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STRONG Act: Proposed Federal Legislation to Support Local Planning for Extreme Weather

by Don Knapp

Proposed federal legislation announced today would support local planning to create more resilient communities in the face of increasing extreme weather events. The STRONG Act—Strengthening The Resilience of Our Nation on the Ground—was introduced this morning by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The bill has been endorsed by ICLEI USA's Policy Council of local elected officials. As this legislation develops, ICLEI will keep its local government members informed and engaged.

>> Bill Summary (pdf)

>> Section-by-Section Overview (pdf)

Why We Need Better Resilience Planning

The bill comes as a response to a year of unprecedented extreme weather events across the United States: Superstorm Sandy, severe droughts and floods, wildfires, heat waves. As extreme weather becomes more frequent and intense, planning, adaptation, and preparedness measures are essential. For every $1 spent now on disaster preparedness and resilience-building, we can avoid at least $4 in future losses.

 

STRONG Act Overview

In short, the STRONG Act will build upon existing efforts, optimize current funding, and provide state and local planners with tools and information to better prepare for extreme weather events and improve the resilience of local communities. Here's a breakdown of the bill's components (drawn from an overview written by Senator Kerry's staff), and what they mean for local governments:

  • Gap and overlap analysis: The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will chair an interagency working group composed of Cabinet-level participants, which will conduct a gap and overlap analysis of Federal agencies’ current and planned activities on short- and long-term extreme weather resilience in key sectors. An advisory group that includes local government representatives will be consulted as well.
  • Extreme Weather Resiliency Action Plan: Based on the gap and overlap analysis, the interagency working group will develop an extreme weather resiliency action plan to support State, local, and private and public sector resiliency efforts and communicate the latest extreme weather information clearly and effectively, including through an information clearinghouse. The plan will focus on giving state, local, and private sector decision makers the information and tools necessary to develop greater resiliency based on their own needs.
  • FEMA outreach: The plan directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify for State and local governments the existing programs that can support resiliency planning and projects.

“After Hurricane Sandy and 2012’s record heat waves and drought, this legislation is welcome news for local governments, who serve as the first responders during extreme weather disasters," said Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, IA, and an ICLEI USA Board Member. "The STRONG Act will support effective, coordinated local planning with the goal of creating more resilient, prepared communities across America. ICLEI’s Policy Council is pleased to endorse this legislation, and we applaud Senator Kerry, Senator Gillibrand, and Senator Lautenberg for their leadership.”

ICLEI’s Policy Council is comprised of six local elected officials who set ICLEI’s policy priorities on climate action, energy and resilience issues, and work to improve local and federal government relationships on these issues.

In October, ICLEI and the U.S. Green Building Council organized a small delegation of local elected officials from around the country who provided input to Senator Kerry’s staff on local government resilience and planning priorities.

“More frequent and destructive extreme weather is a reality that city and county leaders cannot ignore. The time is now to recognize our communities’ risks and vulnerabilities and take steps to adapt and prepare," said Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA Executive Director. "The STRONG Act would provide what local governments have been asking for: better data and tools to make informed decisions, and better planning coordination between local, state, and federal decision makers, as well as the private sector. This legislation is a good first step to protect citizens, local businesses, and infrastructure.”

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