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Matthew C.
Democrat PA 17

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  • Commemorating the 1-Year Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy

    by Representative Matt Cartwright

    Posted on 2013-10-29

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    CARTWRIGHT. It is my pleasure, my dear friend and colleague from New York.

    It is almost hard to believe, I would say, that we are noting the 1- year anniversary of the terrible storm we called Hurricane Sandy striking our Nation's shores. It seems like no more than 6 or 7 months ago that that all happened.

    Maybe one of the reasons is that it was so horrific, so damaging, so devastating, that the harm continues. There are still families searching for a place to live. There are Americans still digging out from this problem, trying to salvage the situation for themselves and their families. And so it is almost hard to believe that it was a full year ago that this happened.

    This is a country that suffered so much in loss because of Hurricane Sandy, with $245 billion in business losses and $50 billion in property damage.

    I come from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, so far as it is from the seacoast, still had 1.2 million residents lose electricity during that event. In my own district, up in the hills of the 17th District of Pennsylvania, we still lost power for 53,000 residents.

    Indeed, I am so sorry to say that we had several lives lost in my district due to Hurricane Sandy; people who perished because of falling tree limbs and because of hypothermia due to exposure. We had somebody we lost because of exposure to carbon monoxide because of generator fumes that were emitted during the blackout.

    We had tens of thousands of homes and businesses damaged in my district because of Hurricane Sandy. So don't think we didn't notice it either and don't think we didn't pay attention to the suffering of all of the other Americans because of Hurricane Sandy.

    There is no denying that there is climate change. There is just no denying it. We can argue all day about what is causing it and what to do about it, but there is no denying that it is happening and that it is resulting in more and more frequent weather events like this and more and more severe weather events like this. There is no denying that these things are happening, and there is no denying the damage and harm that comes to our Nation as a result.

    In 2011 and 2012, there were 25 severe weather events that caused a billion dollars or more in damage each; 25 of them were in a 2-year span. The total price tag for that was $188 billion in property damage to our Nation. And the taxpayers had to pick up $136 billion of those losses because that is what we do in emergency relief and in flood insurance and in crop insurance. These weather events cost taxpayers money.

    We have something in the legislature called the GAO. The GAO used to stand for the General Accounting Office. In 2004, we changed the name to the General Accountability Office, better to reflect the mission of that office--accountability and the proper husbanding of the assets and resources of the Federal Government. And they keep track of these things.

    Every year, they come up with something that they call the GAO High Risk Report. The GAO High Risk Report is a compilation of all the risks and assets and finances we have in this Nation as part of our government. It is a list of the things that threaten the assets of the Federal Government. For the first time, earlier this year, the GAO High Risk Report included climate change as a reason for risk to the American Government's assets.

    This is not just about security. It is not just about infrastructure. It is not just about damage to agriculture. It is not just about risk to the health and well-being of all Americans. It is also about financial losses to the American Federal Government, because, after all, we are an insurance company.

    We are a government that insures against flood. We are a government that insures against crop damage. We do that. That is something that we have thought about and something that makes sense for our Nation. But we end up in the position of an insurance company, and we end up paying the price tag when these storms happen. The GAO recognizes that and recognizes that climate change is a major driver in the risks to the American finances as a result of these programs that we do.

    As a result of all of that, in a few months, I will be introducing a comprehensive climate adaptation bill. Because, again, we can argue until the cows come home about what causes climate change and what the effects of it are, but one thing that can't be denied and that the GAO doesn't even deny is that this costs American taxpayers money, and the best way to handle that is to plan for it. And so, with the support of the White House, I will be introducing a comprehensive climate adaptation bill later this year. It should be out in a few months.

    And so, on this, the 1-year anniversary of the horrible tragedy that was Hurricane Sandy, we remember the devastation and we remember the losses. We remember the loss of life. We remember the communities that are continuing to struggle with the damage that was caused by that storm. And I say it is time for us also to plan for the future to minimize these losses that will continue to happen as the planet climate continues to change.

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