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    GAO: Climate change already costing U.S. billions in losses

    Repost from the Los Angeles Daily News
    [Editor: This came to us in an E-Alert from Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, who wrote, “The red lights are flashing – hottest summers and fall, greatest hurricane force, worst fires in history of California, lives lost, air pollution killing millions, and all of this is costing us billions… …rising sea level will affect structures near the Benicia waterfront at 6 feet above current sea level.  Our water (sewer) will be affected by rising sea level before 2050.  Our water supply may be uncertain.  We can mitigate and adapt….”  – RS]

    US Government Accountability Office: Climate change already costing U.S. billions in losses

    By Michael Biesecker, Associated Press, October 23, 2017 8:13 pm
    california wildfires
    Sarah Boryszewski is helped by her father Gerald Peete as they dig for belongings in the remains of Boryszewski’s home in Coffey Park, Friday Oct. 20, 2017 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Northern California residents who fled a wildfire in the dead of night with only minutes to spare returned to their neighborhoods Friday for the first time in nearly two weeks to see if anything was standing. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

    WASHINGTON — A non-partisan federal watchdog says climate change is already costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year, with those costs expected to rise as devastating storms, floods, wildfires and droughts become more frequent in the coming decades.

    A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the federal government has spent more than $350 billion over the last decade on disaster assistance programs and losses from flood and crop insurance. That tally does not include the massive toll from this year’s three major hurricanes and wildfires, expected to be among the most costly in the nation’s history.

    The report predicts these costs will only grow in the future, potentially reaching a budget busting $35 billion a year by 2050. The report says the federal government doesn’t effectively plan for these recurring costs, classifying the financial exposure from climate-related costs as “high risk.”

    “The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses,” the study said. “By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks.”

    GAO undertook the study following a request from Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

    “This nonpartisan GAO report Senator Cantwell and I requested contains astonishing numbers about the consequences of climate change for our economy and for the federal budget in particular,” said Collins. “In Maine, our economy is inextricably linked to the environment. We are experiencing a real change in the sea life, which has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry.”

    The report’s authors reviewed 30 government and academic studies examining the national and regional impacts of climate change. They also interviewed 28 experts familiar with the strengths and limitations of the studies, which rely on future projections of climate impacts to estimate likely costs.

    The report says the fiscal impacts of climate change are likely to vary widely by region. The Southeast is at increased risk because of coastal property that could be swamped by storm surge and sea level rise. The Midwest and Great Plains are susceptible to decreased crop yields, the report said. The west is expected to see increased drought, wildfires and deadly heatwaves.

    Advance copies were provided to the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, which provided no official comments for inclusion in the GAO report.

    Requests for comment from The Associated Press also received no response on Monday.

    President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, announcing his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords and revoke Obama-era initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has also appointed officials such as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, all of whom question the scientific consensus that carbon released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is the primary driver of global warming.

    Earlier this month Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White of Texas to serve as his top environmental adviser at the White House. She has credited the fossil fuel industry with “vastly improved living conditions across the world” and likened the work of mainstream climate scientists to “the dogmatic claims of ideologues and clerics.”

    White, who works at a conservative think tank that has received funding from fossil-fuel companies, holds academic degrees in East Asian studies and comparative literature.

      Washington State Department of Natural Resources cites wildfire risk to halt oil train plans

      Repost from Fire Chief Magazine

      Washington agency cites wildland fire risk to halt oil train plans

      City of Vancouver also opposes oil transfer terminal
      By Phuong Le, The Associated Press, June 30, 2016

      SEATTLE — A Washington state agency in charge of protecting millions of acres of state land from wildfires is opposing a proposal to build an oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, citing risks of blazes from increased train traffic and other concerns.

      The Department of Natural Resources urged a state energy panel to recommend that the project be rejected, according to a brief filed ahead of hearings that begin Monday.

      The city of Vancouver also filed a brief stating its opposition to the project.

      The Department of Natural Resources said that based on the evidence, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council cannot meet its obligations to assure the public that there are adequate safeguards and that the project will have minimal environmental impacts.

      The council, which oversees the siting and permitting of large energy projects, will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has the final say.

      Beginning Monday, the panel will hear testimony from numerous witnesses during trial-like proceedings lasting several weeks.

      “We’re all very concerned about the lack of safety and the probability that bad things will happen around derailments or other accidents,” Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re trying to persuade both (the energy council) and the governor that this is not a wise move. It’s not safe.”

      In its filing, the Department of Natural Resources said the project would “create an increased risk of wildfire ignition along every mile of track used, both from heat and sparks creased by increased daily rail traffic and from catastrophic accidents.”

      It says state firefighting forces aren’t equipped to handle those risks.

      Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., operating as Vancouver Energy, want to build a rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal along the Columbia River that can handle an average of 360,000 barrels of crude a day. The facility would receive an average of four crude oil trains a day. The oil would temporarily be stored on site and then loaded onto marine vessels for transport to refineries on the West Coast.

      Vancouver Energy says the project can be done safely and will provide jobs and tax revenue as well as reduce dependency on foreign oil.

      “We live in the community. We work in the community. We play in the community, so it’s obviously important to us to make sure this is done safely and in an environmentally safe way,” Jared Larrabee, general manager for Vancouver Energy, said in an interview last week.

      Tribal, environmental and other groups have intervened in the proceedings to oppose the project. They plan to raise concerns about the risk of train derailments, the potential for a catastrophic oil spill into the Columbia River, public health issues, tribal fishing access and toxic pollution.