MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question for decision is whether § 102 (2) (C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 83 Stat.
NEPA sets forth its purposes in bold strokes:
Congress recognized, however, that these desired goals could
The thrust of § 102 (2) (C) is thus that environmental concerns be integrated into the very process of agency decision-making. The "detailed statement" it requires is the outward sign that environmental values and consequences have been considered during the planning stage of agency actions.
The District Court agreed with respondents' contentions. Relying on provisions of the then applicable CEQ guidelines,
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit modified the holding of the District Court. The Court of Appeals was apprehensive because "[a] rule requiring preparation of an EIS on the annual budget request for virtually every ongoing program would trivialize NEPA." 189 U. S. App. D. C. 117, 125, 581 F.2d 895, 903 (1978). Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded that § 102 (2) (C) required
We granted certiorari, 439 U.S. 1065 (1979), and we now reverse.
NEPA requires EIS's to be included in recommendations or reports on both "proposals for legislation . . . significantly affecting the quality of the human environment" and "proposals for . . . major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U. S. C. § 4332 (2) (C). See CEQ regulations, 43 Fed. Reg. 56001 (1978) (to be codified at 40 CFR § 1506.8 (a)). Petitioners argue, however, that the requirements of § 102 (2) (C) have no application to the budget process. The contrary holding of the
We note initially that NEPA makes no distinction between "proposals for legislation" that are the result of "painstaking review," and those that are merely "routine." When Congress has thus spoken "in the plainest of words," TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 194 (1978), we will ordinarily decline to fracture the clear language of a statute, even for the purpose of fashioning from the resulting fragments a rule that "accords with `common sense and the public weal.'" Id., at 195. Therefore, either all appropriation requests constitute "proposals for legislation," or none does.
There is no direct evidence in the legislative history of NEPA that enlightens whether Congress intended the phrase "proposals for legislation" to include requests for appropriations. At the time of the Court of Appeals' decision, however, CEQ guidelines provided that § 102 (2) (C) applied to "[r]ecommendations or favorable reports relating to legislation including requests for appropriations." 40 CFR § 1500.5 (a) (1) (1977).
In 1977, however, President Carter, in order to create a single set of uniform, mandatory regulations, ordered CEQ, "after consultation with affected agencies," to "[i]ssue regulations to Federal agencies for the implementation of the procedural provisions" of NEPA. Exec. Order No. 11991, 3 CFR 124 (1978). The President ordered the heads of federal agencies to "comply with the regulations issued by the Council. . . ." Ibid. CEQ has since issued these regulations, 43 Fed. Reg. 55978-56007 (1978),
It is true that in the past we have been somewhat less inclined to defer to "administrative guidelines" when they have "conflicted with earlier pronouncements of the agency." General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125, 143 (1976). But CEQ's reversal of interpretation occurred during the detailed and comprehensive process, ordered by the President, of transforming advisory guidelines into mandatory regulations applicable to all federal agencies. See American Trucking Assns. v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., 387 U.S. 397, 416 (1967). A mandatory requirement that every federal agency submit EIS's with its appropriation requests raises wholly different and more serious issues "of fair and prudent administration," ibid., than does nonbinding advice. This is particularly true in light of the Court of Appeals' correct observation that "[a] rule requiring preparation of an EIS on the annual budget request for virtually every ongoing program would trivialize NEPA." 189 U. S. App. D. C., at 125, 581 F. 2d, at 903. The Court of Appeals accurately noted that such an interpretation of NEPA would be a "reductio ad absurdum . . . . It would be absurd to require an EIS on every decision on the management of federal land, such as fluctuation in the number of forest fire spotters." Id., at 124, 581 F. 2d, at 902. Even respondents do not now contend that NEPA should be construed so
CEQ's interpretation of the phrase "proposals for legislation" is consistent with the traditional distinction which Congress has drawn between "legislation" and "appropriation."
The Court of Appeals' alternative interpretation of NEPA is that appropriation requests constitute "proposals for . . . major Federal actions."
Even if changes in agency programs occur because of budgetary decisions, an EIS at the appropriation stage would only be repetitive. For example, respondents allege in their complaint that OMB required the Fish and Wildlife Service to decrease its appropriation request for the NWRS, and that this decrease would alter the operation of the NWRS in a manner that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. See n. 9, supra. But since the Fish and Wildlife Service could respond to OMB's budgetary curtailments in a variety of ways, see United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Final Environmental Statement: Operation of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Nov. 1976), it is impossible to predict whether or how any particular budget cut will in fact significantly affect the quality of the human environment. OMB's determination to cut the Service's budget is not a programmatic proposal, and therefore requiring OMB to include an EIS in its budgetary cuts would be premature. See Aberdeen & Rockfish R. Co. v. SCRAP, 422 U.S. 289, 320 (1975). And since an EIS must be prepared if any of the revisions the Fish and Wildlife Service proposes in its ongoing programs in response to OMB's budget cuts would significantly affect the quality of the human environment, requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to include an EIS with its revised appropriation request would merely be redundant.
We conclude therefore, for the reasons given above, that appropriation requests constitute neither "proposals for legislation"
"In order to carry out the policy set forth in this Act, it is the continuing responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy, to improve and coordinate Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the Nation may—
"(1) fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations;
"(2) assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and esthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings;
"(3) attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences;
"(4) preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice;
"(5) achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities; and
"(6) enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources." 83 Stat. 852, 42 U. S. C. § 4331 (b).
In Exec. Order No. 11991, President Carter required the CEQ to issue regulations that included procedures "for the early preparation of environmental impact statements." 3 CFR 124 (1978). As a consequence, CEQ regulations provide:
"An agency shall commence preparation of an environmental impact statement as close as possible to the time the agency is developing or is presented with a proposal . . . so that preparation can be completed in time for the final statement to be included in any recommendation or report on the proposal. The statement shall be prepared early enough so that it can serve practically as an important contribution to the decisionmaking process and will not be used to rationalize or justify decisions already made. . . . For instance:
"(a) For projects directly undertaken by Federal agencies the environmental impact statement shall be prepared at the feasibility analysis (go-no go) stage and may be supplemented at a later stage if necessary.. . ." 43 Fed. Reg. 55995 (1978) (to be codified at 40 CFR § 1502.5).
Respondents also contended that § 102 (2) (B) of NEPA required OMB to develop procedures to assure consideration of environmental factors in the budget process. Section 102 (2) (B) requires all federal agencies to "identify and develop methods and procedures, in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality established by title II of this Act, which will insure that presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given appropriate consideration in decisionmaking along with economic and technical considerations." 83 Stat. 853, 42 U. S. C. § 4332 (2) (B).
"The following criteria are to be used in deciding whether a proposed action requires the preparation of an environmental statement:
"A. Types of Federal actions to be considered include, but are not limited to:
"(1) Recommendations or favorable reports to the Congress relating to legislation, including appropriations." Department of the Interior Manual, § 516.5, 36 Fed. Reg. 19344 (1971).
Relying on the CEQ guidelines, two prior decisions by Courts of Appeals have both interpreted "proposals for legislation" to include appropriation requests. See Environmental Defense Fund v. TVA, 468 F.2d 1164, 1181 (CA6 1972); Scientists' Institute for Public Information, Inc. v. Atomic Energy Comm'n, 156 U. S. App. D. C. 395, 404, 481 F.2d 1079, 1088 (1973).
"Basic substantive legislation enacted by Congress which sets up or continues the legal operation of a Federal program or agency either indefinitely or for a specific period of time or sanctions a particular type of obligation or expenditure within a program. Such legislation is normally a prerequisite for subsequent appropriations or other kinds of budget authority to be contained in appropriations acts. It may limit the amount of budget authority to be provided subsequently or may authorize the appropriation of `such sums as may be necessary.'" Comptroller General of the United States, Terms Used in the Budgetary Process 4 (1977).
Appropriation, on the other hand, is defined as:
"An authorization by an act of the Congress that permits Federal agencies to incur obligations and to make payments out of the Treasury for specified purposes. An appropriation usually follows enactment of authorizing legislation. . . . Appropriations do not represent cash actually set aside in the Treasury for purposes specified in the appropriation act; they represent limitations of amounts which agencies may obligate during the time period specified in the respective appropriations acts." Id., at 3.
Congressional enactments employ this distinction between appropriation and legislation. For example, the Budget and Accounting Act requires the President to include in the proposed budget he submits to Congress
"with respect to each proposal in the Budget for new or additional legislation which would create or expand any function, activity, or authority, in addition to those functions, activities, and authorities then existing or as then being administered and operated, a tabulation showing—
"(A) the amount proposed in the Budget for appropriation and for expenditure in the ensuing fiscal year on account of such proposal; and
"(B) the estimated appropriation required on account of such proposal in each of the four fiscal years, immediately following that ensuing fiscal year, during which such proposal is to be in effect . . . ." As added, 84 Stat. 1169, 31 U. S. C. § 11 (a) (12) (emphasis supplied).
See also 18 U. S. C. § 1913; 22 U. S. C. § 2394 (c).
The Executive Branch also recognizes the distinction between appropriation and legislation. For example, OMB distinguishes its function "[t]o supervise and control the administration of the budget" from its task of assisting "the President by clearing and coordinating departmental advice on proposed legislation." Requiring Confirmation of Future Appointments of the Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, H. R. Rep. No. 93-697, p. 18 (1973). See Neustadt, Presidency and Legislation: The Growth of Central Clearance, 48 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 641 (1954). OMB Circular No. A-19 (1972) establishes OMB's procedures for "legislative coordination and clearance," whereas OMB Circular No. A-11 (1978) sets out OMB's guidelines for the "Preparation and Submission of Budget Estimates." OMB Circular No. A-19, § 6 (a), requires each federal agency to "prepare and submit to OMB annually its proposed legislative program for the next session of Congress. These programs must be submitted at the same time as the initial submissions of an agency's annual budget request as required by OMB Circular A-11." OMB Circular A-11, § 13.2, on the other hand, provides:
"If, in addition to the regular appropriation requests, it appears probable that proposals for new legislation may require a further budget request or result in a change in revenues or outlays, a tentative forecast of the supplemental estimate will be set forth separately. . . . Such proposed supplementals must be consistent with items appearing in the agency's legislative program as required by OMB Circular No. A-19 . . . ."
"`Major Federal action' includes actions with effects that may be major and which are potentially subject to Federal control and responsibility. Major reinforces but does not have a meaning independent of significantly. . . . Actions include the circumstance where the responsible officials fail to act and that failure to act is reviewable by courts or administrative tribunals under the Administrative Procedure Act or other applicable law as agency action.
"(a) Actions include new and continuing activities, including projects and programs entirely or partly financed, assisted, conducted, regulated, or approved by federal agencies; new or revised agency rules, regulations, plans, policies, or procedures; and legislative proposals . . . .
"(b) Federal actions tend to fall within one of the following categories:
"(1) Adoption of official policy, such as rules, regulations, and interpretations adopted pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U. S. C. 551 et seq.; treaties and international conventions or agreements; formal documents establishing an agency's policies which will result in or substantially alter agency programs.
"(2) Adoption of formal plans, such as official documents prepared or approved by federal agencies which guide or prescribe alternative uses of federal resources, upon which future agency actions will be based.
"(3) Adoption of programs, such as a group of concerted actions to implement a specific policy or plan; systematic and connected agency decisions allocating agency resources to implement a specific statutory program or executive directive.
"(4) Approval of specific projects, such as construction or management activities located in a defined geographic area. Projects include actions approved by permit or other regulatory decision as well as federal and federally assisted activities." 43 Fed. Reg. 56004-56005 (1978) (to be codified at 40 CFR § 1508.18).
It is important to note that CEQ regulations provide that the adjective "major" in the phrase "major Federal actions" "reinforces but does not have a meaning independent of [the adverb] significantly" in the phrase "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 43 Fed. Reg. 56004 (1978) (to be codified at 40 CFR § 1508.18). See n. 20, supra. As a consequence, the Court of Appeals' holding that certain appropriation requests are "proposals for . . . major Federal actions" is operationally identical to its holding that certain appropriation requests constitute "proposals for legislation." Both holdings would require EIS's to accompany funding requests for every federal program that significantly affects the quality of the human environment. Thus, not only do both holdings run the same dangers of "trivializing" NEPA, but also the same "traditional concepts relating to appropriations and the budget cycle, considerations of timing and confidentiality," 43 Fed. Reg. 55989 (1978), which led CEQ to distinguish "appropriations" from "legislation," would require appropriations to be distinguished from "proposals for . . . major Federal actions."