Democratic lawmakers propose legislation to study AI’s environmental impacts

The legislation would give new responsibilities to the EPA, the DOE, and NIST.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaks at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Nov. 9, 2023, in Arlington, Va. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for SEIU)

A group of Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation focused on studying artificial intelligence’s impact on the climate. 

The proposal, which is called the Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act of 2024, would have the National Institute of Standards and Technology create a methodology to evaluate the environmental consequences AI might create. Critically, the bill comes amid growing focus on AI’s energy consumption and compute requirements. 

“There is a Dickensian quality to the use of AI when it comes to our environment: It can make our planet better, and it can make our planet worse,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in a statement. “Our AI Environmental Impacts Act would set clear standards and voluntary reporting guidelines to measure AI’s impact on our environment. The development of the next generation of AI tools cannot come at the expense of the health of our planet.” 

The bill was introduced by Sens. Markey and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., as well as Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Don Beyer, D-Va. The proposal has several components: The Environmental Protection Agency would conduct a study into the climate impact of AI, while NIST would create an AI Environmental Impact consortium and develop a voluntary reporting system for companies to disclose potential climate impacts of their models.


The legislation would also have the Department of Energy, NIST, and the EPA submit a joint report within four years. Collectively, the agencies would also be expected to provide recommendations for future legislation. 

The bill has the support of several climate groups, as well as the AI company Hugging Face. It also comes as Congress ramps up its effort to create new legislation focused on the emerging technology. Notably, Rep. Beyer told FedScoop last month that he expects that AI legislation could finally be approved in 2024. 

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