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Grassroots Bulletin

January Newsletter


Governor Cuomo Hears Recommendations from Hurricane Sandy Commissions 

Two panels of experts charged with studying how New York State can better prepare for disasters like Hurricane Sandy reported to Governor Cuomo recently that the state should create a strategic fuel reserve, require some gas stations to install generators, and use National Guard troops to help restore power. 

The NYS Ready Commission, tasked with finding ways to ensure critical systems and services are prepared for future natural disasters, suggested developing new emergency training for local officials and expanding the use of databases to keep track of vulnerable residents, like the elderly, so that first responders can find and care for them in the event of a crisis. The group was led by Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and attorney Ira Millstein.

The NYS Respond Commission, tasked with finding ways to ensure the state is ready to respond to future weather-related disasters, suggested training National Guard soldiers to better assist with power restoration and other emergency duties.  The commission also proposed establishing a stockpile of emergency equipment and supplies and more widely employing text messaging to communicate with residents during large-scale power outages and other emergencies. The commission is led by Thad Allen, the former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and K. Bradley Penuel, the director of the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University.

Other recommendations by the two panels include:

  • Creating a statewide network for unified emergency training, coordination and communication that includes training via the State University of New York and City University of New York.
  • Giving local governments more authority during times of emergencies for gas rationing and setting curfews.
  • Updating building codes to handle storms and disasters.
  • Building and rehabilitating structures in flood zones and coastal-management zones designed to resist disasters.

Two other panels appointed by the governor after Hurricane Sandy, one focusing on infrastructure and another examining the performance of the state’s power utilities, are to release their preliminary findings soon. 



Congress Moves Slowly on Sandy Funds

While Congress passed legislation before the new year to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, they failed to approve up to $60 billion in much needed supplemental assistance to help pay for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner had sought to delay passage of Sandy assistance previously approved by the Senate, which some republicans say includes unnecessary and unrelated earmark spending.  But, following criticism and outcry from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations, Boehner agreed to bring to the House floor legislation to fund recovery efforts for damages related to the storm. 

The package was split into three parts that will require three separate votes.  Last week the House approved $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program.  Votes on the remaining $51 billion proposal have been set for January 15.

If the House passes both measures, the Senate will have to vote on the package again because a new Congress was just sworn in.

Looming fights over the debt ceiling and federal spending placed added pressure on any spending measure, even for disaster relief, which typically would pass without controversy. New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both parties have been quick to point out that the Sandy bill's price tag of $60 billion is already pared down from the $80 billion requested by Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.



City Council Unveils Package of Bills to Address Storm Planning 


Late last month, Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced that the City Council would hold oversight hearings to examine the City’s performance during and after Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the Council unveiled a package of bills it says will help strengthen New York City’s infrastructure to better prepare for severe storms.
 
“Our bills will expand flood protections and examine placing certain infrastructure underground to keep New Yorkers and our City safe during weather emergencies.”  Quinn said in a press release.

Among the proposed bills:
 
•  Study the Feasibility of Relocating Power Lines Underground
The Council Committee on Consumer Affairs will examine a bill that would require the City Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct a study over the next six months on the feasibility of placing power lines underground. The study will review the impact of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene on the electric system in New York City and suggest specific areas for undergrounding of power lines.
 
•  Strengthen Flood Proofing Requirements for Buildings and Health Care Facilities in Vulnerable Areas
The bill would raise elevation requirements for buildings in flood zones and establish more restrictive flood construction standards for buildings in certain coastal areas.
 
Beginning later this month, the Council will hold a seven-week-long series of oversight hearings involving over 20 committees to assess the City’s storm planning, management and recovery efforts related to public safety, transportation, housing, and health services.

 


 

Listen to Jazz musicians and get a glimpse at what Lunch and Learn is all about. Click on the graphic, or here.

Con Edison supports hundreds of non-profit organizations. The Lunch and Learn series provides our employees the opportunity to learn more about these organizations with the anticipation that may vi

Many of our cultural partner offer Con Edison employees the chance to visit their institution for free or at a discount price. These organizations can be found on our Culture Card site.

The next Lunch and Learn will take place January 23rd from noon to 1 p.m. in the Edison room and will feature the National Museum of the American Indians and their “Circle of Dance” exhibit.   





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