GAO Releases Report on Opportunities to Improve the Management of Extreme-Weather Risks
Washington, DC – In response to a request from U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report outlining the vulnerabilities federal agencies still face due to lack of planning for extreme weather events. This work follows up on GAO’s previous High Risk Reports of 2013 and 2015 which also identified extreme weather as a significant source of fiscal exposure to the federal government.
The release of this report coincides with the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and PREPAREe Week on Capitol Hill. Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States three years ago this week, killing 162 Americans, causing billions in damages, and leaving thousands of families without electricity for days. In recognition of the anniversary of Sandy lawmakers are using this week to focus attention on common sense solutions during PREPARE Week.
In the last four years there have been 42 extreme weather events that have inflicted at least $1 billion in damage, $227 billion in economic losses across 44 states, and have taken a total of 1,286 lives.
Working closely with GAO in an effort to improve our nation’s extreme weather resilience and preparedness, U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Leonard Lance (NJ-7) introduced the bipartisan Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness (PREPARE) Act in July 2015 (HR 3190). This commonsense and no-cost legislation would enhance the federal government’s ability to plan and prepare for the risks associated with extreme weather incidents.
“To confront this issue nationwide, this zero-cost bill requires the federal government to better coordinate their efforts and form comprehensive plans to address the threat posed by extreme weather events,” Rep. Cartwright said.
In their new report, the GAO found that “several federal agencies reported facing several challenges identifying these … risks, including among others, unclear guidance on adaptation planning.”
The report elaborated that an Executive Order directing implementation of extreme weather resilience is unclear and difficult to implement. “According to interviews with officials from several agencies and survey responses, the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) guidance does not clearly specify how agencies should meet Executive Order 13653's directive for them to consider in their adaptation plans the need to improve climate adaptation and resilience with respect to suppliers and supply chains.”
As a result, GAO recommends that “CEQ clarify its guidance on including supply chain risks in adaptation plans and develop a plan for convening an interagency working group on supply chain climate vulnerability. CEQ agreed with GAO's findings and recommendations.”
The PREPARE Act would take many of GAO’s findings in this and previous reports and codify them. PREPARE authorizes an interagency council whose purpose is to provide recommendations on the best means of planning and preparing for extreme weather incidents and strengthens each individual agency’s resiliency efforts. The bill would also provide state and local stakeholders with the best information available and best practices to help them formulate emergency preparation plans tailored to their local needs.
A broad group of business and environmental organizations have endorsed the legislation including: R Street, American Sustainable Business Council, National Taxpayers Union, Niskanen Center, Coalition to Reduce Spending, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Reinsurance Association of America, National Wildlife Federation, CERES, National Housing Conference, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, Evangelical Environmental Network, League of Conservation Voters, American Meteorological Society, Sierra Club, PennFuture, Defenders of Wildlife, Union of Concerned Scientists, U.S. Green Building Council, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, American Rivers, Environmental Defense Fund, Small Business Majority, Marstel-Day, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, Alaska Wilderness League, International Code Council, American Bird Conservancy, National Farmers Union, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National Leased Housing Association, UPS, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association, Friends Committee on National Legislation, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, The Weather Coalition, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Lehigh Valley Chapter, American Camp Association, American Geophysical Union, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Nestle Waters North America, The American Institute of Architects, CH2M Hill, Unilever, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Restore America’s Estuaries