Fox News is continuing its hunt for "pork" in a Hurricane Sandy relief bill blocked by House Speaker John Boehner, claiming that the bill included $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change. But the funds in question actually focused on ensuring affected states' access to clean water, a crucial issue in the wake of the storm - and emblematic of future consequences of climate change.
Rep. Boehner recently canceled a vote on a Sandy relief bill, prompting heavy criticism from some members of his own party. He later reversed course and called for a vote on $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program, with another $51 billion in relief spending to be voted on later.
Continuing Fox News' attempts to find "pork" in the bill, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer proclaimed lawmakers "were just chucking everything" including "$600 million for climate change for the EPA" into the bill, and "that's where the resistance" from Rep. Boehner came:
But the previous day, Rep. Carolyn Maloney had explained to Fox Business that the "money is for wastewater treatment," which she pointed out is "very much needed" in many areas hit by Sandy. Indeed, The New York Times reported that sewage from storm-battered treatment plants had flowed into New York and New Jersey waterways after the storm, "a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy."
The White House requested $610 million for improvements to drinking water and wastewater systems, and the Senate bill increased the amount to $810 million. The latter did not mention climate change, and the White House cited climate adaptation only in the context of an additional $10 million in requested State grants for environmental mitigation.
While the Sandy relief bill is designed to address vulnerabilities in our water system regardless of climate change, climate change will indeed make these challenges even more pressing. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies found that the cost of adapting our nation's water and wastewater systems to the challenges of climate change could cost $448 billion to $944 billion through 2050.
A previous study by the EPA found that it would cost over $300 billion simply to maintain our nation's water and sewage systems over the next 20 years, not including the cost to upgrade these systems for extreme events such as Hurricane Sandy.