A year after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, President Obama signed an executive order Friday to make it easier for states and local governments to respond to weather disasters.
The executive order establishes a task force of state and local officials to advise the administration on how to respond to severe storms, wildfires, droughts and other possible effects of climate change. The task force includes governors of seven states — all Democrats — and the Republican governor of Guam, a U.S. territory. Fourteen mayors and two other local leaders also will serve on the task force. All but three are Democrats.
The task force will look at federal money spent on roads, bridges, flood control and other projects. It ultimately is supposed to recommend how structures can be made more resilient to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and warming temperatures.
The White House said the order recognizes that even as the United States acts to curb carbon pollution, officials also need to improve how states and communities respond to extreme weather events such as Sandy. Building codes must be updated to address climate impacts, and infrastructure needs to be made more resilient, the White House said in a statement.
The task force includes governors Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington, Jack Markell of Delaware, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Pat Quinn of Illinois and Peter Shumlin of Vermont.
The panel also includes several big-city mayors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Houston Mayor Annise Parker. All three are Democrats.
The task force builds on efforts Obama announced in June to combat global warming, including the first-ever limits on climate pollution from new and existing power plants. Obama’s plan is intended to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020.
The plan would also boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures. The 12 hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 15 years.
Obama’s plan would be put in place, through executive order, bypassing Congress, which has stalemated over climate legislation in recent years. The task force is expected to hold its first meeting this coming winter.