(White House) Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the United States
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in Environmental Law
“An organization created in 1970 by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to advise and recommend national policies to improve the environment. The CEQ has acted as a presidential advisor and, over the years, has been criticized for failing to play a larger role.
The Council on Environmental Quality establishes the regulations for an environmental impact statement (EIS) required by the National Environmental Policy Act. It coordinates positions of cabinet officers and independent agencies on environmental issues and assists the president in preparing an annual report on the environment.” (1)
The Council on Environmental Quality coordinates Federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives. CEQ was established within the Executive Office of the President by Congress as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and additional responsibilities were provided by the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970.
The President’s Advisor
This role leads the Council and assists and advises the President in developing environmental policies and initiatives.
Through interagency working groups and coordination with other EOP components, CEQ works to advance the President’s agenda. It also balances competing positions, and encourages government-wide coordination, bringing Federal agencies, state and local governments, and other stakeholders together on matters relating to the environment, natural resources and energy.
In addition, the Council on Environmental Quality oversees the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive. The role of the Federal Environmental Executive is to promote sustainable environmental stewardship throughout the Federal government.
Balancing Social, Economic, and Environmental Goals
In addition, the Council on Environmental Quality oversees Federal agency implementation of the environmental impact assessment process and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments.
In enacting the National Environmental Policy Act, Congress recognized that nearly all Federal activities affect the environment in some way and mandated that before Federal agencies make decisions, they must consider the effects of their actions on the quality of the human environment. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, CEQ works to balance environmental, economic, and social objectives in pursuit of the National Environmental Policy Act’s goal of “productive harmony” between humans and the human environment. 42 U.S.C. §4331(a).
The National Environmental Policy Act assigns the Council on Environmental Quality the task of ensuring that Federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act. The challenge of harmonizing our economic, environmental and social aspirations has put the National Environmental Policy Act and the Council on Environmental Quality at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to protect the environment.
One of the major duties of the White House Council on Environmental Quality is to develop and recommend to the President national policies to foster and promote the improvement of environmental quality to meet the conservation, social, economic, health, and other requirements and goals of the Nation.
Through interagency working groups and coordination with agencies and other White House offices, the Council on Environmental Quality works to advance the President’s agenda. It also balances competing positions, and encourages government-wide coordination, bringing federal agencies, state and local governments, and others together on matters relating to the environment, natural resources and energy.
CEQ initiatives, for example, include the following:
Climate Change Resilience
State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force
GHG Accounting and Inventories
Federal Supplier Scorecard
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative
National Ocean Council
National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan
Steps to Modernize and Reinvigorate NEPA
Guidance for Programmatic NEPA Reviews
Guidance for GHG Emissions
Guidance on Categorical Exclusions
Guidance for Mitigation and Monitoring
NEPA Pilot Program
Retrospective Regulatory Review Plan
Review of MMS NEPA Procedures for OCS Oil and Gas Exploration and Development
Recovery Through Retrofit
Commitment to Clean Water
Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration
Updated Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies (P&G)
Interagency Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force