January 29, 2020

Congressman Joe Neguse Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Help Colorado Communities Better Prepare for Climate Disasters

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse and Congressman Francis Rooney introduced the Climate Resilient Communities Act, bipartisan legislation inspired by emergency management officials in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District to require a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on climate resiliency at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including recommendations on how to improve building codes and standards that the Agency uses to prepare for climate change and address resiliency. 

In his first year in office, Congressman Neguse has heard from local officials about ineffective building codes and standards that hinder the ability of counties and cities across the district to build back better after natural disasters. In 2013, Colorado experienced historic flooding, most severely impacting Boulder and Larimer Counties in the 2nd district, which took the lives of ten Coloradans and caused nearly $4 billion in damage across the state. Today, many Colorado communities are still struggling to fully recover, made more difficult by requirements used by FEMA which require cities and counties to rebuild infrastructure in the exact same way it had been built before the disaster in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

The Climate Resilient Communities Act will require the GAO to issue a report on how FEMA considers climate resiliency. This includes an economic analysis of the benefits to prioritize resiliency in new and rebuilt infrastructure and an analysis of the number of structures that were not destroyed in a disaster due to pre-disaster planning. The legislation will also ensure that building codes and standards set by FEMA factor in climate impacts and risks, including floods, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, heat waves and other extreme weather events. The GAO would have one year to complete this study, and would be required to complete another every 5 years after.

“As communities across the country are faced with the task of rebuilding after extreme weather events that will occur increasingly with climate change, it’s essential that they are able to prioritize climate resiliency and smart infrastructure,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Today, we are introducing the Climate Resilient Communities Act, bipartisan legislation to provide a pathway for FEMA to factor in climate impacts and risks into building codes and standards to ensure that our communities are climate resilient and equipped for the future.”

“Local communities across Florida and the United States are struggling to keep up with the changing climate and related weather events,’ said Congressman Francis Rooney. “Congress should be proactive in helping prevent the devastation caused by these events. By anticipating these growing phenomena’s, we are able to better equip local communities through resiliency and infrastructure. The Climate Resilient Communities Act is a bipartisan step to help to address the much needed building codes updates like Florida implemented after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.”

“The expected increase in severe weather due to climate change makes focusing on resiliency more vital than ever,” said Deb Gardner, Chair of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. “The federal government is a vital partner in this effort, and we appreciate the work of Congressman Neguse to ensure that as it plans for responding to the disasters of the future, issues of resilience are placed front and center.”

“By focusing on the resiliency of our built systems and on building back better, we can decrease overall community risk while also saving millions of dollars in long-term disaster costs.” said Lori Hodges, Director of Emergency Management in Larimer County.

As a whole, the country experienced 14 weather and climate-related disasters with damages costing more than a billion dollars in 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, three of which were experienced in Colorado. In June 2018, hailstones the size of baseballs blew out windshields and damaged roofs in the Denver metro area and north along the Front Range. In August 2018, softball-sized hail killed animals at a Colorado Springs zoo and sent several people to the hospital with injuries. Also in 2018, an ongoing drought in the Four Corners regions caused crop losses for farmers and forced cattle sales among ranchers. Additionally, in 2019, July hailstorms in Colorado caused over $1 billion in damages. 

The Climate Resilient Communities Act is the 31st piece of legislation Congressman Joe Neguse has introduced since taking office. He has introduced more bills than any other freshman lawmaker in Congress.