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US lawmaker unveils discussion draft of bill providing climate solutions for territories; Seeks stakeholder and public input

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WASHINGTON D.C. (Press Release) —  House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., released a discussion draft of legislation to reduce climate crisis impacts on U.S. territories and freely associated states.

Grijalva encouraged local government officials, organizations and communities to provide feedback on the discussion draft by Friday, Nov. 13. 

“U.S. territories are facing sea level rise, more frequent and intense tropical storms, extreme temperatures, and serious public health risks because they’re on the front lines of the climate crisis,” Grijalva said. “Millions of people are depending on Congress to take the threats to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States seriously and not leave them behind. I’m gathering feedback from local government officials, organizations and communities to refine this legislation before officially introducing it because the threat is serious and we have to get this right the first time.”

Key features of the discussion draft include:

  • The creation within the Department of Energy of an Office of Insular Area Energy Policy and Programs to direct energy management, planning, delivery, and conservation programs in the U.S. territories.
  • The establishment within the Office of Insular Area Energy Policy and Programs of an Energy EfficienAppliance Rebate Program to provide funding allocations to reduce energy demand in the U.S. territories.
  • The creation within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of a Climate Change Insular Research Grant Program to provide grants to institutions of higher education for monitoring, collecting, synthesizing, analyzing, and publishing local climate change data.
  • A waiver of non-federal share funding requirements associated with disaster relief and long-term recovery funding made available to U.S. territories and Freely Associated States pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Among other issues, U.S. territories and Freely Associated States will likely continue to experience sea level rise, coastal erosion, and increasing storm impacts that threaten lives, critical infrastructure, and livelihood security. Temperature increases will likely exacerbate droughts, reduce water supply, and increase demand for fresh water.

In 2017, two major storms, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, inflicted severe damage on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands of the United States. Hurricane Maria caused thousands of deaths in Puerto Rico and significant damage to its infrastructure, including the territory’s energy system. In 2018, Typhoon Yutu caused catastrophic destruction on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

During the 116th Congress, the committee has held a series of oversight hearings and forums to obtain more information about reconstruction efforts in these jurisdictions. 

Feedback and recommendations on the legislation should be submitted to Margarita Varela-Rosa with the Committee’s Office of Insular Affairs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday, Nov. 13.

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