Proposal calls for emissions study with new government-approved projects

The Obama administration proposed rules Thursday that could affect construction of coal-fired power plants and other government-approved projects that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.

The guidelines for the first time set uniform standards on how federal agencies consider the causes and effects of climate change during their environmental analyses. They would require study of the greenhouse gas emissions of any project expected to emit at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year -- roughly 4,600 cars’ worth.

The types of projects that could be affected include large-scale landfills, coal-fired power plants and coal mines that give off methane.

The guidelines instruct federal agencies to “consider opportunities to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions caused by proposed federal actions” and “use the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts.”


Such analysis would not necessarily affect a project’s fate. White House officials said the rules were not meant to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But after analysis, officials could decide whether a reduction in emissions was needed.

For those cases, the guidelines offer several suggestions, which could increase a project’s upfront costs, such as installing carbon capture and sequestration technology on a coal plant or capturing methane as it escapes from a mine.