Beach nourishment projects will restore shorelines but require expensive upkeep and affect ecosystems; federal taxpayers will foot the bill.
Posts tagged fema.
Two members of the Natural Resources Defense Council explain how the taxpayers, coastal homeowners and climate change are all connected.
President Obama’s plea this morning to avert the $85 billion sequester before March 1 was instantly ridiculed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, as a “campaign event.” That’s presumably because the president spoke in front of a group of emergency responders whose livelihoods are threatened by the indiscriminate spending cuts, just as he often used middle-class Americans as backdrops on the campaign trail.
Fine, the emergency workers were props, just like the people who have filled the first lady’s box at State of the Union speeches for decades. But there’s nothing wrong with the president using federal employees as illustrations, since workers are going to bear the brunt of the sequester’s pain. He could just as easily have lined up a group of federal meat inspectors since they will be going on furlough in a few weeks, resulting in grocery shortages. Or a group of air traffic controllers. Or cancer researchers. Or Head Start teachers. Or prison guards.
All of them will be working less in the coming months if Congress does not avert the sequester, producing backups in their specific fields that will be felt by all Americans, as well as a slowdown in spending and financial activity that will have an asteroid-like impact on the economy. The president is driving Republicans a little crazy by holding these illuminated events, because they vividly undermine the basic Republican tenet that vastly reduced spending is good for society — getting government out of the face of Americans who hate it — and good for the economy.
Cancer researchers are American government, and if Republicans don’t think their work should be supported by taxpayers, they are free to make their case publicly. But they won’t do that, because the various government functions facing cuts are both necessary and popular. Instead they talk in dire but abstract terms about the debt threat, pretending there is no need to ever raise taxes, and hoping that voters won’t remember what their dollars actually pay for.
“This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs,” Mr. Obama said today. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”
Not my normal style to post political opinion, but this one is indisputable. I worry for my friends at FEMA, EPA, NOAA, NSF, and even universities conducting important research in climate and disaster management. Their jobs are at stake, and the safety of Americans are, as well. Why?
To many politicians, teachers and firefighters are targets NOT because these cuts actually save money. No. It’s because these are the cuts that the public can “see.”
It is insane to me that obsolete, wasteful projects like the Joint Strike Fighter (2,500 jets for $250 billion? A quarter trillion dollars for a plane that doesn’t work?) or buying new nuclear submarines (more billions) are exempted from sequestration, while things like weather satellites and even smokejumpers are on the chopping block.
So glad to see RT pick this story up. Infrastructure is what I work on, and the U.S. is in big, big trouble.
Inspectors discovered 326 deficient levees across the US, whose likely failures could leave millions of people dead.
A breach could demolish homes and cost local governments millions of dollars. By failing to repair the defective structures, the US is choosing to risk the lives of its citizens who are walking on eggshells with their proximity to the flood zones. In its first ever inventory of the nation’s flood control systems, inspectors raised the overdue alarm that hundreds of levees may be unable to regulate water levels and prove useless in face of heavy rains. Such populated cities as Washington DC, Sacramento, Dallas, Cleveland and many others might be flooded at any moment.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has only issued ratings for 58 percent of the 2,487 flood control systems, which means inspectors could still discover hundreds more deficient levees. Many of the earthen levees are crumbling under the effect of trees, shrubs and animal holes. Decaying pipes and pumping stations could also cause the flood control systems downfall, while some of the levees are dangerously close to houses or even have houses built on top of them.
Excellent read for my disaster response/urban planner followers.
One of the priorities of the Obama Administration has been the recovery of improper payments in federal programs. Every year, the federal government wrongly disburses billions of taxpayer dollars to contractors, grantees, and entitlement and aid recipients, whether through bureaucratic error or recipient fraud. One agency that has received special scrutiny for its improper-payment recovery efforts is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which disburses billions of dollars in disaster relief every year.
Federal debt collection laws require FEMA to recoup improper federal disaster assistance payments, or money that was disbursed to individuals who were ineligible or who received duplicate payments or overpayments. However, the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act of 2011 (DARFA) gives FEMA the authority to waive the collection of improper payments in cases where the payment was not due to fault or fraud on the part of the recipient and repayment would be too burdensome or unfair.
Between August 2005 and December 2010, FEMA disbursed more than $8 billion in disaster relief. In a report released last month, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS IG) estimates that FEMA made $621.6 million in improper payments during that time. Of that amount, FEMA has determined that $371 million—paid to 91,178 recipients—should be recouped. As for the other quarter-billion dollars, FEMA claims there was sufficient justification to waive the debt obligation and not recoup payment.
The Senate Monday night passed a $50.5 billion emergency spending bill to aid people in New York and New Jersey who are trying to rebuild their homes and businesses after last October’s devastation from super-storm Sandy.
Why New York’s Sandy Commission Recommendations Matter
From a behavioral perspective, the hardest thing about adapting to the slow process of climate change is creating a sense of urgency. After a close call with Hurricane Irene a couple years back, and a horrible clash with Hurricane Sandy this past fall, New York is beginning to accept the fact that when it comes to weather patterns along its coasts, there’s a terrifying new normal.
Late last week, just two months after Sandy, a state commission released a massive, 200-plus page blueprint on ways to develop resilience in the face of tomorrow’s environment [PDF]. The NYS 2100 Commission — one of several formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo following Sandy — evaluated the state’s critical infrastructure systems and recommended a gradient of goals, from broad to specific, to reduce their vulnerability.
“There is no doubt that building resilience will require investment, but it will also reduce the economic damage and costs of responding to future storms and events, while improving the everyday operations of our critical systems,” write commission co-chairs Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation and Felix Rohatyn of Lazard in a foreword.
While the commission offered statewide suggestions, its emphasis fell naturally on the New York City metro area — especially coastal parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island — where Sandy hit hardest.”
Clipped from Desmogblog (share http://www.curate.us/q/UtzN)
Houses of Worship Seeking FEMA Grants Face Constitutional Barrier.
Hurricane Sandy flooded and battered St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors. Yet, when its vicar contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ask for a grant to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost, he said he got a clear answer: No.
“FEMA said that they considered the church a business, so they offered us a loan,” the Rev. Alex K. Joy said in an interview about a month after the storm. “But we don’t want a loan. We have 400 members, 90 families. In this situation, we need some assistance.”
A broad range of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries. Houses of worship, however, are not on the list, even though in recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants.
An effort is under way to change that, led by several Jewish organizations, including the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the American Jewish Committee. Last month, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, introduced an amendment to the multibillion-dollar Hurricane Sandy recovery appropriations bill that would explicitly place houses of worship on the list of qualified organizations. But because of an unrelated bipartisan deal meant to ease the bill’s passage, that amendment was locked out of consideration.
Mr. Lieberman’s tenure in the Senate ended this week, but Nathan Diament, the executive director of public policy for the Institute for Public Affairs at the Orthodox Union, said he was continuing to work with other lawmakers to add the amendment to the bill before it came again before Congress.
“Houses of worship should not be discriminated against and excluded from getting assistance on the same terms as other eligible nonprofits,” he said.
Mr. Diament has also been meeting with officials from the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies to see if the change can be made without legislative action. FEMA regulations are silent on the matter of houses of worship, so a bureaucratic decision may be all that is required, he added.
Yet the issue is controversial, because the constitutional separation of church and state generally bans the use of tax money to build religious institutions. Dena Sher, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization had “serious concerns” about the effort to change the policy and was monitoring the situation.
“To rebuild houses of worship is a form of compelled support for religion, which is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect against,” Ms. Sher said. “We understand and identify with the serious difficulties everyone is facing, but we can’t let this misfortune be used as a premise to erode these bedrock principles.”
I should also note, the very interesting and oft-forgotten Treaty of Tripoli, signed in 1797 between the US and several Muslim countries that had for centuries routinely pirated the Mediterranean. The U.S. ratified the treaty, stating in Article 11:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
A lot has changed since then with respect to the intent of separation of church and state. Several federal laws have been enacted that specifically favor religious institutions over other institutions (see RLUIPA, for one mind-blowing example).
These federal laws are burdensome to local communities, and are actively being litigated. They provide religious organizations wide latitude to build church-related buildings on any plot of land in the U.S. regardless of local law (in sum). It’s much more complicated than this, and not suitable for a tumblr post.
So, while cities and towns regulate their land uses in nearly every respect, religious organizations are ostensibly immune from local regulations, such as zoning and some local environmental regulations.
So the question of federal funds is interesting: Should federal funds be used to bail out religious institutions above other non-profits? Why wouldn’t these organizations look to the free market or local communities they serve? It is very interesting to think that FEMA could be forced to reconcile the intent of the founders and the clear meaning of the Constitution with modern day political whims.
(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
The three states hardest hit by super-storm Sandy in October are requesting $80 billion in emergency funding, raising long-term questions about the federal government’s planning for seemingly ever-more expensive disaster spending.
Great work by NBC. The solution, of course I’d say, is adaptation - strengthening our cities with more wetlands, sea walls, and moving away from dangerous areas. It’s a long term issue, and not one to be addressed under pressure to resolve the fiscal cliff.
All this other noise, I think, are coming from know-nothing, disgruntled Romney staffers who — you know — don’t like the fact that I said nice things about the president of the United States. Well, that’s too bad for them…NJ Gov. Chris Christie, criticizing Romney’s “know-nothing” staff shortly after voting for Romney…
I can’t bring myself to quote the interview, so here ya go.
I spoke to the president three times yesterday… I said, if you can expedite designating New Jersey as a major disaster area that that would help us to get federal money and resources in here as quickly as possible to help clean up the damage here. The president was great last night. He said he would get it done. At 2 a.m. I got a call from FEMA to answer a couple of final questions and then he signed the declaration this morning. So I have to give the president great credit. He’s been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He’s been very attentive, and anything that I’ve asked for, he’s gotten to me. So, I thank the president publicly for that. He’s done — as far as I’m concerned — a great job for New Jersey.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie • Lauding President Obama’s attentiveness in the face of Hurricane Sandy, in an interview on Fox and Friends this morning. Christie’s rhetoric on the President’s leadership abilities hasn’t always been so glowing — back in May, he excoriated Obama as “walking around in a dark room trying to find the light switch of leadership.” But now, faced with a climactic disaster in his state, Christie and Obama have made nice, to the vast betterment of the citizens of his state. Obviously, holding off on political rivalries during such a chaotic and traumatic event is the right thing to do, but Christie deserves a major measure of credit for recognizing Obama’s efforts for his state. When asked whether Mitt Romney would tour some storm sites, he went much further than he needed to, showing a sincerity unbound by partisan priority: “…I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff.” source (via shortformblog)
“President Barack Obama receives an update on the ongoing response to Hurricane Sandy at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, right, and Richard Serino, FEMA Deputy Administrator, are seated next to the President. October 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)” WH