WASHINGTON, DC – The Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing entitled, “Response and Recovery to Environmental Concerns from the 2017 Hurricane Season.” Today’s #SubEnvironment hearing marked the third hearing the committee has held examining the recent series of unprecedented hurricanes.
Sam Coleman, Acting Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 6, discussed some of the lessons learned as a result of Hurricane Harvey, commenting, “One of the most noteworthy aspects of the response to Hurricane Harvey was the positive and collaborative relationship between EPA and the state of Texas. Because we worked very closely with the state agencies and the Governor’s office, the collective strength of our efforts were greater than the sum. By augmenting state resources where they were needed and providing specialized monitoring capabilities, together we were able to address the many challenges presented by Hurricane Harvey in a timely manner.”
Full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) asked the panel of witnesses, “Can you all give us assurance then that when it comes to the issue of Superfund sites, we’re not seeing contamination into drinking water? That these sites are secured the best they can be? That you’ve got this under control?” To which all the witnesses replied with a resounding, yes.
Peter Lopez, Regional Administrator, U.S. EPA, Region 2, spoke to some of the challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, stating, “We have made great progress, but have much work ahead of us, and face a few serious challenges in addition to the overarching concern of providing electricity across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. … Many roads are still impassable and there are dangerous mud and rock slides in mountainous regions. … There is a need for ongoing humanitarian aid. In some cases, EPA has stepped out of its traditional role, coordinating closely with FEMA to bring water, food and supplies to more remote areas where we are conducting assessments and where our responders have been first to arrive.”
In his questioning, committee member Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), stated, “How we respond to Houston’s challenges is clearly different than those of Puerto Rico’s challenges.” Rep Johnson then asked Mr. Coleman, “How does this EPA currently ensure response efforts take these challenges and regional characteristics into consideration?” To view Mr. Coleman’s response, click HERE.
#SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus delivers his opening statement
“The Energy and Commerce Committee is conducting a series of hearings to look at the response and recovery efforts conducted during this hurricane season so we can figure out what went well, what could we have done better, what we need to do going forward,” said #SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus. “We are also focused on what Congress can do to not only assist the impacted communities as they work to get back on their feet but improve the response for the future.”
A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found online HERE.