Amid Hurricane Season, the White House Can Streamline Resiliency Planning | Opinion

MIAMI, FLORIDA – JUNE 01: Daniel Brown, (L) Senior Hurricane Specialist, and Lisa Bucci, Hurricane Research Scientist, track the progress of what was once Hurricane Agatha at the National Hurricane Center on June 01, 2022 in Miami, Florida. As the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season begins, remnants of the former Pacific hurricane are expected to reform in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly as a tropical storm, in the next five days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Joe Raedle/Getty Images





Heather Reams , President, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions



The Atlantic’s hurricane season officially began on June 1, just days after Hurricane Agatha became the strongest May hurricane to ever make landfall in the eastern Pacific basin. Agatha hit Puerto Angel, Mexico as a Category 2 storm. Forecasters are expecting roughly 130 percent more activity than the average season this year.

While we don’t know exactly where the next storm will hit, the Gulf Coast—home to the top five oil refineries in the United States and several major ports—is a good bet. A direct hit there is a direct hit to gas prices, supply chains and Americans’ wallets.

The American people are under tremendous strain from a two-year string of crises, from a virus pandemic to war in Ukraine. The result is record-high gas prices, inflation rates not seen in 40 years and unprecedented supply-chain disruptions—including shortages of goods as essential as baby formula.

Countless American households are in an extremely vulnerable position. Couple that with the looming threat of intense natural disasters in the months ahead, and it’s a recipe for the perfect storm.

Fortunately, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last fall with bipartisan support, making resources available now to help mitigate the impact of future storms. Louisiana, for example, received funding to support coastal, water management and hurricane risk reduction projects. Additional resources have been allocated for a grant program to prevent outages due to climate-related hazards and enhance grid resiliency. And, the infrastructure act also created programs to support adaptation and resilience projects.

So, the resources are there to make a difference and prepare communities for future hurricanes, but federal and state agencies need to act with urgency to prioritize the deployment of these projects. This includes the Biden administration, which must cut the bureaucratic red tape that is delaying review of private-sector solutions and the deployment of vital projects.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the president rolled back permitting reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act, drawing criticism from many. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) wrote that the rollback “not only delays infrastructure buildout following the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, but also hinders the administration’s own energy goals.”

Streamlining the permitting process will provide certainty to project developers and put funds to use to catalyze research and development. And it would help build the infrastructure we need now to prepare for the uncertainty of what’s to come.

For instance, combined heat and power microgrids can provide an “energy island” for essential facilities like military bases—or potentially even entire communities—to generate power independent from the main power grid during outages. If they were put into motion today, the demonstration and commercialization of such projects could be a game changer during the next major hurricane landfall.

I recently visited a Caribbean island where I witnessed the legacy of another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma, which devastated the region in 2017. It undermined tourism and stifled economic development, resulting in increased crime, which had been nearly nonexistent before the storm. It’s a sobering reminder of how climate change creates layers of challenges—a warning America must heed urgently.

The complexity of the current U.S. permitting process leaves substantial opportunities for improvement that would increase predictability, shorten project delivery times and reduce costs while still providing for robust consideration of public and environmental concerns. Let’s hope the White House clears hurdles for such projects soon to reduce the risk to American communities, build a stronger and cleaner power supply, create jobs and potentially save lives.

Any delay is a delay our coastal communities—and nation—cannot afford.




Heather Reams is President of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded in 2013 to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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