In Guidance released on Tuesday August 2, the Obama Administration issued non-binding guidance directing federal agencies to consider climate change before they approve major projects, including highway projects, pipelines, and other transportation and infrastructure projects.
The guidance functionally adds climate change to the list of factors that federal agencies must consider pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before starting new construction projects or issuing project permits.
Although supporters of the new guidance say it provides certainty to an area that for the past several years has been shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty, it could also increase the up-front costs of transportation projects. "At first glance, it's not difficult to imagine this new guidance adding another layer of cost before new highway projects can commence," said David Fialkov, NATSO's Vice President of Government Affairs. "Given that we are already short on dollars for highway projects, and given how hard it has been over the past several years convincing Congress to devote the requisite resources to transportation programs, hopefully this new guidance won't make this already uphill climb even steeper."
The guidance is not legally binding and does not necessarily require federal agencies to reach any conclusions when conducting environmental reviews for proposed projects. Nonetheless, industry groups have expressed concern that it could add even more uncertainty to an already convoluted permitting process.
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