When Congress returns to Washington after the midterm, a number of ASCE-supported measures are still in play and may ultimately be enacted. As a broad issue, infrastructure resilience received serious attention in Washington during 2022 as both Congress and the Administration focused on various initiatives to make the nation’s infrastructure more resilient. For decades, ASCE has been a leader in successfully advocating for the resilience of our nation’s infrastructure, which resilience even identified as a key solution across all categories in the 2021 Report Card. With the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), we now have a unique opportunity to modernize all 17 categories of infrastructure that we graded in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.
With the success of IIJA, ASCE is now working to advocate for optimizing these investments and ensure that we are truly building for the 21st Century. ASCE is committed to furthering the discussion on resilience and sustainability, and will continue to work with federal, state, and local governments to see that the most up-to-date codes and standards are being adopted. ASCE takes every opportunity to champion the importance of resilience, be it through research programs, data collection, standards development, and building code adoption and enforcement.
As stewards of our public infrastructure, we must not only ensure that future climate, as well as all other risks, are fully reflected in the design, construction, and maintenance of assets, but find ways for codes, standards, and guidelines to evolve accordingly. That message has found receptive ears in both the Administration and on Capitol Hill; where there is growing recognition that just revitalizing our infrastructure is not enough, we must also make it more resilient.
The White House has taken the lead by creating its National Initiative to Advance Building Codes that will help state, local, tribal, and territorial governments adopt the latest building codes and standards, enabling communities to be more resilient to hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather events that are intensifying due to climate change. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to roll out and reinforce its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program after several infusions of cash.
Meanwhile, Congress has also been active with well over a hundred bills addressing resilient infrastructure in some manner. While many are introduced to “make a statement,” several are moving through Congress and are actively supported by ASCE. Among those are:
- the National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act, which would seek to streamline the federal response to climate hazards that threaten human health and well-being, critical infrastructure, and natural systems.
- the Providing Research and Estimates of Changes in Precipitation (PRECIP) Act, which would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update precipitation frequency estimates every five years, and study best practices and research needs for estimating precipitation levels.
- the Resilient Assistance for Mitigation for Environmentally Resilient Infrastructure and Construction by Americans or Resilient AMERICA Act, which would provide a number of enhancements to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster mitigation and resilience programs.
- the Resilient Transit Act, which would provide investments for resilience improvement projects in the public transportation sector.
- the Disaster Resiliency Planning Act, which requires federal agencies to incorporate resilience into decisions when prioritizing investments across their portfolios.
While the 117th Congress draws to a close, these bills are in various stages of the legislative process and may yet be enacted as stand-alone bills, added to other “must-pass” measures, or become part of the final Omnibus Appropriations Act, which is usually the last act of each Congress in recent years. ASCE will continue to work with our coalition partners and members of Congress to seek final passage of as many of these measures as possible.
Of course, any of these measures not adopted by the end of the year will almost certainly reappear in the next Congress. ASCE will be back, too, advocating for these and other legislation that seeks to ensure that resilience is central to all infrastructure investments.