March 16, 2021

Congressman Neguse Introduces Climate Resiliency Bill, Readying Colorado Communities for Future Climate-Related Disasters

The Climate Resilient Communities Act will strengthen infrastructure and help communities stay strong in the wake of natural disasters

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Joe Neguse, today, introduced the Climate Resilient Communities Act, legislation which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a report on the benefits to prioritizing resiliency at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The report would include an evaluation of  the economic benefits to investing in pre-disaster mitigation efforts, an assessment of the building codes and standards currently used in FEMA’s Federal programs, and recommendations for how FEMA can improve their use of codes and standards to make American communities more prepared for worsening natural disasters and efforts to re-build afterwards. 

In 2020, Colorado experienced an intense and record-breaking wildfire season. Two of the largest wildfires in state history burned in the 2nd Congressional District. The East Troublesome fire grew sixfold in size in a matter of 24 hours and is the second-largest fire in state history. The Cameron Peak fire, which began burning in August, grew to over 200,000 acres – the largest fire in Colorado history. Additionally, communities in northern Colorado are still in the process of rebuilding from the 2013 floods. Local emergency management officials have stressed the need for increased flexibility from FEMA to allow for building back better in the wake of these natural disasters. 

“Our communities in Colorado have experienced firsthand the devastation and damage caused by intense flooding and record-breaking wildfires in the last few years alone,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Climate change is here, it is impacting our communities tangibly, and it’s critical that our federal efforts for recovery are prioritizing resiliency and offering every tool to local communities as they rebuild. The Climate Resilient Communities Act will provide greater flexibility and attention to the changing needs of our communities as we ready for future climate-related weather events. Along with our efforts on wildfire mitigation, adaptation, and forest restoration, this bill will provide additional tools for our communities in the wake of these disasters." 

“In Larimer County, we have seen the impacts of climate change first hand through devastating wildfires, flooding, and other natural disasters,” said Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas. “Congressman Neguse recognizes the need to invest in climate mitigation and resiliency, and The Climate Resilient Communities Act will provide critical information about the benefits of mitigation and preparing for the impacts of climate change. This effort will support the Climate Smart Larimer County Framework we are developing to address climate change, and I am glad to support Congressman Neguse in these efforts.”

“Climate change is causing an increase in severe weather events such as extreme wildfires, and predictions are that this will only get worse in the years to come,” said Boulder County Commissioner Chair Matt Jones. “This legislation will help to make sure that when we do need to rebuild and recover from the next flood, wildfire, or other natural disaster, we can do so in ways that will better prepare us for future disasters and not be constrained by outdated rules that don’t allow us to rebuild more resiliently.” 

Background

Congressman Neguse has made climate resiliency and wildfire mitigation a top priority during his time in Congress. Neguse recently launched the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus to highlight the need for science-based forest management and wildfire mitigation investments. He introduced the Wildfire Recovery Act to help secure resources for Colorado communities as they recover from a destructive wildfire season and the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act to make investments in wildfire resiliency and mitigation. In 2020, Congressman Neguse worked to ensure that firefighters and first-responders would be given priority for COVID-19 tests and helped secure a disaster declaration designation for Colorado’s 2020 wildfires to bring resources to the state.