GOP chairman: Puerto Rico must be rebuilt better than before

GOP chairman: Puerto Rico must be rebuilt better than before
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House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah) said Friday his committee may consider legislation to help rebuild Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to a higher standard than what had existed before hurricanes ravaged the islands.

For decades, debt-ridden Puerto Rico has struggled with poor roads, an unreliable electrical grid and other infrastructure problems — a point President Trump made earlier this week. If the island territory is to attract investment and tackle its financial crisis, Bishop said, the federal government can’t just rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure to previous, subpar conditions.

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“What my committee’s going to be looking at is the middle-range and the long-range ways of how we try to rebuild those two territories and make it better,” Bishop said during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” set to air Sunday.

“See, that’s one of the problems by law: FEMA can only rebuild things to the way they were before the disaster hit," he said. "Unfortunately, the infrastructure, the grid in Puerto Rico we now realize is more fragile than we thought it was."

“I don’t want to restructure it and rebuild to that stage. We gotta fix it,” the chairman continued. “There’s got to be some legislative language that will allow that to take place.”

Bishop shepherded legislation through Congress last year that created a new fiscal oversight board to work with the Puerto Rican government to come up with a strategy to repay the territory’s tens of billions of dollars in loans.

That bill, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, was signed into law by President Obama.

Asked whether the law needed to be tweaked to give the heavily damaged island more time to pay back its loans, Bishop replied: “I don’t think so,” adding that Congress granted the control board wide latitude.

The chairman also discussed the devastating California wildfires that have killed more than 30 people, saying he was not sure whether they were connected to climate change.

“I don’t want to be dogmatic about it because I’m not really sure, ” he said. “But I do know that it’s the mismanagement of our forests that is causing the devastation.”

Earlier this year, Bishop’s committee passed the Resilient Federal Forests Act, a bill that takes a comprehensive approach to preventing and fighting wildfires, including easing restrictions on logging.

“Wildfires can be contained. They do not have to happen. You can do something about it,” Bishop said. “Those forests, they can be maintained. They can be thinned. They can be revitalized so that you don’t have a situation where when a fire hits, it becomes a devastating and catastrophic fire.”

“Newsmakers” airs Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on C-SPAN.