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 InhofeHouse rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Republicans wary of US action on Iran Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? MORE (R-Okla.), David VitterDavid Bruce VitterGrocery group hires new top lobbyist Lobbying World Senate confirms Trump judge who faced scrutiny over abortion views MORE (R-La.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (R-Wyo.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow GOP senator introduces bill banning 'addictive' social media features 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 ClintonGOP struggles with retirement wave Overnight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? 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.