U.S. Home Secretary Deb Haaland has pledged federal resources and cooperation with the governors of 19 western states to tackle wildfire resilience, drought management, oil and gas clean-up efforts. gas and other problems made more difficult by climate change.
Speaking at the Western Governors Association meeting outside San Diego on Thursday, Haaland touted funding priorities from within in the new infrastructure law and underscored the roles states would play in his use.
“We cannot succeed in harnessing these new resources without your support and leadership,” she told the group. “We know that it will be you and your teams who will implement so many projects on the ground that will reshape our common future. “
Long-standing Western problems like drought and wildfires have been made worse by climate change, she said. The money in the administration-sponsored infrastructure law is intended to address these issues.
The law provides $ 1.5 billion for indoor forest fire resilience programs and $ 8.3 billion for water management projects to mitigate the effects of drought. It is also earmarking $ 16 billion for cleaning up legacy pollution and an additional $ 16 billion for reclamation of abandoned mines and plugging unclogged oil and gas wells.
Spending on forest fire and water programs and national park infrastructure upgrades would expand employment opportunities and boost the outdoor recreation economy, she said.
But that work needs to be combined with restoration efforts, including cleaning up abandoned mines and fossil fuel pits, she said.
“As we build for the future, we have an obligation to address the failures of the past,” she said. “These abandoned remnants of the extractive industries spew poison into the air and surrounding waters and contribute to climate change.”
The Western Governors Association, which includes governors from Alaska to Texas, meets its members twice a year to discuss issues that are widely experienced in the West. Idaho Governor Brad Little chaired the group this year, with Jared Polis of Colorado leading it in 2022. Governors of Arizona, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon are also members.
Haaland opened his remarks by pledging to continue the interior’s close relations with Western governors. She cited work with states to conserve water and manage competing priorities in the Klamath and Colorado River basins during this year’s droughts as examples of the department’s partnerships with states.
She has pledged to visit the Western States in 2022 where she has not traveled this year. Its 2021 schedule included stops in Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon.
In a brief question-and-answer session, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, a Republican, questioned whether governors could have “a direct line” with the secretary. Haaland responded that she has an open door and that someone in the department of over 65,000 workers would always be ready to help with any issues the governors are dealing with at any given time.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat who is the outgoing chair of the governing group, added that she had had direct conversations with Haaland throughout the river basin water crisis. Klamath this summer.
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