WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast, President Barack 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 potential impacts 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 will 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 Govs. Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, as well as Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
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.
An administration official who asked not to be identified said the White House asked several organizations, including the National Governors Association, to recommend task force members. Members were chosen based on those who were recommended or who nominated themselves, the official said. The official asked to not be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the task force makeup.
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 also would boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures. The 12 hottest years on record all have 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 on resiliency is expected to hold its first meeting this winter.