Under Executive Order 13514, Federal agencies are required to develop, implement, and annually update a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that describes how they will achieve the environmental, economic, and energy goals mandated in the Executive Order. Agencies must prioritize actions based on a positive return on investment for the American taxpayer. The plans are updated each year, reviewed by the Council on Environmental Quality and approved by the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that actions are carefully aligned with resources, Administration priorities, and the Federal budget process.
Click on the links below to view the Department of the Interior’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans:
The sequester (a budget deal Obama made with republicans last year) cut more than $115 million from the federal wildland fire program budget, USDA officials have said, at a time when the nation continues to face abnormally dry conditions, particularly in the West, as a result of climate change.
During one of the worst wildfire seasons on record amid a historic drought, the USDA Forest Service ran out of money last year to pay firefighters, operate trucks and fly aircraft. The agency borrowed money from fire management budgets, which help prevent fires, to pay for suppression.
Given the cuts in the Forest Service’s fire budget because of sequestration, and the outlook for significant fire potential in much of the West, that process could play out again, a USDA spokesman said.
“If the U.S. Forest Service exhausts funding . . . for fire suppression in 2013, as it did in 2012, it will be necessary for the agency to transfer funds from other programs to cover fire suppression costs,” said the spokesman, Larry Chambers.
Wildfires have begun several months early this year due to drought (and mismanagement) in Idaho, California, Colorado, and Minnesota. There may be others, but that is all I could find in a short time frame.
An agency that watches for wildfire conditions (see below) predicts 2013 will be a killer season. On a personal level, news about wildfires and floods hit me hardest. It’s when good people come together to help their neighbors in such visual, visceral, and gut striking way.
First responders, like firemen, who are usually unpaid volunteers, put their lives on the line for us. They are great people. These types of disasters are at once heartening, because they impact regular people so hard, and frustrating, because our government is partially responsible for mismanaging land and not providing adequate equipment. I fear that 2013 will be the year of tears - let’s hope that I’m wrong.
BOISE, Idaho—Two small but unseasonably early fires burning in northern California’s wine country and another wind-whipped blaze farther south likely are a harbinger of a nasty summer fire season across the West.
Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said Wednesday in their first 2013 summer fire outlook that a dry winter and expected warming trend mean the potential for significant fire activity will be above normal on the West Coast, in the Southwest and portions of Idaho and Montana.
“We’re looking at a combination of a low-moisture winter and a warming and drying pattern in the West that will increase the fire potential,” said Ed Delgado, predictive services manager.
If that sounds familiar to the region’s residents, it should.
In 2012, record-setting fires raged in New Mexico and Oregon, while destructive Colorado blazes torched hundreds of homes amid one of the state’s worst seasons in years.
Just like last year, Colorado experienced some of its first 2013 wildfires in March.
Outside the West, however, much of the U.S. is expected to experience normal fire conditions, with below-normal danger in the South where significant, long-duration rains saturated the landscape since Jan. 1, Delgado said.
In California, wine-producing counties Napa and Sonoma experienced early-season blazes Wednesday, as warm temperatures, low humidity and gusting winds through already-dry foothills areas east and north of
San Francisco led to warnings of extreme wildfire conditions.
Both were more than half-contained, according to crews.
And a fast-moving fire east of Los Angeles grew Wednesday afternoon to at least 1,500 acres near Banning in the San Bernardino Mountains, where winds from the east were blowing at nearly 30 mph. Some evacuations were ordered.
Evacuations were ordered for residences on two streets but the number of people was not immediately known. A KCAL-TV helicopter showed at least one structure engulfed by flames.
The Center for American Progress is a DC based think tank that works on several policy issues, including energy, national security, immigration, education, and health care.
They’re starting to get involved in climate adaptation, which is the process of lowering risk from environmental harms. And they recently published an interesting paper that aims to motivate the Federal Government to invest in America’s infrastructure and resilience policies. For those new to the issues of resilience, this makes for a decent primer. For those familiar with the concepts, the section on making the business case might be most interesting. The paper is here. Below is an edited excerpt:
It is time for a national strategy for infrastructure resilience
There are three parts to forming a national strategy for infrastructure resilience. First, the federal government should launch a national infrastructure-vulnerability assessment that evaluates the ability of the nation’s current infrastructure to withstand climate-related extreme weather. Second, the Obama administration should build on the proposals laid out in its FY 2014 budget and harmonize financial resources to invest in these resiliency projects in a coordinated way. Third, the administration should elevate resiliency as a priority by tasking cabinet-level officials to work systematically with cities and states in directing these resources.
A national strategy is needed to reduce infrastructure vulnerability to climate change. If we don’t, then federal funding for disaster relief becomes much more expensive.
For this reason, it is essential that the federal government tightly link its work on infrastructure investment as an engine of economic prosperity with the expanding priority it has placed on resilience.
We recommend that the president, Congress, mayors, and governors work together to make an immediate commitment to design a national strategy for infrastructure resilience.
To realize this plan, the president should act immediately to:
1. Launch a national infrastructure-vulnerability assessment: Improve the availability and usability of information on infrastructure needs and resilience. It would look systematically at the ability of U.S. transportation, energy, water, communications, and other strategic infrastructure to hold up to both current and future threats.
2. Establish a comprehensive federal infrastructure-investment strategy: This would build on recent commitments in the administration’s budget plan, and would both access new financial tools and better harmonize existing financing authorities within the federal government to more effectively leverage public and private capital in priority-infrastructure investments.
3. Create an infrastructure and resilience council: The council would function as a working group within the president’s own cabinet to support presidential leadership in improving coordination across all federal agencies and in partnering with cities and states to accelerate the development of these priority-resilience projects by increasing public and private investment.
President Obama has already taken important steps to lay the foundation for a national infrastructure-resilience plan. In Executive Order 13514, signed into effect in October 2009, the president called on agencies to “evaluate agency climate-change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects of climate change on the agency’s operations and mission in both the short and long term.”
Since 2009 the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force—led by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—has been coordinating federal actions to reduce climate-change risks to federal assets and communities.
In February 2013 executive agencies released their plans to begin adapting to climate change. Additionally, the administration has already adopted national-action plans overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard our oceans, fresh water, and fish, wildlife, and plants from the worst impacts of climate change. Though agencies have yet to develop a national resilience strategy for public infrastructure, Executive Order 13514 and the real rising risks of climate change give them the clear authority to do so.
Geologists were some of the first climate change bell ringers, and have provided some of the most robust and long-term evidence for climate change, long-term cycles, and the modern anomalies. They have compiled some of the findings:
To help citizens find out how the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency responded to pollution reports, we are proposing FOIA-matic, a new feature to be added to Louisiana Bucket Brigade‘s iWitness Pollution Map and SkyTruth‘s Gulf Oil Spill Tracker. This simple tool will enable anyone to easily submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Coast Guard and EPA to find out if there was any response or enforcement to a pollution report.
Excellent. FOIA is complicated and expensive. Now, citizens can find more information from government regarding pollution (among other enviro-y things). Pass it on.
The US military - not politicians - is leading the federal government on climate change action.
America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.
Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, in an interview at a Cambridge hotel Friday after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts universities, said significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’
“People are surprised sometimes,” he added, describing the reaction to his assessment. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”
The Anti-Science Left. A wonderful set of interviews on how the left denies science. (Warning: Chris Moody is as smug as ever, but the rest of the video is great.). They discuss Mark Lynas’s switch from anti-GMO to supporting GMOs by looking at the reams of scientific data. The great science writer Michael Shermer discusses evolution and climate change, and makes the case that despite all the doom in the news, humans and the environment are much better now than ever in history. Great conversation.
Interesting water resources protest in Iran. When farmers take to the streets, you know something is very wrong. The US Dept of Defense warned these types of skirmishes will occur more often as the climate changes.
Anyone have more information on this? Especially the background on how Iran’s infrastructure works?
An anonymous video on YouTube shows angry farmers from eastern part of Isfahan in Iran on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 among burning busses in ongoing protests against water shortages.
There are credible reports of clashes with security forces, but detailed information is limited and official media is silent.
Another video shows that only days earlier, farmers busted open a water pipe carrying water from Zayanderood to Yazd as part of their protest for access to water which is vital to the survival of their crops.
Iranglobal reports that the farmers had been protesting for at least one month about their lack of resources, but received no official response to their demands.
What do young people want from government? You all know that I advocate for young, environmentally-minded people to put down their signs to join a local municipal board and/or <gasp> actually run for office.
The NYTimes covers a non-profit group based in Missoula, Montana that believes the same thing. (Missoula is a fantastic little town, btw).
Under-30 voters are “the only age group in which a majority said the government should do more to fix problems,” the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported in November. In a Pew survey a year earlier, more than 8 in 10 said they believed that Social Security and Medicare had been good for the country, and they were especially supportive of seeing the programs overhauled so they would be intact when they retire. (Young people were also more open than their elders to privatizing the programs.)
And while Washington fights about how to cut the federal deficit, young voters believe that it is more important to create jobs, have affordable access to health care and develop “a world-class education system,” according to the Institute of Politics at Harvard.
President Obama is expected to launch a serious second-term push on climate change with his State of the Union address.
With climate legislation dead in Congress, green groups are hopeful that Obama will follow the “we must act” mantra of his inaugural address and put the full weight of his executive powers behind their agenda.
“The problem is very pressing, and so the sooner we have policy proposals in front of us, the better.”
Obama has already signaled his willingness to use his executive powers forcefully, laying out a series of executive orders on gun control in addition to calling for legislation.
On climate, the White House took some steps with executive powers in the first term, and that’s expected to be the primary second-term focus.
“If he were to just repeat what he said in the [second] inaugural address, that would be considered a missed opportunity, but I don’t believe he will. I believe he will be more specific about what he is going to do,” said one climate advocate.
Liberals in Congress have urged the president to go big on climate as well.
“From a planetary point of view there is no issue more important than climate change, and the president has to be as bold and specific as he possibly can,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters on the eve of Obama’s address.
At the very top of advocates’ wish list is a commitment to setting carbon emissions standards for existing coal-fired power plants. A move in that direction would begin an all-out war with coal-based power companies and some other industry sectors that say there would be huge economic costs from increased regulation.
Obama, without Congress, can also expand on his first-term actions to boost Defense Department green energy programs and development alternative energy on public lands, among other steps.
No matter what steps Obama takes, environmentalists say the president needs to use the bully pulpit to rally public support.
We pile our snow in the street cuz that’s how we roll. That goofy, architectural identity-crisis is our City Hall, where I worked in the planning department for a few years mentored by this guy… (pic via a FB friend).
rareharvest asked: ha, just attempted to find the listing for my city's next budget meeting, and after five solid minutes of searching through their website, I found the budget&finance section which listed lots of PDF's of information, but nothing at all about meetings. Well done, Prescott.
Local government processes do not cater well to the residents they claim to serve. Some cities do, don’t get me wrong! But overall, most government websites bury and hide the most basic of services and local laws. You can take my challenge to find a meeting a bit further - try to find out how to slap a solar panel on to your roof (good luck).
Software developers repackaged their existing products and rebranded them as a tech-service called “Smart Cities.” Like I wrote earlier, IBM and others claim they have the ultimate solution - a magic bullet - that will help resolve the simplest of local government issues, such as finding your city’s calendar of events and streamlining the permitting process (they make bolder claims, but don’t get me started).
What strikes me most is that rareharvest’s experience is not uncommon.
In fact, I’d argue that government websites and bureaucracies are often times in direct contradiction to the community’s governing charter. A charter is a town or city’s “constitution.” It’s a document that lays out how your city will function and was probably written over a hundred years ago. It covers budgets, elections, growth, conservation, “health and welfare” of residents, etc. Your charter outlines how your government is formed and the services it will allow and provide. They’re surprisingly similar to the U.S. Constitution.
Anyway, Smart Cities overpromises and underdelivers. The upside is that cities, residents, and companies recognize that there needs to be a better way to manage our communities, and Smart Cities is a bridge to a more efficient, less frustrating bureaucracy.
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.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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