Even large solar projects would need NEPA assessments that include climate change
The LA Times is reporting that the Obama Administration is set to announce new rules for the National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA, that would require development projects to include the impacts of climate change. The move has long been sought by greens and would likely have the effect of slowing down projects on government controlled land. As you might expect, extreme pro industry Senate Republicans are trying to halt the expansion.
Currently, NEPA requires that developers submit environmental impact statements that include issues such as land use, species health and air and water quality. The expansion of NEPA, which is about to turn 40, would give environmentalists another arrow in their quiver when they want to put the brakes on development project like expanded oil and gas leases.
In the LA Times, David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club, said:
"People will think longer and harder and smarter about what they build when they understand that the environment around them is changing."
Politicians who don't believe in climate change or that are extremely pro business oppose the move on the grounds that it will add to costs. Sens. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wrote to the White House Council on Environmental Quality saying that, "Requiring analysis of climate change impacts during the NEPA process . . . will slow our economic recovery while providing no meaningful environmental benefits."
The NEPA regulations definitely make sense when developers are considering building along the coasts. The city of San Francisco, where I live, is considering developing Treasure Island, a former Navy base now largely abandoned. Under California law they already need to consider sea level rise, making the proposals stronger by having them consider a rapidly changing environment.