Energy & Environment

Week ahead: House turns its eye to hurricane relief

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The House is due to vote this week on a supplemental aid package for hurricane relief in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Republican leadership in the House has queued up a vote on a $29 billion aid package requested on Wednesday by the White House, saying the measure will come to the floor this week.

The funding request covers $12.77 billion in disaster relief for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program and $576.5 million for wildfire suppression.

The measure comes after a trio of hurricanes hit the U.S. mainland and its Caribbean territories, and following an active wildfire season in the West. It is perhaps most critical for Puerto Rico, an island territory that was devastated last month by Hurricane Maria.

“It is abundantly clear that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of more help — in dollars, in resources, in manpower, and in federal support,” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement last week.

President Trump has already signed a $15 billion aid package for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana. But this year’s hurricane season was more destructive than expected, raising the price tag for coastal recovery efforts.

Harvey alone was so severe that recovery costs could climb to nearly $200 billion. That would make the storm the costliest natural disaster in American history.

“I do not believe this will be the last of the supplementals, based on the damage that has been done from the numerous hurricanes,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor on Thursday.

The weather picture hasn’t cleared, either: as of Friday, the National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida as Tropical Storm Nate moves toward landfall in the Gulf of Mexico.

Elsewhere, details of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan began leaking out of the administration last week, raising the possibility the agency is close to formally announcing its plans.

According to a draft proposal obtained by The Hill on Friday, the EPA will argue that the climate rule for power plants “is not within Congress’s grant of authority to the agency under the governing statute.”

The Trump administration will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan in its entirety and take comments on whether the EPA should replace the rule, though the draft proposal does not commit to rewriting new climate change regulations.

Trump ordered the EPA to repeal the Clean Power Plan in a March executive order. The rule is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change.

On Capitol Hill this week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is scheduled to make his first appearance before the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

The agenda for Perry’s visit is broad: simply the “Missions and Management Priorities” of his department.

That means Perry is likely to field questions on a handful of varying topics, including his proposal to overhaul the electricity sector, his department’s major report on changes in the country’s energy systems and his use of private flights amid a burgeoning, governmentwide scandal over the issue.

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Tags Rick Perry Rodney Frelinghuysen

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