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The Biden Administration has recently issued several wide-ranging initiatives related to climate and environmental justice that have both short- and long-term implications for Federal decisions and associated NEPA analysis. Understanding potential implications of these orders is key to effectively planning your on-going and future projects.

These initiatives include the following:

  • Secretarial Order 3395: This Secretarial Order (SO) initiated a 60-day cessation of delegated authority to issue new Federal notices and decisions on new leases, applications for permits to drill, land tenure adjustments, and notices to proceed for surface disturbing activities. A common practice under previous administrations, this temporary suspension provides a period for the new administration to determine how it will be managing these types of decisions, particularly if those decisions are subject to previous guidance that may be rescinded. This SO is due to expire March 21, 2021, unless revoked at an earlier date.
  • Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis: This Executive Order (EO) includes many sweeping revocations of executive orders mandated by the previous administration. It specifically addresses climate change and in particular, climate change impacts on environmental justice communities. It places a temporary moratorium on activities associated with the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, restores President Obama’s withdrawal of areas in Arctic Waters, calls for a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of coastal plan leasing program, and calls for analysis of the social costs of carbon.
  • Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad:  This EO was issued on January 27, 2021. It includes an indefinite pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters, pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices. This review will include determining whether royalties associated with oil and gas resources should be adjusted to account for corresponding climate costs. The EO also directs that steps be taken to ensure, to the extent consistent with applicable law, that federal funding is not used to directly subsidize fossil fuels.
  • CEQ Federal Register Notice rescinding 2019 CEQ Draft NEPA Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: On February 19, CEQ issued a notice in the Federal Register rescinding their draft 2019 guidance on greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis and mandates that agencies shall “consider all available tools and resources in assessing GHG emissions and climate change effects of their proposed actions, including, as appropriate and relevant, the 2016 GHG Guidance.”

What Does This Mean

In our opinion, these actions do not constitute a cessation of new oil and gas development. Instead, they represent a strong push to reinstate initiatives addressing climate change and the impacts of GHG emissions on climate change. Broad ramifications of these actions include:

  1. Federal agencies will be analyzing GHG emissions and climate change as part of their NEPA analyses. This analysis will include the social cost of carbon.
  2. The suspension on new leasing will likely be lifted after completion of broad programmatic NEPA analysis, which will include leasing’s cumulative impacts on greenhouse gas, climate, and environmental justice communities. The scale of new leasing may be adjusted based on that analysis.
  3. Changes in cumulative impacts analysis mandated under the new NEPA regulations will not preclude NEPA analysis of cumulative climate impacts for future projects.  

Contact Us

SWCA can answer questions and help you understand what these initiatives mean for your activities. Contact your SWCA project manager or one of our experts for more information:

  • mpetersen [at] swca [dot] com (Matt Petersen)
  • rfranzman [at] swca [dot] com (Rio Franzman)
  • surwick [at] swca [dot] com (Scott Urwick)