Good morning and welcome to this Committee’s oversight hearing on activities in response to Hurricane Katrina. The EPW Committee has been actively engaged since the hurricane struck land. We have held numerous briefings and a day long stakeholder meeting on actions related to Katrina. In October, we held the first of a two part hearing on the actions of agencies under the jurisdiction of this Committee. EPA, the Army Corps and the Federal Highway Administration testified at that hearing. Today we are holding part two and this one will include the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Economic Development Administration, GSA and the Fish and Wildlife Service. We will also hear from the Mayor of New Orleans as well as a business leader and environmental justice expert as they provide their assessment of how all of these agencies, from both the first hearing and this hearing, have responded.
Since I gave a lengthy statement at the start of the first hearing, I will be brief today. There is no doubt that we face many challenges when responding to disasters - in the days leading up to the disaster, the days following and the long term recovery. What happened with Katrina was unprecedented for this country. It is vital that we properly assess the role of the federal government to find out what has worked and what has not worked.
While we can look back on the initial response to make judgments, there is still much work to be done. For example, while EDA has not played a major role to date, they may quickly become a major player in both the rebuilding of the Gulf states as well as a possible partner in addressing with the lack of refining capacity that was exploited as a result of the recent hurricanes. I am glad to see Sandy Baruah here representing EDA today. Sandy, it is also my hope that we can get you confirmed soon so that you will no longer have the title “Acting”.
NRC’s role was completed once the hurricane passed and the facilities came back on line. They did a tremendous job of designing and carrying out their action plan. I hope that others can use their preparedness and execution as a model of how to do it right. If we are to have a future with a strong nuclear energy presence, then we have to have confidence in NRC, and they certainly came through the recent disasters with my vote of confidence. I want to welcome Chairman Diaz here this morning and look forward to hearing from him.
The Fish and Wildlife Service went above and beyond the call of duty during Katrina. An agency that is known for taking care of wildlife, quickly became an agency that would rescue people. We should all be proud of their dedication and it is good to see Dale Hall here representing them today.
I also want to welcome David Winstead, who is here representing the Public Building Service of the GSA. Since the storm affected such a large geographic area, the PBS had numerous facilities impacted - more than 3 million square feet of space in 83 facilities.
And, of course, I want to welcome Mayor Nagin and the others who are on the subsequent panels, including Mr. Hines and Dr. Chapital. I want thank them for coming to Washington. Mayor Nagin is a very busy man right now and I do appreciate him making the effort to be here today. I look forward to discussing the issues with them.