December 12, 2019

Enterprise Testifies Before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

Marion McFadden testifies on climate crisis

The challenges of our new climate are many; in 2019, the United States endured ten weather and climate-related disasters causing over $1 billion each in damage. The frequency of storms this year is no anomaly. It stands as the fifth consecutive year in which the total number of billion-dollar disasters has reached ten or more. While the increasing intensity of natural disasters all over the United States has undoubtedly placed a significant strain on local economies, they cause more than just financial harm. It impacts where and how we live, our access to resources, our health, and it cuts across all lines that generally define our society. With this in mind, members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis gathered for a hearing on December 11 to discuss how we can create a more climate resilient America.

They called upon witnesses with a wide range of expertise: Marion McFadden, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Senior Advisor for Resilience at Enterprise; Mark Gaffigan, Managing Director for Natural Resources and Environment, Government Accountability Office; Damon Burns, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Finance Authority of New Orleans; and Chuck Wemple, Executive Director, Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Read Marion’s full written testimony submitted to the Committee. 

During the hearing, the witnesses and members touched on a range of issues, but one message rang clear. The United States needs to better leverage and integrate federal funds, private capital, and insurance to increase resilience, so no community is left behind. 

Committee Perspectives on Creating a Climate Resilient America 

Numerous representatives highlighted the need for government programs to prioritize and build up our most vulnerable communities. Committee Chair Kathy Kastor (D-FL-14) opened the hearing by stating, "communities are on the front lines of the climate crisis, and when it comes to the humanitarian and financial impacts of the crisis, low-income families and people of color face disproportionately higher risks." Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) picked up on this theme, asking how Congress can better incentivize government agencies to be more responsive to front line communities. Mr. Gaffigan responded by describing the importance of government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, aligning their goals to the risk associated with climate change. Ms. McFadden also explained the potential role a National Infrastructure Bank could play in leveraging additional funding and subsidizing the cost of specific projects.

Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA-02) and Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), whose districts have both dealt with disasters of their own, were focused on how the Federal government can better align resilience standards across agencies and provide a federal framework for rating resilient infrastructure. Following a devasting flood in 2013, which destroyed 1,800 buildings and damaged 16,000 more in Rep. Neguse's district, the community was required by FEMA to rebuild their structures the same way they stood before the flood. The Congressman spoke to the backward nature of this approach and the need for taxpayer dollars to invest in projects that are forward-looking and plan for foreseeable risks. Ms. McFadden affirmed the importance of considering the risk communities could face in the decades to come and called on the government to speak with one voice when it comes to resilience standards to prevent situations like the one in Colorado from happening again. 

Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA-6) and Representative Carol Miller (R-WV-3) focused on the role state and local government should play in this work. In response to a question from Rep. Miller on how rural communities can best access capital, Mr. Wemple discussed the importance of providing technical assistance and described how difficult it can be for communities to navigate all the various federal funding streams. Ranking Member Graves followed up on this by explaining how, in Louisiana, before his time in office, he helped create a new coordinating entity at the state level. In doing so, they were able to bring together all stakeholders involved in the disaster recovery process and appoint regional representatives. This coordinating body enabled them to streamline the rebuilding process and complete more projects than they would have been able to otherwise. Mr. Gaffigan said this could be a potential model for other states to emulate. 

View the Full Hearing

Next Steps 

Currently, Enterprise is supporting rebuilding and resilience initiatives in Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, D.C., New York, Michigan, Illinois, and California. We stand committed to deploying existing and new solutions that are cohesive and equitable, ideally harnessing both public and private will and capital to keep people and property safe from harm.

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