Since 1970, the National Environmental Protection Act has required federal agencies to consider the impacts of their projects on air, water, and soil pollution — but not on climate change.
Until recently, carbon dioxide, which causes global warning, wasn’t classified as a pollutant and so couldn’t be regulated under environmental laws. The EPA in 2009 asserted its power to regulate carbon emissions but hasn’t applied it to NEPA analyses for infrastructure – until now.
President Obama hasn’t made the announcement yet, but Bloomberg reported Friday that he “is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.”
There’s more – projects could also be evaluated according to resiliency in the face of climate change. Would the new infrastructure be destroyed if faced with flooding, drought, or other severe weather? Bloomberg reports that the White House is also “looking at” requiring these climate adaptability and resiliency reports for projects “with 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions or more per year, the equivalent of burning about 100 rail cars of coal.”
Does this mean no more highways?
The conservative National Review’s headline about the changes was, “Did Obama Just Block Keystone?” Columnist Stanley Kurtz speculated that Obama could publicly approve the Keystone XL pipeline and then let the new environmental review process rule it out.
Could the same go for highway projects?