Capps Reintroduces Bills to Help Communities Prepare for Climate Change

Mar 4, 2015 Issues: Energy & Environment

Legislation would help California address issues such as drought and sea level rise

Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) reintroduced three climate change-related bills that would help local communities increase their resiliency to the impacts of climate change. The bills would help local agencies plan for public health impacts, help water utilities prepare for the impacts of climate-related risks to our water supplies, and help coastal states plan and implement climate change mitigation projects.

From heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events, the impacts of climate change pose very real threats to our public health, infrastructure, and economy,” Capps said. “We must do more to help our local communities prepare for these inevitable impacts, and these commonsense pieces of legislation will help ensure that we’re properly prepared for the future.”

The Coastal State Climate Change Planning Act would help coastal states plan and implement climate change mitigation projects to prepare for sea level rise as well as other impacts. States could use the grant funding to update their coastal management plans or implement climate change adaptation strategies, such as identifying areas with the greatest risk of sea level rise and implementing plans to protect coastal infrastructure at risk of flooding. Coastal counties are home to more than 50% of the U.S. population and provide 58% of the country’s GDP, with nearly five million Americans living within four feet of the high tide level. Advanced planning and investment to prepare for sea level rise benefits not only these individuals, but also the millions more who depend on the regional and national economic benefits of coastal ports, fishing, and tourism.

Additionally, Capps re-introduced the Water System Resiliency and Sustainability Act, which would help drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities prepare for the impacts of climate-related risks to our water supplies. Drought, sea level rise, and severe storms, all of which would significantly impact water systems and availability, are expected to grow more frequent and severe due to climate change.

Under the legislation, drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities could apply for EPA matching funds to implement projects, such as the emergency pumping system recently installed at Lake Cachuma, that address the most significant climate-related risks and benefit the largest numbers of water users. Utilities may use the federal matching funds on projects that build resiliency to changing hydrological conditions, including through water conservation and efficiency measures, enhancing water management through source water protection and green infrastructure, or facilitating the use of advanced technologies -- such as water reuse and recycling -- to increase available water supplies.

Extreme weather and changing hydrological conditions will pose new challenges for our country’s communities in the coming decades, as severe drought, melting snowpack, rising sea levels, and more frequent heavy precipitation events will have widespread effects on water quality and quantity,” said Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei. “Our nation’s water and wastewater utilities will need additional resources to prepare for the coming changes, and to undertake the necessary measures to adapt. The ‘Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act’ answers this call by offering assistance to communities that are planning projects to keep their water clean, safe, and plentiful in the face of these challenges. AMWA thanks Congresswoman Capps for introducing this important legislation, and we look forward to working with her to build its support.”

The Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act would provide public health officials with the tools and resources they need to effectively track and prepare for the significant public health challenges that will come with climate change, like increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, vector-borne diseases, life-threatening temperatures, and food shortages. A new survey of more than 900 doctors found the majority of them believe climate change is already negatively affecting the health of their patients. In fact, 77 percent of the doctors who responded reported increases in air pollution due to climate change are worsening the severity of illnesses in their patients, and they also expect these health impacts to increase.

Climate change presents a growing threat to our nation’s health,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of American Public Health Association. “Our nation’s public health departments play a pivotal role in addressing the unique health challenges of climate change in communities across the country; however, too many health departments lack the resources to do so. The bill introduced today would enhance their capacity and help protect our communities, especially the most vulnerable, including people living in poverty, the elderly and young children, from the health effects of climate change. We are grateful to Rep. Capps for her continued leadership to combat the health threats associated with climate change.”