54 Members of Congress send letter to CEQ on climate change guidance, social cost of carbon

Apr 27, 2015
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 27, 2015) — Fifty-four members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) expressing support for the recent draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance on how Federal agencies can evaluate the impacts of proposed actions on climate change.  The letter, led by the chair of the Safe Climate Caucus Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), highlights the need for the new guidance, given the scientific evidence that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to significant environmental changes.  The letter also suggests that CEQ advise federal agencies to use the Social Cost of Carbon in environmental evaluations in order to translate tons of greenhouse gas emissions into monetary costs to the American People. 
Congressman Lowenthal said of the letter, “NEPA provides transparency to the environmental impacts of federal activities, but there is a large blind spot when it comes to the carbon footprint of federal actions.  The environmental risks of the greenhouse gas emissions from federal activities should be a part of the decision-making process.   The American people have a right to know how the use of our resources affects our air, water, and land.  We suggest using the Social Cost of Carbon because right now, greenhouse gas emitters are passing off the costs of their actions to everyone else.  Federal agencies have a chance to lead in this area, and CEQ can provide the tools they need to move forward.” 
Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition Climate Change task force and member of the Safe Climate Caucus, is fighting to stop some in Congress from trying to ban agencies from using the Social Cost of Carbon.  In an opinion article posted this week Congressman Peters says, “Recently, the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee reviewed legislation that contained a provision that took me aback: Bar government agencies from considering the social cost of increasing levels of carbon in their analyses and rules. That approach is dangerous to our environment, economy, and security.”  He adds, “While we are planning for the economic future we must also be considering how our economic growth will impact our public health and the sustainability of our communities. Including the social cost of carbon in policy and rule making is the smart, and responsible, thing to do.”
Since 1970, NEPA has been a guiding framework for federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of proposed actions.  Although it does not have regulatory authority (like the Clean Water Act, for example), it provides Congress and the American People with information regarding the positive and negative environmental impacts of a proposed use of taxpayer dollars and resources.  In 2014 CEQ released a draft guidance with specific instructions as to how agencies can account for a proposed action’s impact on climate change in their NEPA reviews. 
The Social Cost of Carbon is the estimate of all future economic impacts of the addition of one metric ton of CO2 to the atmosphere, provided in current dollars.  It incorporates the long-term costs of CO2 emissions on healthcare, food security, and coastal communities, among other costs. 
The Congressional Safe Climate Caucus is comprised of more than forty members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have made a commitment to speak out about the dangers of climate change.  They are united by the understanding that climate change is a moral issue, and they believe that they have an obligation to raise awareness of the hardships for future generations if Congress continues to ignore the realities of a changing climate.