Even before Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, climate change policy had been on the forefront of federal and state legislative agendas. However, the size and scope of Sandy has brought a new wave of federal and state policy proposals aimed at preventing the frequency and magnitude of superstorms like Sandy.
In Congress, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, is spearheading several efforts aimed at curbing climate change. Although the legislation was proposed before Sandy, the aftermath of Sandy has renewed Senator Boxer’s calls to enact the Water Resources Development Act of 2012. This bill authorizes infrastructure improvements to our nation’s water resources in order to reduce flood risk and storm damage and to foster ecosystem restoration.
Senator Boxer, in a collaborative effort with the Chairs of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also recently proposed the creation of a “clearinghouse” in order to organize the Senate’s efforts on climate change legislation. She intends the clearinghouse to be a central forum for lawmakers to examine the current state of the science on climate change and to raise federal and state-specific issues of interest.
In New Jersey, one of the states hit hardest by Sandy, the storm may already be shaping New Jersey’s strategic planning and growth efforts. The State’s strategic development plan was scheduled for release just weeks after the storm; however, its release has been delayed, and according to the Christie Administration, the plan is under reconsideration “in light of the new challenges that have been presented by the storm and the aftermath of the storm.”
While the predictability of future natural disasters is far from certain, we can be sure that in the aftermath of Sandy, legislative and public policy proposals addressing climate change will be on the horizon. Indeed, since President Obama specifically mentioned climate change in his Inaugural Address on January 21, 2013, his Administration will likely seek congressional action before the 2014 mid-term elections.