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Page added on January 1, 2010

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Federal agencies may have to consider climate before they act

The Obama administration may issue an order that would expand the National Environmental Policy Act’s scope to prevent global warming. The move could open up new avenues to challenge projects.

Reporting from Washington – The White House is poised to order all federal agencies to evaluate any major actions they take, such as building highways or logging national forests, to determine how they would contribute to and be affected by climate change, a step long sought by environmentalists.

Environmentalists say the move would provide new incentives for the government to minimize the heat-trapping gas emissions scientists blame for global warming. Republicans have opposed it as potentially inhibiting economic growth.

The new order would expand the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, a landmark statute that turns 40 today. The act already requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts such as land use, species health and air and water quality when approving projects.

By formalizing a requirement to consider effects on climate — a step some agencies already take — the administration would introduce a broad new spectrum of issues to be considered. It could also open up new avenues for environmentalists to attack, delay or halt proposed government actions. The environmental impact statements originally required by the act have become routine battlegrounds for environmentalists, developers and others.

Under the order, agencies would need to account for whether such factors as predicted rises in sea levels would affect proposed new roads along shorelines; or whether, because of temperature changes and species migration, clear-cutting a patch of forest would result in new types of trees replacing the originals.

LA Times



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