or action, such as approving a pipeline, issuing a fossil fuel lease or constructing a highway.

"The Trump White House is trying to force every federal agency to stick its head in the sand when it comes to climate change," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "While the rest of the world tries to fight global warming, our government will now be pouring more fuel on the fire."

Today's order is Trump's latest effort to force agencies to disregard the harms caused by climate change from the government's own activities.

In 2016 the Obama administration issued guidance for all federal agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in their National Environmental Policy Act reviews. That 2016 guidance required federal agencies to review climate impacts from private projects that require federal agency permits, including oil and gas leases and pipelines approvals.

In 2017 the Trump administration withdrew the Obama climate change guidance. It did not provide the public with an opportunity to comment before doing so.

In 2018 the administration proposed weakening the protections for air, water and wildlife provided by the National Environmental Policy Act across the board by limiting situations where federal agencies are required to complete a thorough environmental impact statement of proposed activities and projects.

"The courts have already made clear that federal officials can't ignore the climate-related harms of the government's own activities," said Hartl. "This rollback is another gift to special interests in the fossil fuel industry that don't care if our planet burns as long as they make a profit."

The National Environmental Policy Act is the bedrock law of modern environmental protection and ensures that citizens can weigh in on actions that may harm them, their communities and the environment. It also ensures their feedback is considered by the federal government.

The Act's requirement that agencies take a "hard look" at the consequences of their actions has protected public lands, wildlife, clean water and clean air for decades. Notable instances where reviews under the Act were truncated, with tragic consequences, include the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill and a mining disaster near Everglades National Park that resulted in benzene contamination of Miami's drinking water, potentially costing more than $250 million to address.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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