A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official agreed to work with U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), local officials in Pennsylvania, and other stakeholders to try to resolve outstanding hazard mitigation efforts that cannot move forward due to a new FEMA policy that bans fracking underneath any property purchased with FEMA mitigation funds.
Barletta is Chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee, the Congressional panel that conducts oversight of FEMA. The Subcommittee held the roundtable in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming County. In Pennsylvania, as well as in other states across the country, subsurface oil and mineral rights are often owned or leased by someone other than the owner of the surface property rights. In cases where it makes sense to remove homes and structures from hazard prone areas – such as floodplains – FEMA’s new policy will not allow a homeowner to get a buyout and move if some other entity continues to own the subsurface or mineral rights beneath the property.
“We know that mitigation programs help save lives and taxpayers’ money,” Barletta said. “With such a critical program and a great return on investment, why would FEMA issue a policy that completely stops mitigation efforts here in Wyoming County, in Pennsylvania, and in other parts of the country? FEMA’s new anti-fracking policy seems inconsistent with the basic premise of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which is to remove structures from hazard prone areas, reducing or eliminating future risk, damage, and cost. This new policy effectively makes states choose between removing a home from a floodplain or allowing fracking under the property.”
FEMA’s policy, issued in May, was finalized without input from key governmental and industry stakeholders. Wednesday’s roundtable brought together representatives of FEMA, state and local governments, and other stakeholders.
During the discussion, FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation Roy E. Wright committed to working with the local government to help resolve outstanding mitigation projects affected by the new FEMA policy, working with Chairman Barletta and stakeholders in the industry, and updating the agency’s fracking policy as new information becomes available.
“I appreciate all those who participated in this productive policy discussion,” Barletta said. “In particular, I commend Mr. Wright for his commitment to work with me, the Subcommittee, local officials, and others to identify solutions, both in the short-term to help those who have already been impacted by FEMA’s new policy, and in the long-term to ensure the agency’s conflicting directives do not continue to prevent important hazard mitigation activities from moving forward.”