BI-PARTISAN LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO FACILITATE KATRINA RELIEF

September 16, 2005 BI-PARTISAN LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO FACILITATE KATRINA RELIEF WASHINGTON, DC ñ Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee, Ranking Member Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), have introduced three bills to facilitate hurricane relief efforts with regard to highway reconstruction, additional flexibility for federal building leases, and wastewater projects and testing. Sens. Inhofe, Jeffords and Vitter released the following statements: Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the EPW Committee ìThese three bi-partisan bills will go a long way in helping to facilitate recovery in the aftermath of what is likely the largest natural disaster in American history. There are serious concerns with regard to highway rehabilitation, federal buildings and water infrastructure. The provisions in our legislation will help ensure that the Federal Highway Administration has the support and resources it needs for its relief efforts, that the General Services Administration has the flexibility it needs to relocate federal personnel in a timely fashion, that drinking water systems affected by the hurricane are immediately eligible for funding and that well water testing is available to homeowners.î Sen. Jeffords (I-Vt.), Ranking Member ìThese three bills are small steps that we can take to help the Gulf Coast region recover. They are the first in a series of bills in this committee's jurisdiction that we hope to introduce in the coming weeks.î Sen. Vitter (R-La.), Committee member ìAs a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, I am particularly focused on how this legislative package addresses two major challenges Louisiana faces after Hurricane Katrina: reconstructing our roads and highways, and providing a clean water supply to our residents as they return to their homes. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this committee as we move into medium- and long-term recovery efforts.î The three bills are: -Federal Highway Administrationís Emergency Relief Program (S. 1714) -This legislation, also co-sponsored by Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), John Warner (R-Va.), Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-S.D.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) waives the current $100 million limit on the amount any state may be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administrationís Emergency Relief program for damages resulting from any single disaster and extends the period of time the federal share is 100%. The bill provides $2.9 billion dollars to the emergency relief program. -The Emergency Lease Requirements Act of 2005 (S. 1708) Current law provides authority to the Administrator of General Services to enter into leases of up to 180 days following a major disaster or other emergency. The General Services Administration (GSA) has found it difficult to secure such short term leases following previous disasters. The Emergency Lease Requirements Act of 2005, also co-sponsored by Sens. Lieberman, Bond, Carper, Warner, Clinton, Chafee, Landrieu, and Murkowski, extends the maximum emergency lease term to five years. -The Gulf Coast Water Infrastructure Emergency Assistance Act of 2005 (S. 1709) States currently are unable to forgive the principal on clean water loans. That is, however, possible with regard to drinking water loans. This legislation, also co-sponsored by Sens. Clinton, Chafee, Lieberman, Warner, Carper, Murkowski, Landrieu, and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), will provide the three states affected by Katrina with that authority. Currently states are only able to fund drinking water projects that appear on their annual intended use plan. The legislation will waive that requirement to ensure drinking water systems affected by Katrina are immediately eligible for state funds. Finally, many homeowners may have difficulty testing their wells given the number of potential contaminants in the flood waters. With the provisions in this bill, EPA can conduct testing at their request.