Feds to require climate change plans for states seeking disaster relief

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A new Federal Emergency Management Agency policy requiring states to address climate change before they can become eligible for grant funding is drawing fire from congressional Republicans.

The regulations, part of a FEMA State Mitigation Plan Review Guide issued last month, are not set to take effect until next March. But lawmakers are demanding an explanation for the rules now.

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In a letter to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, the lawmakers said they’re concerned that the agency’s decision will create unnecessary red tape in the disaster preparedness process.

“As you know, disaster mitigation grants are awarded to state and local governments after a presidential major disaster declaration,” they wrote. “These funds are crucial in helping disaster-stricken communities prepare for future emergencies.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Jim InhofeJames InhofePaul blocks chemical safety bill in Senate GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo MORE (R-Okla.), David VitterDavid VitterOvernight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Paul blocks chemical safety bill in Senate House Republican pushes bill to 'curb regulatory overreach' MORE (R-La.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoRepublican senator expects Trump will 'embrace' GOP platform Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Overnight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes MORE (R-Wyo.), Thad CochranThad CochranSenate panel passes 4.5B defense bill Senate votes to block USDA catfish inspections GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' MORE (R-Miss.), Deb FischerDeb FischerSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone Skittish GOP to Trump: Drop the insults MORE (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.).

In the revised guide, the agency said mitigation planning regulation requires consideration of the probability of future hazards and events to reduce risks and potential dangers.

“Past occurrences are important to a factual basis of hazard risk, however, the challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future,” FEMA said in its guide.

But in their letter, the senators said climate change is still being debated, citing "gaps in the scientific understanding around climate change.”

The letter goes on to ask FEMA to explain which statutory authority the agency relied on to require states to consider climate change, whether or not the agency still agrees with its 2012 statement that hurricanes follow a cycle of increased and decreased activity over decades and how much it will cost states to comply with the new requirement.

In a January White House blog post about a new flood standard for federal investments, Fugate and then-presidential adviser John Podesta (who has since joined the Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWeld wins Libertarian nomination for VP Sanders supporter challenges Wyo. delegate allocation Dems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals MORE camp) recognized the effects of climate change.

"Effects of climate change will make extreme weather events more frequent and more severe," they wrote. "And the climate is changing — earlier this month, NASA and NOAA announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, meaning that 14 of the 15 hottest years in recorded history have happened this century."

FEMA’s new requirements will take effect March 6, 2016.