Federal Actions & Legislation

Federal Programs & Actions

Council on Environmental Quality

Federal Agencies Release Annual Scorecards on Sustainability, Energy Performance, Council on Environmental Quality (June 15, 2012). CEQ has announced the release by federal agencies of their 2011 scorecards on environmental sustainability and energy performance. Executive Order 13,514 of 2009 directed federal agencies to “lead by example” in clean energy and to meet a range of energy, water, pollution, and waste-reduction targets. The annual scorecards assess each agency’s performance in reducing energy consumption and water use, fleet petroleum use, and greenhouse gas emissions; green building practices; and renewable energy use. Using the scorecards as a benchmark, each agency must update its sustainability plan to address areas needing improvement. For more information on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s performance, link to the DOT Energy and Sustainability Scorecard 2011. Links to other federal agencies scorecards are available at http://sustainability.performance.gov/.

Revised Guidance on Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting (March 12, 2012). This draft revised guidance document establishes requirements for federal agencies to calculate and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with their operations, as required by President Obama’s Oct. 5, 2009, Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. The original guidance, issued in October 2010, has been revised to include recommendations of a federal interagency working group on changes to the GHG reporting and accounting procedures. Comments on the revised guidance are due April 11, 2012.

CEQ Releases Draft Action Plan for Federal Agencies to Address Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources (June 2, 2011). The Council on Environmental Quality has released for public comment a draft action plan for federal agencies to help assure adequate water supplies, safeguard water quality, and protect public health and property in the face of climate change impacts. The draft National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate includes six recommended actions for federal agencies: establish a planning process; improve water resources and climate data; strengthen assessment of vulnerability; improve water use efficiency; support integrated water resources management; and educate water resources managers and build capacity.

Obama Administration to Develop Alternative-Fueled Federal Light Duty-Vehicle Fleet (May 24, 2011). All light-duty vehicles purchased by the federal government must be alternative-fuel vehicles by Dec. 31, 2015, under a new presidential memorandum on federal fleet management. The memorandum also directs the General Services Administration to determine the optimal fleet size for all federal agencies within 90 days and to provide agencies with recommendations for alternative-fuel vehicle acquisition and fleet optimization. In conjunction with the memorandum, GSA announced an Electric Vehicle Pilot Program to help incorporate electric vehicles and infrastructure into the federal fleet.

Federal Government Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Released (April 28, 2011). The Council on Environmental Quality has released the first comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for the Federal Government, which documents the GHG emissions of federal agency operations in 2010. The agencies were required to set their own GHG reduction goals and report their direct and indirect GHG emissions to meet sustainability goals under President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13514. The 2010 inventory shows that federal agencies reduced their GHG emissions by 2.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the 2008 baseline.

Draft NEPA Guidance on Consideration of the Effects of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Feb. 18, 2010). CEQ proposes that the NEPA process should consider both the impact of an agency action on the environment through GHG emissions and the impact of changing climate on the agency action. This is not a new component of NEPA analysis. CEQ indicates that if an agency determines that an assessment of climate issues is appropriate, the agency should identity alternative actions that adapt to anticipated climate change impacts and reduce GHG emissions that cause climate change. The guidance proposes that if a proposed action is reasonably anticipated to cause direct emissions of 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2-equivalent GHG emissions on an annual basis, "agencies should consider this an indicator that a quantitative and qualitative assessment may be meaningful to decision makers and the public. For long-term actions that have annual direct emissions of less than 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent, CEQ encourages federal agencies to consider whether the action's long-term emissions should receive similar analysis."

Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (March 16, 2010). This is a 20-page interim report by a task force of representatives of over 20 federal agencies, created by President Obama to develop a strategy and recommendations for U.S. climate adaptation efforts. The full report is due in October 2010.

Department of Energy

DOE Announces EV Everywhere Blueprint, New Initiative to Expand Workplace Charging, U.S. Department of Energy (Jan. 31, 2013). DOE has released a document that outlines its technical and deployment goals for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) over the next five years as part of the administration’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. The initiative, launched in March 2012, is intended to make PEVs as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles for American families by 2022. The EV Everywhere Grand Challenge Blueprint sets technical targets in the areas of battery and electric drive system research and development, vehicle weight reduction, and advanced climate control technologies and describes deployment programs related to charging infrastructure and consumer education. The agency also announced that 13 major employers have joined a new Workplace Charging Challenge to expand the availability of PEV charging infrastructure in the workplace.

President Obama Launches EV-Everywhere Challenge to Advance Electric Vehicle Research, U.S. Department of Energy (March 7, 2012). President Obama has announced the launch of the EV-Everywhere Challenge, an effort to make electric-powered vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles for the average American family within the next decade. The initiative is the second of the Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Grand Challenges, which seek to bring together scientists, engineers, and businesses to collaborate on key energy technology challenges. The research specifically will pursue technological and cost improvements in batteries, electric motors, power electronics, reduction in vehicle weight, and fast charging technology.

2012 Fuel Economy Guide Released, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency (Nov. 16, 2011). DOE and EPA have announced the availability of the annual fuel economy guide for consumer vehicles, including data on hybrid and electric vehicles and lists of the most and least efficient vehicles. Certain 2012 models also will feature a new label displaying more comprehensive fuel efficiency information and greenhouse gas and smog ratings. The new label is required in 2013 but can be voluntarily adopted by automakers for the 2012 model year.

Energy Department Will Provide $145 Million for Advanced Solar Energy Projects, Department of Energy (Sept. 1, 2011). The Department of Energy has awarded $145 million to 69 advanced solar energy technology projects in 24 states to accelerate research and development, lower costs, and advance cutting-edge technologies. The projects granted awards are designed to improve the production of photovoltaics by improving materials, manufacturing processes, and supply chains. The awards are granted as part of the department’s SunShot initiative.

Energy Department Launches Online Tools to Accelerate Plug-In Vehicle Adoption, U.S. Department of Energy (Aug. 22, 2011). DOE has announced the development of two new online tools to help communities better prepare for widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). The first tool is a template to help local governments design permits for residential EV charging installations. The second tool is a training video designed to help inspectors and electricians inspect and install the systems. According to DOE, the new tools are intended to encourage cities to develop standardized permitting and inspection procedures, help local officials streamline their processes, and provide more favorable conditions for EV businesses as more plug-in EVs enter the marketplace.

Department of Commerce

Commerce, Interior Departments Agree to Coordinate Actions on Climate Change (Aug. 3, 2010). The U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior have announced a formal agreement to cooperate on climate-related activities involving science, services, mitigation, adaptation, education, and communications. The two agencies signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate their efforts to manage U.S. oceans, coasts, the Great Lakes, and public lands. The agreement will build on the existing partnerships and programs of each department, including DOI’s emerging Climate Science Centers and NOAA’s Regional Climate Centers.

U.S. Department of Transportation

FHWA Proposes Congestion Performance Measures, Considers GHG Target (April 2016). The Federal Highway Administration has proposed new performance measures to assess travel reliability, congestion and emissions at a national level and is seeking comment on whether and how to establish a first-ever greenhouse gas emissions measure. The rule requires all states to evaluate and report more effectively and consistently on transportation system performance, including travel time reliability, delay hours, peak-hour congestion, freight movement and on-road mobile source emissions.

MAP-21, Section 1511 – Special Permits During Periods of National Emergency Implementation Guidance, Revised, FHWA (6-5-13). Revisions to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) Section 1511 guidance were recently posted. Section 1511 details the implementation of special permits that may be needed during periods of national emergency. The guidance describes the program’s purpose, permit requirements, and ineligible activities. In addition, the guidance features a questions and answers section.

FTA, FEMA Sign Agreement Establishing Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency (March 5, 2013). FTA and FEMA have signed a memorandum of agreement outlining the agencies’ roles and responsibilities in providing assistance to repair and restore public transportation systems in areas for which the president has declared a major disaster or emergency, as required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The agreement was required to establish a new FTA Public Transportation Emergency Relief program that gives the agency primary responsibility for reimbursing emergency response and recovery costs after a major disaster or emergency affecting transit and for helping to mitigate impact from future disasters.

FHWA Issues Solicitation for INVEST Implementation Projects, Federal Highway Administration (1-13-13). FHWA is seeking letters of interest from state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, federal lands, and local governments to implement its Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST 1.0). Launched in October 2012, INVEST 1.0 is a web-based collection of voluntary best practices designed to help transportation agencies incorporate sustainable practices into their projects, plans, and programs. FWHA is seeking to partner with transportation agencies to gather lessons learned on implementing INVEST that can be shared with other agencies. Funding for multiple awards is anticipated at $25,000 to $150,000 to be awarded on a rolling basis; letters of interest are due Feb. 15 for the first round of projects planned for March 2013.

FHWA Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST), Federal Highway Administration (Oct. 2012). This online tool allows transportation agencies and their partners to evaluate and score sustainable elements of their projects and programs based on pre-established criteria. Points can be earned for a range of sustainable criteria, allowing users to rate projects or programs with a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum score. The tool includes three “modules” under which users can self-evaluate the entire life cycle of transportation services: system planning, project development, and operations and maintenance. Each module is based on a separate set of criteria and can be evaluated separately. The site includes background, case studies, and an online workspace for collaboration.

Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction Program: First Assessment Report, Federal Transit Administration (Aug. 27, 2012). The Federal Transit Administration has issued a review of the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program, which issued grants to transit agencies in three phases from 2009 to 2011. The report describes the types of projects funded, placing them into  three categories: facility efficiency, bus efficiency, and rail. The report also describes the process of data collection and evaluation. The report says that it is too soon to draw significant conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the program. The report was prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

FTA Earth Day Website Showcases Sustainable Transportation Initiatives, Federal Transit Administration (April 19, 2012). To mark the 42nd Earth Day FTA launched this website highlighting the environmental benefits of transit and the administration’s initiatives to support sustainable public transit alternatives.  Features of the website include a calculator that shows how users can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by riding transit. The website also provides a map with links to sustainable transit projects across the country and information on agency initiatives such as investments in clean-fuel technologies.

Environmental Protection Agency

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2011 (April 15, 2013). EPA has released its 18th annual inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, showing that emissions dropped 1.6 percent in 2011 from 2010 levels, due in part to a reduction in coal consumption for electricity generation and increases in natural gas and hydropower consumption. Total carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions in 2011 were 6.702 billion metric tons, compared with 6.81 billion metric tons in 2010. The report also shows a decrease in GHG emissions from transportation to 1.745 billion metric tons 2011, compared with 1.764 billion metric tons in 2010.

Using MOVES for Estimating State and Local Inventories of On-Road Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Consumption, Environmental Protection Agency (Nov. 29, 2012). This document provides guidance on how to use the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator model (MOVES) to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and/or energy consumption from on-road vehicles in a state or metropolitan area. The guidance describes approaches for developing an annual on-road GHG inventory in different types of areas and the implications of each of these approaches.

EPA/NHTSA Final Rule on Fuel Efficiency, GHG Emissions for Vehicles Standards, Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Aug. 28, 2012). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have finalized revisions to the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. The rule increases fuel economy for cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025 and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption. The CAFE standards were last revised in 2010.

EPA Proposes to Maintain Thresholds in Tailoring Rule for Greenhouse Gas Permits (Feb. 27, 2012). EPA has issued a proposed rule that would retain the existing thresholds in its June 2010 tailoring rule for stationary emissions sources to obtain greenhouse gas permits. Currently, new sources that emit 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide-equivalent and existing sources that make modifications that increase their emissions by 75,000 tons per year must obtain the permits. The proposal also would revise the permitting program to provide affected industries with flexibility in how they comply with GHG emissions caps. EPA will accept comment on the proposed rule until April 20, 2012.

Documents from Heavy-Duty Greenhouse Gas Implementation Workshop Now Available (Nov. 7, 2011). Documents are now available from a Nov. 3, 2011, workshop conducted by EPA on the certification process for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles to comply with new greenhouse gas emissions standards and fuel efficiency standards. The presentations provide an overview of the GHG requirements; cover the specific GHG requirements applicable to heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, heavy-duty engines, and combination tractors and vocational vehicles; and include closing remarks by the NHTSA.

Updated State and Local Guide to U.S. EPA Climate and Energy Program Resources Now Available, Environmental Protection Agency (Oct. 13, 2011). This is an updated version of a 2009 guide designed to help state and local governments see which of the agency’s programs could be leveraged to expand or develop clean energy initiatives in their jurisdictions. The guide contains synopses of 19 EPA climate and energy partnership programs that include suggestions of possible actions a state or local government could take to leverage EPA's offerings.

EPA Defends Its Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding in Court Filing, Environmental Protection Agency (Aug. 18, 2011). The Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles endanger public health and the environment was a science-based decision that closely adhered to the requirements of the Clean Air Act, the agency said in a brief filed in federal district court. The filing was in response to lawsuits from states and industry groups challenging the endangerment finding. According to EPA, those lawsuits have relied on "unfocused and unjustified attacks on isolated elements of the administrative record" because the conclusion that greenhouse gases pose a threat is scientifically grounded.

EPA-NHTSA Issue Final Greenhouse Gas, Fuel Economy Standards for Heavy-Duty Trucks, Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Aug. 9, 2011). The Obama administration has issued a final rule that sets the first greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The rule, which is applicable to vehicles in model years 2014 through 2018, sets separate standards for large highway combination tractors that typically pull trailers; heavy-duty pickups and vans; “vocational” trucks, such as garbage, cement, and utility vehicles; and buses. The standards are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years.

Obama Administration Proposes 54.5 MPG as Standard for Cars, Light Trucks by 2025, Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (July 29, 2011). President Obama has announced an agreement with 13 major automobile manufacturers to increase the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025. The agreement, which builds on the previous standards set for MY 2012-2016 vehicles, would require automakers to increase the fuel economy of cars by 5 percent annually. Light-duty trucks would be allowed to increase fuel economy more slowly—by 3.5 percent per year through 2021 and then by 5 percent annually through 2025. According to an administration report, Driving Efficiency: Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil, the new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles to 163 grams per mile of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025. EPA and NHTSA also issued a supplemental notice announcing development of a proposed rule for the MY 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG emissions and CAFE standards.

EPA Proposes to Waive Requirements for Capturing Gasoline Vapors When Refueling Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency (July 11, 2011). The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a proposed rule to establish criteria by which the agency will determine whether requirements for gasoline pump vapor recovery may be waived.  Since 2006, all new cars and light trucks have been manufactured to include onboard refueling vapor recovery, making gasoline pump vapor systems redundant. The rule will allow states to apply for a waiver of federal requirements for vapor recovery systems at the pump.  Comments are due Sept. 13, 2011. For more information, link to the proposed rule and fact sheet

EPA Releases Trip Generation Analysis Tool for Mixed-Use Development, Environmental Protection Agency (June 29, 2011). EPA has developed a spreadsheet tool that allows users to estimate trips generated by new mixed-used development projects. The spreadsheet tool, which uses models developed in cooperation with the Institute of Transportation Engineers, estimates vehicle trips during peak periods and for an entire day, predicts trips by walking and transit, and estimates the daily vehicle miles of travel associated with the development. The tool requires users to input data about the development site and its surrounding area, including geographic, demographic, and land use characteristics.

EPA, NHTSA Announce New Fuel Economy Labels, (May 25, 2011). The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced new fuel economy labels for cars and light-duty trucks beginning with the 2012 model year. The new labels, which will be voluntary for 2012 model year vehicles and required beginning with model year 2013 vehicles, include information on the amount of fuel or electricity needed to drive 100 miles, estimates of annual fuel costs, and data on emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone precursors. The labels also provide a five-year comparison of fuel costs based on the average fuel economy being achieved by the national fleet of vehicles. For hybrid and electric vehicles, the labels also provide an equivalent to the miles-per-gallon rating, include information on the distance they can travel on a full battery, and specify battery charging times.

EPA-NHTSA Issue Notice of Intent to Develop Stringent GHG, Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2017-2025 (Oct. 1, 2010). EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have issued a notice of their intent to conduct a joint rulemaking to develop more stringent federal greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks built in model years 2017 through 2025. The proposed rule will build on the first phase of the nation program for fuel economy and GHG emissions standards for model year 2012-2016 vehicles, issued in April 2010. Those standards require light-duty vehicles to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon and a GHG emissions limit of 250 grams per mile of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2016. The current notice does not propose specific standards, but requests comments on four possible targets for reducing emissions beyond 2016: 3 percent per year, 4 percent, 5 percent, and 6 percent per year. According to the notice, a 6 percent annual improvement would reduce GHG emissions to 143 grams per mile in 2025 and increase the cost of the vehicle by $2,800, but would save the consumer $7,400 in fuel costs over the vehicle’s lifetime. The agencies also released an Interim Joint Technical Assessment Report of potential 2017-2025 scenarios developed with the California Air Resources Board. For more information, including a fact sheet and pre-publication version of the notice, link to EPA's Transportation and Climate Regulations and Standards website and to NHTSA's CAFE – Fuel Economy website.

EPA Denies Petitions Challenging Scientific Basis of Endangerment Finding (July 29, 2010). EPA has denied 10 petitions challenging the validity of the climate science used as the basis of its December 2009 finding that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles endanger public health and welfare. According to a release issued by the agency, the petitions to reconsider the its endangerment finding claim that climate science cannot be trusted, and assert a conspiracy that invalidates the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In dismissing the petitions, EPA said it conducted a review of the science it used and concluded “that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.”

EPA Analysis of the American Power Act in the 111th Congress (6-14-10). This EPA analysis of the American Power Act of 2010 models the multi-sector cap-and-trade program, the alternative compliance option for the transportation fuels and refined petroleum products sectors, the competitiveness provisions, and many of the energy efficiency provisions of the APA.

Climate Change Indicators in the United States (April 2010). This report lists 24 indicators describing trends related to the causes and effects of climate change in the United States. Examples of climate change indicators include temperature, precipitation, sea level, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (Dec. 7, 2009).This contains two distinct findings by the EPA administrator regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:

  • Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) - in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
  • Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.

These findings do not themselves impose any requirements on industry or other entities. However, this action is a prerequisite to finalizing the EPA's greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles, which EPA issued in a joint final rule with the Department of Transportation's CAFE standards on April 1, 2010 (Final Rulemaking: Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards).

Federal Emergency Management Agency

State Mitigation Plan Review Guide

State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, Federal Emergency Management Agency (3-11-15). This document is an update to FEMA’s guidance on State Hazard Mitigation plans. The states, which develop the plans to prepare for natural disasters, will now be required to consider the impacts of climate change. However, it is not specified how the climate considerations should affect the plan. FEMA’s approval of states’ plans makes them eligible for federal funding of disaster mitigation projects that are designed to bolster resilience. See also a Natural Resources Defense Council blog post.

FTA, FEMA Sign Agreement Establishing Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency (March 5, 2013). FTA and FEMA have signed a memorandum of agreement outlining the agencies’ roles and responsibilities in providing assistance to repair and restore public transportation systems in areas for which the president has declared a major disaster or emergency, as required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The agreement was required to establish a new FTA Public Transportation Emergency Relief program that gives the agency primary responsibility for reimbursing emergency response and recovery costs after a major disaster or emergency affecting transit and for helping to mitigate impact from future disasters.

2012 National Preparedness Report, Federal Emergency Management Agency (March 2012). This annual report summarizes how prepared the nation is in the areas of emergency and security prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The report is a requirement of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness (PPD-8) of March 2011, which described the nation’s approach to preparing for threats and hazards posing the greatest risk to U.S. security. The report identifies areas of significant progress, describes opportunities for improvement, and reinforces the principles of national preparedness. The report also finds that overall, the nation has increased its collective preparedness from threats posed by terrorism and natural and technological hazards.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA, DOE Partner to Improve Climate Modeling Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Feb. 13, 2013). NOAA and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science have announced an agreement to coordinate their climate modeling research programs in an effort to improve planning for climate change. The agreement is intended to produce more detailed and complex climate models that allow for climate projections on a finer scale, over longer time frames, and with more certainty to better inform decision makers.

NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index Continues Upward Trend (Nov. 9, 2011). NOAA has announced an update to its Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, first introduced in 2004, that shows a continued increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. The index reached 1.29 in 2010, indicating that the combined heating effect of long-lived GHGs added to the atmosphere by human activities has increased by 29 percent since 1990, the baseline year used in the index.

NOAA State of the Climate Report Says 2010 Among Warmest on Record (June 27, 2011). The latest in a series of annual climate reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds that 2010 was the warmest or second warmest year on record, depending on what analytical method is used. The year also was characterized by changes in sea surface temperatures from an El Nino pattern—warmer than usual sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean—at the beginning of the year to a La Nina pattern—unusually cool sea surface temperatures—by the end of the year. According to the report, the transition contributed to extreme weather events around the world. The report also finds that 2010 saw the continuation of a long-term trend of increased greenhouse gas concentrations and surface temperatures.

Executive Orders and Directives

Obama Administration Announces 2016 Greenhouse Gas Targets and Sustainability Plans; Highlights Federal Leadership on Climate Action, The White House (Nov. 23, 2015). This announcement discusses a charge to federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 41.8 percent from 2008 levels by 2025, and publicizes the release of federal agencies’ sustainability plans. The White House also announced the Federal Highway Administration’s receipt of a 2015 GreenGov Presidential Award for its leadership in reducing carbon emissions and implementing sustainability projects. Several individuals within the FHWA’s Tennessee District Office were cited for their efforts to develop more livable communities through greater transportation choices and access to transportation services.

Executive Order: Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, White House (11-1-13). President Obama has signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to prepare the U.S. impacts from climate change. The executive order, which comes one year after Hurricane Sandy’s landfall along the northeast seaboard, calls on the federal government to manage efforts to “improve climate preparedness and resilience” with input from state, local, tribal and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, the executive order establishes the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which comprises several federal agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Defense, State, Agriculture, and Homeland Security.

President Obama’s Plan to Fight Climate Change, The White House (6-25-13). President Obama unveils a sweeping climate change action plan that he hopes to implement through the regulatory process. Though the plan largely focuses on efforts to regulate power plant emissions and promote renewable electricity systems, it would also affect adaptation efforts. For example, the plan creates a task force of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise the federal government on actions to support local efforts to prepare for climate change. The Obama climate plan also calls for increasing federal research on climate change impacts and improving access to that research.

White House Expands Commitment to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Federal Operations (7-20-10) President Obama has announced that the federal government, the largest user of energy in the country, is aiming to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases from indirect sources, such as employee travel and commuting, by 13 percent by 2020. The commitment expands the administration's greenhouse gas reduction target beyond the level established in January 2010 to reduce pollution from direct sources, such as vehicles and buildings. By 2020, the federal government expects to reduce emissions from its operations cumulatively by 101 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of emissions from 235 million barrels of oil.

Presidential Memorandum: Improving Energy Security, American Competitiveness and Job Creation, and Environmental Protection through a Transformation of our Nation's Fleet of Cars and Trucks (May 21, 2010). President Obama directs the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to initiate a rulemaking to establish the first-ever standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The directive instructs the two agencies to begin a rulemaking for the truck standards for model years 2014-2018 and to develop new fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model year 2017 and beyond that would take effect after current rules for those vehicles that expire in model year 2016. The president’s directive also requires EPA to reduce emissions of conventional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, from motor vehicles and includes support for development of electric vehicles and other advanced-vehicle technology.

Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership In Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, Oct. 5, 2009. This executive order issued by President Obama includes a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for federal government operations of 28 percent by 2020. The order required each federal agency to submit their GHG reduction target from a 2008 baseline to the Council on Environmental Quality by Jan. 4, 2010. The resulting federal government-wide GHG emissions reduction target is expected to reduce energy use by the equivalent of 205 million barrels of oil and taking 17 million cars off the roads by 2020. Federal agencies plan to meet the target by measuring their current energy and fuel use, improving energy efficiency, and switching to cleaner energy sources.

Other Resources

United States, China Announce Cooperation on Climate Change, White House Council on Environmental Quality (Nov. 2014). This climate change agreement between the United States and China regarding the two nations’ respective post-2020 actions on climate change is part of the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. 

United States Climate Action Report 2014, Department of State (Jan. 1, 2014). The Department of State has issued the United States’ Climate Action Report for 2014. Presented to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the report provides information on the United States’ actions, both at home and abroad, “to mitigate, adapt to, and assist others in addressing climate change.” The report also outlines the United States’ plan to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions trends through 2020.

Federal Funding Compendium for Urban Heat Adaptation, Georgetown Climate Center (Dec. 20, 2013). The Georgetown Climate Center has released a compendium compiling information about federal funding opportunities for urban heat adaptation. The center evaluated more than 40 federal programs for their potential to offer urban heat relief in the categories of transportation, energy, environment, community development and public health. The compendium includes information related to eligibility, possible funded activities and average grant awards for several Department of Transportation programs that can be used for urban heat relief, including the Interstate Maintenance Program, Highways for LIFE, National Highway Performance Program, State Planning and Research Grants, Transportation Alternatives and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program, among others.

Advisory Panel Report to President Recommends Executive Actions to Address Climate Change, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (March 22, 2013). This letter report outlines executive actions President Obama can take to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change impacts, such as establishing a National Commission on Climate Preparedness, including climate change considerations in infrastructure projects, and better forecasting of extreme weather events. The recommendations fall under six key areas: preparing the nation for the impacts of climate change; reducing the carbon intensity of the economy, particularly electricity generation; promoting market conditions to foster clean energy and energy efficiency; investing in research to develop clean energy technologies; providing international leadership on climate change; and conducting an initial quadrennial energy review.

Climate Change Regulatory Authority Beyond the Clean Air Act, Resources for the Future (July 2012). This discussion paper provides an overview of federal regulatory authority regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The paper discusses the impacts that proposed comprehensive legislation to regulate greenhouse gases might have on various federal statutes including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The paper finds that a national climate policy would preempt programs developed under other statutes.

Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change, Pew Center on Global Climate Change (March 3, 2011). This newly updated series provides brief reports on climate change topics such as climate science; adaptation measures; and U.S Federal, State, and local action. The updated reports highlight issues including the significance of the global negotiations, local efforts to address climate change, and current predictions on global temperature changes. Individual reports can be accessed at the following links: Overview, Science and Impacts, Adaptation, Technology,  Business, International,  Federal, State, Local, and Cap and Trade.