WASHINGTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Fatal floods in New York and
New Jersey prompted Democractic lawmakers and experts to
intensify calls on Thursday for U.S. infrastructure spending,
including passage of a $1.2 trillion bill before Congress.
With the weather impact of climate change worsening, the
infrastructure bill passed by the Senate and awaiting House of
Representatives approval includes $47 billion for climate
resilience measures. These are intended to help communities
withstand more severe storms, droughts, floods, fires, heat
waves and sea level rise, Democrats said.
"Global warming is upon us and it's going to get worse and
worse," said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York
at a press conference. "That's why it is so imperative to pass"
the $1.2 trillion infrastructure and a separate $3.5 trillion
spending bill, priority initatives for President Joe Biden.
Torrential rains from Ida, a tropical storm that was
previously a hurricane, deluged the Northeast from Philadelphia
to Connecticut on Wednesday and Thursday. Flooding killed at
least 14 people, submerged subway lines and temporarily grounded
flights in New York and New Jersey.
The infrastructure bill includes funding for flood
mitigation grants, coastal resilience projects and mapping and
data to improve flood protection.
"We don't just build infrastructure but we build resilient
infrastructure so when these floods or fires or anything else
occurs they are much more resistant," Schumer said.
Republicans have highlighted concerns that the spending
would cause federal debt to balloon. The infrastructure bill
split the Republican caucus in the Senate, with 19 voting for it
while 30 opposed the measure.
But even more money might be needed, according to Joel Scata
of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Given the context of
climate change, things are going to become very expensive,"
He said the infrastructure bill's funding for climate
impact, notably flooding, is the largest in modern U.S. history.
Extreme weather has exposed infrastructure weaknesses
thoughout the country. When Ida came ashore as a hurricane in
Louisiana this week, it knocked out power to much of the state,
and hundreds of thousands may be without electricity for a
month. In February, a Texas cold snap triggered widespread
blackouts that killed at least 32.
Representative Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, said
Ida was "a devastating reminder that we must invest in
climate-resilient infrastructure to save lives."
Chris Brown, a former Republican congressional staffer who
runs natural disaster advocacy group SmarterSafer, said Congress
could face pressure to approve further funding for disaster
"We've got to start thinking of preparing for the storm and
mitigating before it hits," said Brown, "These are not 500-year
events anymore. These are regularly ocurring events."
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Jason Lange; Editing by