Barletta Hosting Roundtable in Pennsylvania to Examine Impacts of FEMA’s Anti-Fracking Policy
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), Chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee, will lead a Subcommittee roundtable policy discussion in Pennsylvania this week to examine the impacts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) anti-fracking policies on state and local governments, individuals, and the industry, and to explore opportunities and solutions for moving forward..
The roundtable policy discussion on “FEMA’s Fracking Ban: How Anti-Fracking Policies are Putting People and Property at Risk” is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, at the Wyoming County 911 Center, 3880 SR6E, Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. This event is open to the public and members of the press. The event will also be webcast. Note to media: a mult-box may not be available.
On May 5, 2014, FEMA issued the policy “Limits on Subsurface Uses of Hazard Mitigation Assistance Acquired Lands,” which deals with an emerging issue in Pennsylvania and across the country: FEMA’s prohibition on using Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) dollars to buy out repetitively-damaged properties where there are separate underground mineral rights leases or separate owners, particularly where hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” may occur.
FEMA’s HMGP grants are intended to significantly reduce or permanently eliminate future risk to lives and property from natural hazards. The HMGP can be used to fund projects like acquiring and relocating structures from hazard-prone areas, retrofitting structures to protect them from floods, high winds, earthquakes, or other natural hazards, constructing certain types of minor and localized flood control projects, and constructing safe rooms inside schools or other buildings in tornado-prone areas. When properties are acquired under this program, they are required to be maintained as open space indefinitely.
However, FEMA’s new policy will not allow the acquisition of property to be converted and maintained as open space where there are separate subsurface or mineral property rights. This policy, which was finalized without input from key governmental and industry stakeholders, directly impacts Pennsylvania and other states with high risk flood properties that also have subsurface mineral opportunities. It makes states choose between removing a structure from a flood plain or allowing the potential mineral extraction under the property, even if surface access does not occur on the bought-out property. In Pennsylvania, subsurface oil and mineral rights are often owned or leased by someone other than the owner of the surface property rights. FEMA’s policy seems to conflict with the goals of mitigation and could cost taxpayers in the long run, when the federal government is on the hook for repeatedly paying for damage on the severely flooded properties.
“This new policy has put the sale of properties in Wyoming County on hold,” Barletta said. “These homeowners live in an area that severely floods regularly and qualify for buyouts under FEMA’s mitigation program. However, FEMA said they have to also relinquish their subsurface property rights, and that no fracking will ever happen on the land again. These homeowners face the choice of being flooded again or relinquishing their rights.”
In June, Barletta and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) asked FEMA to rescind the new policy. Click here to read their letter to the FEMA Administrator.
Wednesday’s roundtable will be an opportunity to discuss the policy’s unintended consequences, as well as to afford FEMA the opportunity to respond to lingering questions about how this ban forwards mitigation goals, and what solutions there may be in resolving any issues.
Additional information about the roundtable, including background information and a link to a live webcast, will be posted here as it becomes available.
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