Carper, Senators Request 5 GAO Reports to Examine Federal Response and Planning for Climate Change Risks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sent five letters asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct five separate studies examining the manifold ways in which climate change poses a threat to the environment, human health and the federal government’s fiscal exposure. These nonpartisan, fact-based reports could eventually serve as the basis for additional committee oversight and legislation.

Earlier this year in its biennial High Risk List, the Government Accountability Office came to the stark conclusion that neither global or U.S. efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change, “approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damage to the U.S. economy, environment and human health over the coming decades.”

“The Government Accountability Office has already joined leagues of scientists and nonpartisan experts in raising the alarm about the short- and long-term risks climate change poses to our country’s environment, public health and economy,” Senator Carper said. “These nonpartisan studies would help to inform our oversight and legislative work on the Environment and Public Works Committee as we continue working on climate change solutions.”

Below are the five reports requested:

NUCLEAR WASTE: A report on international sites that store or are contaminated by nuclear waste from United States activity to examine the extent of the U.S. government’s legacy cleanup commitments and the potential risk to legacy nuclear waste storage facilities from sea level rise, extreme weather, and melting ice. The request notes the example of risks posed to Camp Century, a subterranean facility built by the U.S. Army under the Greenland Ice Sheet to house and launch nuclear weapons during the Cold War that is now vulnerable to the impacts of melting ice. Access that letter HERE.

ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE: A report – co-requested with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee – to evaluate domestic efforts to increase the resilience of U.S. energy infrastructure and study relevant promising practices used by other countries.  The request notes some examples of the risk posed such as the vulnerability of energy infrastructure illustrated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which destroyed much of the electricity grids’ transmission and distribution systems in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Access that letter HERE.

FLOOD RISK INFRASTRUCTURE: A report – co-requested with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife – to review how taxpayer-funded flood risk management infrastructure, such as levees, are planned and maintained in a way that would minimize climate-related risks for various stakeholders. The request notes some examples of the risk posed such as the costly levee breaks in the Midwest, a dire picture of flood risk management infrastructure never designed to withstand to river levels seen in the last decade. Access that letter HERE.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS: A report – co-requested with Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee– on the implementation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) to examine if and how EPA and states are considering adverse climate effects and extreme weather events in their planning for the treatment and disposal of hazardous materials. For example, in response to Hurricane Maria, EPA collected and shipped almost 100 tons of solid hazardous waste and over 2,000 gallons of liquid hazardous waste from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Access that letter HERE.

CHEMICAL FACILITIES: A report – also co-requested with Senator Booker – to review the challenges EPA-regulated chemical facilities face in planning for and safeguarding against potential external hazards that may be exacerbated by climate change, as well as what regulated facilities may be particular vulnerable to climate change risks. The request notes some examples of the risks posed, such as the structural damage to critical organic peroxide refrigeration systems caused by Hurricane Harvey, which resulted in three separate fires combusting over 350,000 pounds of organic peroxide. Access that letter HERE.