Emergency Response and Recovery: Central Takeaways from the Unprecedented 2017 Hurricane Season
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Full Committee.
Summary of Subject Matter
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
November 2, 2017
Today’s hearing is focused on the 2017 Hurricane season – specifically Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
First, our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been, and continue to be impacted by these storms, as well as their fellow Americans working to restore vital services to those communities.
These storms wreaked havoc upon large sections of the Continental United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. They were nothing short of devastating, but thankfully, due to the efforts of the federal agencies before us today, Americans are recovering and rebuilding.
As the Committee with primary jurisdiction over Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency, it is our duty to hear from these federal entities directly about the disaster response and recovery.
When a major disaster strikes, FEMA is responsible for coordinating federal agency response and ensuring the necessary federal capabilities are deployed. Oftentimes, the Coast Guard is one of the first agencies on the scene, conducting search-and-rescue missions, reopening ports, and responding to oil spills. Post-disaster, the Army Corps’ engineering expertise is drawn upon for emergency repairs, debris management, temporary roofing or housing, and critical infrastructure reestablishment. The EPA assists in the assessment of Superfund sites, oil sites, critical drinking water and wastewater facilities and coordination of storm debris management.
This hearing is the first step in re-examining the authorities of these federal partners to ensure they have the tools necessary to help communities recover from disasters. Indeed, we owe it to those who have lost so much and endured such suffering to identify and act upon lessons-learned from this historic hurricane season. This Committee has done so before in a bipartisan fashion, be it post-Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy.
Our discussion here will help us identify solutions that will help reduce future loss of life, lower the rising costs of disasters, and speed recovery.
I want to thank Subcommittee Chairmen Barletta, Hunter, and Graves for their leadership and for laying the groundwork on many of these issues. Our Subcommittees have already done a lot of work focused on how we can respond and rebuild smarter, and today we hope to hear from our witnesses what can be done to ensure each agency has the tools they need to do so.
I want to thank Homeland Security Committee Chairman McCaul for being here today to inform us about the needs of communities in Texas. I also want to thank and welcome Representative Green of Texas,
Representatives Rutherford and Lawson of Florida, Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon of Puerto Rico, and Delegate Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I think there is no better way to learn about the impacts of these hurricanes than to hear directly from our colleagues who represent these States and territories. We look forward to hearing from you about what your communities and regions may need in their recovery.
I also want to thank FEMA Administrator Long, Vice Admiral Schultz of the Coast Guard, Major General Jackson of the Corps, and EPA Regional Administrator Lopez. They are critical partners in this effort. I look forward to your testimony and your ideas for improving how the country can prepare for, respond to, and work to prevent large-scale disasters.