Discussion of Climate Change-Related Water Impacts in Federal Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), January-September 2012
Climate change and its predicted effect on precipitation, temperature, storm frequency and intensity, global sea levels, and numerous other factors will pose significant challenges for the maintenance and operations of built infrastructure. Climate change is predicted to exacerbate water-related issues, such as water supply shortages brought on by increasingly severe droughts and more frequent or intense flooding caused by extreme precipitation events. Executive Order 13514 and subsequent instructions from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) have directed federal agencies to prepare for and adapt to the changing environment in which they will have to operate. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 requires federal agencies, before undertaking, funding or permitting major actions that may have a significant effect on the environment, to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) addressing the expected impacts on the environment and identifying potential alternatives and mitigation measures. A previous report published in July 2012 by Columbia’s Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL), “Consideration of Climate Change in Federal EISs, 2009-2011,” examined the varying degrees to which federal agencies addressed climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in their EISs. Using a similar approach, CCCL has prepared a database examining the treatment of water-related issues in all Final EISs reported to EPA from January 1 to September 30, 2012. The database, comprised of 149 FEISs, details the extent to which federal agencies address topics related to water and climate change. This report presents a summary of the trends and patterns represented in that database.
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