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Feds to require climate change plans for states seeking disaster relief

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 (Jim) Mountain InhofeCongress faces late-year logjam Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Hillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' MORE (R-Okla.), David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic Bottom line MORE (R-La.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Wyo.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Hyde-Smith fends off challenge from Espy in Mississippi Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race MORE (R-Miss.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska GOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' 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 Diane Rodham ClintonClinton offers congratulations over Elliot Page announcement Biden brushes off criticism of budget nominee Mellman: Mired in Partisanship 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.