Rebuilding Strong—Federal Disaster Program Includes NEMA Priorities

Rebuilding Strong—Federal Disaster Program Includes NEMA Priorities

This piece was originally published in the November 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Philip Squair, Vice President of Government Relations, NEMA

On October 5, 2018, President Trump signed into law a series of reforms to federal disaster programs to help communities better prepare for and recover from such events. The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 contains a number of provisions supported by NEMA.

  • National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Mitigation Assistance: Allows the Administration to establish a new program using six percent of disaster relief funds to provide technical and project support for states to improve infrastructure to reduce future costs caused by disasters.
  • Upgrading Facilities for Future Resilience: Allows disaster relief funds to be used “to conduct activities to help reduce the risk of future damage” rather than simply replacing the equipment with the same types that were in use before the disaster. Importantly, this applies to all disasters occurring after August 1, 2017.
  • Building Code Enforcement: Allows state, local, and tribal governments to use federal funding to hire personnel to improve implementation and enforcement of building codes.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Along Evacuation Routes: Directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to collaborate on evacuation route guidance.

NEMA will urge FEMA and FHWA to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure along evacuation routes to provide access to this type of “fuel” to facilitate the ability of electric vehicle owners to evacuate.

Favorable FAA Provisions

The new law also reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an additional five years and includes a number of other favorable provisions.

  • The Airport Improvement Program: Funds construction of critical infrastructure at airports of all sizes, including equipment and system upgrades that make airports more energy efficient and resilient. The program is designed to address the long-term sustainability of airports across the country and the entire National Airspace System.
  • Airport Electrification: Adds airport ground support vehicle electrification as an eligible use of passenger facility charge revenues. It also highlights the importance of building microgrids to support airport resilience.
  • Air Transportation of Lithium Cells and Batteries: Extends the requirement that U.S. regulations on air transportation of lithium cells and batteries be no more stringent than international model regulations. It ensures industry participation in the relevant international organizations to provide technical information and expertise. It also creates a private sector advisory group to ensure transparency of U.S. positions at related international meetings.

Finally, the law affirms the transportation secretary’s authority to permit emergency medical battery shipments from which noncritical shipments are currently prohibited.

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