Continental Divide Trail Completion Act

Floor Speech

Date: Aug. 2, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. MOORE of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5118, the Wildlife Response and Drought Resiliency Act. This much- needed legislation will take steps to help protect communities from the devastating consequences of extreme weather events by providing crucial investment and response measures to help prevent and respond to wildfire, drought, and other climate related weather issues. These provisions include disaster assistance and environmental justice measures for communities disproportionately harmed by drought, wildfire, and other extreme weather events.

Extreme weather exacerbated by the climate crisis is increasingly wreaking havoc throughout our country, putting lives in danger while causing tremendous damage on private property and public lands. Currently, much of the western United States is experiencing the driest conditions in over 1,200 years. It is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans live in areas of significant wildfire risk and more than 65 million experienced severe to exceptional drought this summer. Portions of our country are suffering under intense heat waves while in other places, too much rain in too short a period is causing flooding. My heart goes out to families of those who have died in flooding in Kentucky, a toll that stood at 30 at last report, with many still missing.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act includes policies and resources to strengthen federal efforts to better understand, prevent, and respond to wildfires and other extreme weather events that are affecting our nation, including calling for a 10-year federal wildfire strategy and supporting our federal wildland firefighters and land managers who are on the frontlines in the fight to protect communities and lives. The bill would also create a National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program that would coordinate Federal efforts to reduce the loss of life and property from wildland fires especially in the face of a changing climate.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act delivers critical drought relief for communities in several ways including authorizing investments in new water supply projects, promoting the delivery of reliable water to Native American communities, and supporting the development of technologies to enhance effective water management.

I want to take a moment to highlight the bill's provisions on environmental justice because we know that some communities bear a disproportionate share of the burden of extreme weather events as they do environmental hazards such as poor air and water quality, lead exposure, and other environmental threats. For example, in Kentucky, some of the worse hit areas of the recent flooding are low-income. A recent EPA study found that people of color, regardless of region or income, are significantly more likely to live with exposure to air pollution. This leaves communities of color at a heightened risk of developing health complications like chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. A study by Clean Wisconsin found that people of color in my state are exposed to more ``dangerous particulate matter'' than the state average.

This bill would authorize Environmental Justice Community, State, and Tribal Grant Programs to empower local nonprofits, state governments, and tribal communities to identify and implement programs that reduce or eliminate disproportionately adverse human health or environmental impacts in specific communities. For example, the bill authorizes new grants to develop community-led partnerships that implement projects addressing climate justice needs, like solar and wind energy, home and building electrification and weatherization, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

In addition, H.R. 5118 would establish a federal Environmental Justice Interagency Council to guide federal agencies actions to identify and respond to environmental inequities among communities of color, tribal communities, and low-income communities. The bill would also require federal agencies to more closely consider the needs of and engage with communities that bear a disproportionate share of environmental burdens including by preparing community impact reports assessing the potential consequences of a proposed federal action on these communities. The bill would also require early and meaningful community involvement in federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act review process.

I support passage of this bill and urge my colleagues to do so as well.