Global Climate Change and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Climate change is broadly defined as the increase in global temperature and related chemical and physical changes resulting from the release of certain pollutants associated with anthropogenic activities. Chief among the drivers of climate change are increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and several fluorocarbons. These greenhouse gases change the atmosphere's chemical and physical properties altering temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation patterns globally. These changes in turn affect the biological and human environment.

On August 1, 2016, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued final guidance on addressing climate change in NEPA documents.  The CEQ guidance calls on Federal Agencies to consider in NEPA documents both how major Federal actions could affect sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and how climate change could potentially influence such actions. 

The CEQ bases this guidance on the NEPA regulations, which mandate that all “reasonably foreseeable” environmental impacts of the proposed Federal action have to be considered in the NEPA document. The CEQ considers that there is adequate scientific evidence that indicates that climate change is a “reasonably foreseeable” impact of greenhouse gas emissions.  The most recent comprehensive report stating the scientific basis of climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014.

We considered greenhouse gas emissions in the programmatic EISs for the 1992-1997, 1997-2002, 2002-2007, and 2007-2012 leasing programs.

In November 2016, BOEM released OCS Oil and Natural Gas: Potential Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Social Cost of Carbon. This report is a comprehensive analysis estimating the greenhouse gas emissions as a result of offshore oil and gas leasing. This included emissions released during offshore operations for which BOEM has jurisdiction, along with the onshore processing, distribution, and consumption of these oil and gas products. The report provides a comprehensive understanding of the overall contribution OCS oil and gas lifcycle greenhouse gases, and their costs to society and the environment.

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