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Ascent Environmental, Inc.
455 Capitol Mall, Suite 300
Sacramento, CA

Curtis Alling, AICP

Sydney Coatsworth, AICP

Honey Walters

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January 29, 2015
9:00am – 3:30pm

CEQ Releases New Guidance on NEPA
Final Memo on Programmatic Reviews and
Revised Draft GHG Guidance
With little fanfare, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued two items on December 18, 2014 that provide guidance about compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A final memorandum was released regarding the performance of programmatic NEPA reviews, and revised draft guidance was posted for public review and comment related to the analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) effects in NEPA documents. CEQ provided a fact sheet about both items.

Programmatic NEPA Reviews: CEQ has clarified when and how programmatic NEPA reviews should be used by Federal agencies. The term, “programmatic” describes broad or high-level NEPA reviews of policies, plans, programs, or projects for which subsequent actions need to be implemented based on a programmatic environmental document or subsequent, tiered NEPA review. Programmatic NEPA reviews can assist in making decisions on agency planning or policy actions that precede site- or project-specific actions. The guidance addresses types of actions appropriate for programmatic analysis, practical considerations for preparing documents, scope of analysis, level of detail, public participation, and other topics. The guidance is effective as of December 23, 2014. You can learn more at the CEQ webpage on reinvigorating NEPA.

Revised Draft GHG Guidance: CEQ updated and revised a 2010 draft of guidance for conducting analysis of GHG impacts under NEPA. The revised draft guidance is released for additional public review and comment. The guidance is designed to provide more informed Federal decisions regarding GHG emissions and the effects of climate change, consistent with NEPA. A key change in the revised draft is to apply the GHG guidance to all major Federal actions, rather than just land and resource management actions (as was the proposed direction in the 2010 draft). Among other provisions, the revised draft continues to recommend using 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year as a reference point, below which quantitative analysis is generally not needed. Also, the guidance describes mitigation options, including energy conservation, GHG-reducing operational changes, carbon capture or sequestration, beneficial use of captured carbon, and land management practices. Public comment is being accepted for 60 days. More information is available at the President’s Climate Resilience webpage.

We are sharing this information to help you stay up to date on NEPA compliance guidance. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ascent Principals Curtis Alling or Sydney Coatsworth on the programmatic NEPA review or Honey Walters on the GHG analysis guidance. 

Ascent Environmental, Inc. is a forward-looking environmental consultancy. We offer our extensive CEQA and NEPA, regulatory compliance, climate action planning, and natural resources experience with the goal of providing personal service and high quality results to our clients on their most important projects. We are certified as a small business and women-owned business enterprise.
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