Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview New Actions on the Impacts of Extreme Weather Events
Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview New Actions on the Impacts of Extreme Weather Events

Via Teleconference

5:03 P.M. EDT
 
MR. EDWARDS:  All right.  Thank you all for joining us.  My name is Jeremy Edwards, and I am with the White House Press Office. 
 
Today we’ll be discussing new actions the Biden-Harris administration is taking to deal with the impacts of extreme weather events and an operational briefing tomorrow on extreme weather that the president will receive.
 
As a reminder, this call will be on background and attributable to “senior administration officials.”  But for your situational awareness, I want to let you know who you’ll be hearing from today, and this is the order in which they will speak.  So, first up, we’ll have [senior administration official], [senior administration official], [senior administration official], and [senior administration official] is going to close us out.
 
When [senior administration official] is done speaking, we’ll go into a Q&A that will also be on background also attributable to senior administration officials.  You can use the “raise hand” function during that portion of the call.
And we’ll try to get through as many questions as we are able to.
 
And with that, I am going to turn it over to [senior administration official].  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much, Jeremy.  Confirming that you can hear me.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Loud and clear.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  Great.
 
Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining us today.  Across the country, tens of millions of Americans are experiencing the effects of extreme weather events.  You all are well aware of the record-breaking heat we had last month across the country.  The Fourth of July holiday week is expected to feature dangerously hot conditions again for multiple regions across the country, and above-normal temperatures are also expected for much of the country later in July, especially the central and eastern United States.
 
We have seen devastating fires in New Mexico, Oregon, and California; historic flooding in Iowa and Minnesota; and we are all tracking Hurricane Beryl, a major hurricane that formed exceedingly quickly and early in the Atlantic. 
 
In addition to posing direct threats to lives and livelihoods, major weather events have significant economic impacts.  Last year’s record 28 individual billion-dollar extreme weather caused — and climate disasters caused more than $90 billion in aggregate damage. 
 
Climate change is fueling more frequent and more severe weather events.  And as these impacts intensify, President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate agenda in American history — an agenda that is not only strengthening climate resilience and lowering energy costs for hardworking families but is also protecting our communities and workers from its impacts.
 
Tomorrow, the President will receive an operational briefing at the D.C. Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency Emergency Operations Center, from the National Weather Service and officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Labor.  

Our local partners are on the front lines of dealing with these climate events, and we — our work in support of them to both help anticipate and manage them. 
 
The president is going to hear from Ken Graham, the director of the National Weather Service, who will provide an extreme weather forecast for the summer and outlook on the 2024 hurricane seasons and wildfire season.  Director Graham is also going to highlight the National Weather Service’s new heat risk tool that is helping communities forecast extreme heat and its impacts.
 
The president will hear from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell about preparations that are underway to rapidly respond and support our state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments when they are dealing with catastrophic impacts that often exceed their own ability to respond.  This includes response personnel and direct federal assistance. 
 
I will say that, because of COVID, we’ve strengthened how we support communities.  We have federal personnel — in particular, FEMA — response experts who are embedded in our emergency operation centers around the country.  This means that FEMA and the team here are in constant communication with our state, local, Tribal, and territorial officials to understand what assistance is needed as an extreme weather event is unfolding.
 
The president will also announce new actions we are taking, which you will hear about shortly from OSHA and FEMA.
 
Just a bit about the federal response.  This past month, we’ve already responded to dozens of major disasters this year.  In fact, we’re tracking 10 more open major disaster declarations compared to last.  These include the devastating wildfires in New Mexico, where 8,000 people in the town of Ruidoso were told to drop everything and evacuate because the fire spread so fast. 
 
We’ve seen historic flooding in Iowa and Minnesota.  Southern Minnesota received two months’ worth of rain in nine days, causing entire communities to become submerged and the partial failure of the Rapidan Dam. 
 
We are tracking Hurricane Beryl closely as it continues to march across the Atlantic.  Although it is not projected to significantly impact U.S. interests — mainly, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — the storm rapidly escalated from a tropical storm level to a major Category 4 in only 48 hours.  And it’s the first time we’ve ever seen a Category 4 hurricane in the Caribbean in June.  And we are prepared to stand by and support the impacted countries in the region, to include Jamaica and potentially Belize and Mexico.
 
Since day one, this administration has been committed to protecting communities across the country.  It does not matter whether they are a blue state or a red state or a blue state — or a blue county or red county.  And we will continue to work with our state, local, and Tribal and territorial governments to keep people safe from the impacts of extreme weather.
 
The president and his administration, because of investments in forecasting and in technology, are continuing to help communities prepare for extreme weather disasters before they happen and will, as I said, continue to support communities during and after they strike.  The historic funding and investments are helping to bolster resilience and mitigate the impacts of extreme — of the extreme weather.
 
His $50 billion in climate-related investments represent his commitment to addressing what he has called the existential crisis of our lifetime. 
 
Now I am pleased to be able to turn it over to [senior administration official], who is going to talk about one of the announcements.  [Senior administration official], good afternoon and over to you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much, [senior administration official].  Today, I am here to let you know that tomorrow, we will be sending to the Federal Register our proposed rule: heat injury and illness prevention in indoor and outdoor work settings.  And we’ll also be making that proposal available to the public on our website.
 
The purpose of this rule is simple.  It is to significantly reduce the number of worker-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses suffered by workers who are exposed to se- — excessive heat and exposed to these risks while simply doing their jobs.  This proposal will cover an estimated 35 million workers.
 
I’ll explain who it covers by first explaining who it doesn’t cover.  It doesn’t cover workers who are working indoors in air-conditioning consistently below a heat index of 80 degrees.  It doesn’t cover short-duration exposures, like people who are taking short trips outside.  It doesn’t cover indoor sedentary workers.  So, workers with lower risk.  It also doesn’t cover certain workers where coverage would be infeasible, like emergency responders.  And then, finally, it doesn’t cover teleworkers.
 
The rule instead focuses on workers who are both working in heat and are engaged in activities that could lead to increased tor- — core body temperatures due to their work assignments and requirements.  In this aspect — it’s this aspect of their work, whether they are making deliveries, carrying mail all day, working construction, picking vegetables, repairing powerlines, doing landscaping, it’s — these are the — these things that put workers at risk, and these are the populations that the rule is targeting for protection.
 
For employers of indoor and outdoor workers who are engaged in physical activity and can expect to be exposed to a 80-degree or more heat index, they are within the scope of the rule.
 
Let me explain just the nuts and bolts of the rule.  These are the requirements for employers that fall within the scope of the rule, so they are the ones who have workers who they can expect to be exposed to that 80-degree heat index.
 
First, they have to establish a heat injury and illness prevention plan.  So, they have to make an assessment of the workplace, they have to establish policies to comply with our rule, they have to establish a heat safety coordinator at the workplace, they have to have certain procedures for responding both to symptoms of heat illness as well as heat illness emergencies, and then they have to evaluate their plan at least annually or when there’s — certain events occur that indicate there’s a need for refresher training or a need to change the plan.
 
The next thing that they have to do is monitoring.  And so, monitoring involves checking the heat exposure to workers to determine if there are elevated risks.  So, for outdoor workplaces, they would use a measure of heat index, they could use a forecast of heat index, or they could use a more complex form of measurement called wet-bulb globe temperature.  But the triggering — the triggering temperature or the triggering heat index is 80 degrees. 
 
For indoor settings, they evaluate high-heat work areas and have to make determinations about how they do monitoring indoors to make sure that they are adequately measuring the heat in the places where workers are likely to be exposed.  So, they have to have a monitoring plan.  And, again, they are either measuring the heat index, or they are using wet-bulb globe temperature.  Of course, forecasting is limited — doesn’t really have much use indoors.  They also have to have employee input on that monitoring and how that monitoring system will be put into place.
 
And then, finally, all of these employers have to have training and re- — meet certain training and recordkeeping requirements.
 
So, I talked about the initial heat trigger of 80 degrees.  There is also a high-heat trigger: a heat index of 90 degrees or — or a wet-bulb globe temperature that is equal to the NIOSH RECA exposure limit, or REL, which is a more complex way of measuring the impact of heat on workers.  We expect most employers will use the heat index, but we are making this more scientifically precise method available to workers as an option under the proposed rule.
 
Under the initial heat trigger, again, that’s 80 degrees — a 80-degree heat index or the wet-bulb globe temperature equal to the NIOSH recommended alert limit, or the RAL.
 
So, if an employer — if an employer’s workers are exposed at that initial trigger of an 80-degree heat index, there’s a set of commonsense requirements.  They’re well established, and they’re based, in part, on rules that have successfully been implemented in some other states that have done their own rulemaking. 
 
These are — you know, there are five basic elements.  One is access to drinking water. 
 
The second is to create a break area so workers can cool down.  So, outdoors, that would be in shade or an indoor air-conditioning space.  And for indoor workers, that would be a cooler area using controls such as air-conditioning or fans, ventilation, or dehumidification. 
 
The third element is worker access to those rest breaks when needed. 
 
The fourth element is an acclimatization plan.  So, this is — this is focused on new employees or those returning to work whose bodies are not adjusted to the heat.  And so, acclimatization can be addressed either through a gradual increased load or by giving them 15-minute rest breaks every two hours with monitoring for symptoms to make sure that they are adjusting appropriately.
 
Notably, acclimatization is the leading killer
among the different factors related to heat illness.  So, three out of four workers who die on the job due to heat-related — heat illness die on that first week in — on the job. 
 
And then, finally, that fifth element at the initial trigger, they have to have regular — the employer has to have regular and effective communication with employees to ensure compliance with the requirements of the rule.
 
At the high-heat trigger — this is the 90-degree heat index — there are four additional elements that have to be in place under the proposal.  One is mandatory rest breaks for all employees — 15 minutes every two hours.  These need to be paid unless it coincides with a break time that is not required to be paid, like an unpaid meal break. 
 
Second, there have to be observation of employees by managers for symptoms. 
 
Third, there have to be — there has to be check-in with isolated workers, so workers who are working alone.  And that has to happen every two hours via two-way communication. 
 
And then, fourth, there has to be a hazard alert that is triggered at the initial trigger that reminds workers about drinking water, taking the rest breaks, and then on emergency response procedures.
 
Again, these are commonsense, time-tested methods of protecting workers.  We believe that these will be achievable for employle- — employers and protective of workers and that they will save a significant number of lives and prevent a significant number of worker injuries and illnesses each year from heat.
 
Thank you.  And I will — I will pass it over to [senior administration official].
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much. 
 
Good afternoon, everyone.  [Senior administration official] here at FEMA.  I lead resilience at FEMA.  And tomorrow, we are excited to announce the selection of $1 billion in funding made available for the fiscal year 2023 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. 

FEMA is also announcing the selection of 93 communities and Tribal nations that will be receiving nonfinancial direct technical assistance through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program.  We also received the largest number of subapplications this year since the launch of the program, including the most numbers of requests for BRIC Direct Technical Assistance. 
 
For those of you less familiar with the program, the BRIC grant program provides proactive investment and resilience for communities so that they are better prepared and remain resilient prior to a natural disaster.  BRIC also provides funds annually for hazard mitigation planning and projects to reduce the risk of damage before a disaster.
 
We also offer communities the — support with nonfinancial direct technical assistance — the BRIC DTA that I mentioned before. 

Through this type of technical assistance, communities get access to subject matter experts that they may not have on staff; they have support for building collaborative partnerships that really help them design and develop better projects that we’re seeing getting funded not just through FEMA but other programs as well.  And so, a whole range of support through the Direct Technical Assistance program.
 
This year, we are thrilled to announce that we have 656 projects being selected for the $1 billion in climate resilience funding as part of the Invest in America agenda.  And what’s really exciting is that we’re seeing these selections from across the nation. 
 
But as the — we — we’ve seen that this year, we have 80 percent of our subapplications being selected for — from subapplicants that have applied to the program for the first time.  And so, a whole range of — of new types of communities accessing — potentially accessing these dollars.
 
Many of these programs and projects that are being recommended for selection have many nature-based solutions in them.  Seventy percent of the dollars are for disadvantaged communities.  And so, we see both geographic diversity, underserved communities being selected for projects, and a whole range of types of hazards being addressed through the selections in the BRIC program.
 
These selections will really help states, Tribes, local governments, territorial governments address current and future risks from natural disasters, including extreme heat, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, and increased flooding.  This also helps communities tackle both their current and their future risk to additional things as — additional challenges that they’re facing as well.
 
And so, with the — with these selections, I wanted to highlight that the selections also further underscore the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to equity and environmental justice.  These awards will assist the most disadvantaged communities in building resilience both to climate change and extreme weather events. 
 
This is a Justice40-covered program.  And so, at minimum, the overall benefits are intended to flow to — 40 percent of the benefits are intended to flow to disadvantaged communities.  But what we have found in these — this year’s selections is that not only have we exceeded our Justice40 goals, we will be delivering 67 percent of total funding in — in our FY23 BRIC grant cycle to Justice40 communities.
 
We are also implementing the Community Disaster Resilience Zone legislation that President Biden signed into law that calls on FEMA to make sure that we are creating a program to really direct funding and support to the most high-risk, in-need communities.  And this grant cycle, 127 million of the total federal cost share will be benefiting communities with census tracts that have been designated as Community Disaster Resilience Zones, and they will be receiving a 90 percent federal cost share, as articulated in the law.
 
We also have been very much — we have ver- — we have been focused on outreach to many different types of communities, including urban and rural disadvantaged communities.  And this year, we saw 20 out of our 56 competitive projects are in economically disadvantaged rural communities. 
 
We also live in a nation where only one in three jurisdictions have adopted the latest building codes, and building codes save lives.  And so, this year, we had piloted for the first time a set-aside for building code adoption and enforcement.  This was part of FEMA’s approach to implementing the National Initiative to Adopt — to Advance Building Codes.  And so, this dedicated funding was the — it was the first time that FEMA was providing this dedicated funding for building codes.
 
We’ve selected 129 subapplications totaling $55.7 million in support of this priority.  And these funds are going to be helping recipients adopt and enforce hazard-resistant building codes.  This is a huge increase from prior years, where even in the la- — from 2020 to 2022, we only saw 49 subapplications focused on building code activities.  This year, it’s 137 building code subapplications.  That’s 180 percent increase in communities asking for support with adoption and enforcement of gil- — building codes.
 
I’d mentioned the focus on nature-based solutions.  And for those of you who may not be as familiar, nature-based solutions are sustainable planning, design — and design approaches to really ensuring projects support adaptation and resilience. 
 
Eighty-four percent of our projects in economically disadvantaged rural communities have some form of nature-based solutions included in them.  And overall, 57 percent of the national competition has projects with nature-based solutions.  They’re — so, very exciting to see very well-rounded disaster resilience projects being selected. 
 
In closing, the BRIC Direct Technical Assistance part of our program that I’d mentioned also saw a historic increase.  Four years ago, when this program, BRIC, first got started, there was only eight communities selected for BRIC Direct Technical Assistance.  Th– this administration has had a commitment to doubling it each year. 
 
And this year, we are thrilled to announce that 93 communities and Tribal Nations have been par- — selected to participate in this 36-month opportunity.  That’s — more than doubles the goal of our 2022 BRIC DTA selections, which was 40. 
 
And so, very exciting to see this program really meet communities where they’re at and provide a range of support — from engineers to planners to project scoping — to really ensure that resilience needs are getting met at the ground level.
 
So, happy to answer any questions during Q&A.  But the — the top-line message here is that it’s been a thrilling and exciting year to see how many more communities and range of needs are being addressed through the BRIC program, both through our — our grant side as well as the direct technical assistance, across the nation. 
 
Thank you.  And over to [senior administration official].
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [senior administration official], and grateful to my colleagues’ just incredible effort across the government to make sure we are standing with communities and workers as they face down the impacts of a changing climate.
 
One of the things I think you’ve heard from everybody is that this has been a priority and area of focus for the president from day one.  Not only are we seeing the impacts of climate change in our communities all across America, thanks to Joe Biden’s leadership, we are seeing the solutions take root across the country as well. 
 
You think about the drought that’s been plaguing the West — this year, as we went into the summer, we saw elevation at Lake Mead 1,075 feet.  That is visibly different than what you saw in years past.  That is because of the conservation activities and the historic leadership that the president has exercised in bringing the states together around water conservation, taking on that impact of climate change.
 
Around the country, utilities are stepping up in a big way to make sure that climate change does not disrupt power systems.  You’ve got folks in Colorado, thanks to President Biden’s infrastructure law, that are putting in thousands of fire-resistant coatings on wood poles so that they don’t burn down the next time a fire sweeps through.  In Louisiana, thanks to the president’s infrastructure law, hundreds of structures are being upgraded. 
 
And together, just that one grant will avoid 564 million customer minutes of power interruption.  That’s lives saved, livelihoods saved, improved public health outcomes.
 
When you think about the scrouge of wildfire — and [senior administration official] has talked about some of what we’re already seeing in this season intensified, exacerbated by a changing climate — think about this: Thanks to the president’s leadership — Joe Biden’s leadership — the Forest Service, in 2023, was able to improve the forest management, clear out hazardous fuels in over 4 million acres of forestlands across the United States.  That means when the fire comes, as we know it will, it will have less fuel, and less damage and destruction will follow.
 
You think about what our Housing and Urban Development Agency is doing: helping renters be able to access support as they cool in these summer months.  And just a couple of weeks ago, our secretary was in Chicago announcing hundreds of millions of dollars in resources to put in things like heat-resistant roofs and energy efficiency measures, resiliency measures that help people stay safe in the face of a changing climate.
 
In our transportation system, a massive investment, a generational one, to modernize our infrastructure — and not just to move it to lower emissions but also to adapt to the new reality in which we live.  One city receiving $24 million thanks to the president’s infrastructure law to help replace roadways in a way that combats the urban heat island effect by putting in pavement that actually helps cool. 
 
And, you know, one of the things that’s so obvious — and [senior administration official] talked about the emphasis on Justice40, the emphasis on meeting not just all communities but, in particular, the most vulnerable ones — that’s so important.  We know that because of historic pla- — practices like redlining, there’s more pavement and fewer trees in communities that were historically redlined — the legacy of racist policies.
 
So, that’s why we are taking action — bold action, historic action, and action that’s delivering real, meaningful, visible difference on the ground.  And we do that even as there are folks in Washington who deny the very fact that climate change exists; as folks in Congress mark up appropriations bills designed to gut our agencies’ capacity and capability to measure what is going on, to inform the public and decision-makers of what we need to do to take on this risk, to invent and manufacture the solutions here in the United States of America to combat this crisis.
 
The president, under his watch, has made sure we do not waver in taking on this crisis.  And that’s why he’s been able to create over 300,000 jobs, building clean energy across America.  That’s why he’s been able to double our pace of decarbonization.  And that’s why in every vector of risk in which climate change shows up in our communities, he has helped us step up in a big way to build resilience, build adaptation, and protect communities and workers.
 
Today’s announcements show him leading yet again in — in historic fashion. 
 
Back to you.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you for that, [senior administration official].  And thank you to all of our speakers. 
 
We’re going to try to jump into the Q&A now.  Get through as many as we can for the next about 10 minutes. 
 
As a reminder, this will be on background, attribution to “senior administration officials.”  The contents of this call, as a reminder, and the associated factsheet you should have got just before are on embargo until 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
 
With that, we’re going to jump into the queue and go to Ariel Wittenberg from E&E News.  Ariel, you should be able to unmute now.
 
Q    Hey there.  Thanks for hosting the call.  I have two questions for [senior administration official] on the worker protection rule for heat. 

The first was: I’m curious about restaurant workers.  It wasn’t clear to me from your description of if they would be, like, covered or if employers of restaurants would — would cover that. 

And also, I just wanted to ask: I know you guys just sent this rule to OMB for review like — I think it was three weeks ago.  That seems like a rather fast review.  And I’m just curious — I assume that might show the administration’s priorities here but was hoping you could address that.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Certainly.  As to your first question, it would depend on the worksite.  But in general, it would seem likely that, under this proposal, restaurant workers in the — in the back of a restaurant would be covered and service would also be — you know, around people who were cooking, working with dishwashers that were hot, they would be covered.  Restaurant workers who are servers would — it would depend on whether the temperature was consistently kept below an 80-degree heat index through air-conditioning.
 
As to your second question, we put an incredible amount of work into this rule on the front end, getting a lot of stakeholder input, put a lot of resources into it and really worked hard to craft a rule that would move quickly through — through the process.  I think that the — the fact that we’re here today is a good reflection of the importance of the rule to the administration and the priority that it — that it has.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you, [senior administration official].
 
Our next question is going to come from Ella Nilsen from CNN.  Ella, you should be able to unmute now.
 
Q    Hi, everyone.  Thanks so much for holding this call.  I was curious if whoever is on from FEMA could provide an update on the major disasters fund and just how it is holding up with all of the billion-dollar disasters that have happened so far in the year, if there is any concern it will slip into the red before, you know, the end of the summer, if there’s any updates on that.  Thank you.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], do you want to take that?  I’m also prepared to address that.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can speak to it high level.  And then, [senior administration official], feel free to jump in.
 
So, what you’re referring to is our Disaster Relief Fund.  And last year, we were in Immediate Needs Funding.  And, again — so, as we head into the summer months with the forecast that we have, the administration, I think, is supportive of additional dollars to the Disaster Relief Fund to help meet all the immediate lifesaving needs. 
 
But, [senior administration official], feel free to add here.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That’s — that’s spot on.  And, in fact, in the updated supplemental request that we sent to the Hill last week, we are requesting $9 billion for FEMA to further replenish the Disaster Relief Fund to support just what we’ve talked about today but our communities across America that face severe flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, and other hazards.
 
The answer to your question about whether it will be in the red: It just all depends on the scope, scale, and number of disasters that we have.  But it is just — it’s imp- — it’s why it’s imperative that we get that replenishment as part of the supplemental package.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you both. 

Our next question will come from Astrid Galván from Axios.  Astrid, you should be able to unmute now.
 
Q    Hi.  Thank you.  Was just wondering, going back to the heat-protecting workers rules, is — I know that you all worked with some of the trading — trade industry groups who have pushed back against some of these proposals.  Can you talk about some of — what pushback you saw and that you’re expecting, especially legally — you know, any lawsuits?  But also, what are some of the most important provisions in this new rule that are going to have the most impact for workers?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you. 
 
So, there’s certainly associations who have expressed opposition or misgivings about the rule.  However, I’d say over the last 10 years, there’s been a growing recognition of the importance of doing something to protect workers.  As an example, we had a national adviser committee of construction representatives to advise us on health and safety.  And it’s comprised of management, labor, and public stakeholders.  And that group voted unanimously that we proceed expeditiously with rulemaking.
 
And so, while we — while we may not agree on the contents of the proposal, there are a fair number of employer groups out there that recognize the importance of a level playing field when it comes to a heat rule.
 
With respect to your — with respect to the most important provisions, I would say the basics of rest, water, shade, and acclimatization and then making sure that the employer has taken a proactive approach in planning around those.  But those are four basic elements that we’re looking to — that are most critical. 
 
But it does require a workplace-specific assessment because there are going to be different hazards in a — in a foundry than there are on a farm.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you, sir. 

We have time for a couple more questions, so we’re going to go to Kellie Meyer from Nexstar.  Kellie, you should be able to unmute.
 
Q    Thank you so much.  Thank you for doing this.
 
I wanted to ask specifically about concerns about Hurricane Beryl.  It looks like it will miss the USVI and Puerto Rico this time, but as you said, this is incredibly early for Category 4.  And people in the USVI and Puerto Rico are already experiencing power outages without there even being a storm.  How is FEMA working to ensure that these territories can withstand another — a storm this summer?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much for that question. 
 
So, FEMA is — works very closely with all the states and territories to make sure that thing- — that communities are ready in advance.  And should there be an event where the state’s capacities or the territory’s capacities are exceeded, there’s the process to really push forward that support. 
 
And so, we have pre-positioned supplies in Puerto Rico and in a number of other places across the nation.  And also, that’s one of the reasons that today is so important and this announcement with the Building Resilient Infrastructure Communities is so important, because it’s actually what we do in advance that is going to make the most difference in people’s lives.
 
And so, FEMA very much is ready for — to support response and recovery.  But we are also the nation’s resilience agency, helping communities invest in disaster risk reduction and resilience so that we’re able to recover more quickly when these events happen. 
 
And to your point about — your question about Puerto Rico and the V.I.s in particular, that’s an area that we’ve been very focused in energy projects and microgrids and helping retrofit el- — power poles.  And so, a lot of work has been going into these places to help them weather the next storm.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you, [senior administration official]. 

Our next question is going to come from Lisa Friedman at the New York Times.  Lisa, you should be able to unmute.
 
Q    Thank you.  Question for [senior administration official].  A couple of people (inaudible) at this, but there were — there were, you know, obviously, two very important Supreme Court decisions this week affecting federal regulations.  Can you talk about, you know, if there were discussions in rolling out this regulation about — you know, I mean, is there anything that you’ve done that you think will make it legally stronger to industry and others that are expected to — to challenge the rule?
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Unfortunately, I believe [senior administration official] had to jump off early.  But I don’t know if [senior administration official] or [senior administration official] wants to jump in there.  Otherwise, we can get back to you offline, Lisa.
 
Q    Okay.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], you want to take that?  And if not, we’ll get back offline.
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I could just — I would say this is — keep in mind, this is a proposed rule.  We feel very confident in our statutory authority to address hazards in the workplace.  So, I don’t — I don’t believe the most recent rules are going to have a direct impact.  But, you know, we’ll certainly be mindful of our explanation of our authority when we get to the final rulemaking process.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you for that. 

And our last question is going to come from Stephanie Ebbs at ABC.  Stephanie, you’re good to go.
 
Q    Thanks, everyone.  I just wanted to follow up also about the rule.  Can you address how this rule would impact protections in states that have passed state laws blocking cities or employers from implementing these kinds of mandatory break?  And also, can you address what the penalty will be — would be under the proposed rule for employers that don’t fulfill their requirements?
 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Certainly.  So, this rule, if finalized, would — would apply to all states under federal jurisdiction.  So, that would include Texas and Florida.  If — if you look at the Florida statute, it expressly notes that this — this is within OSHA’s authority, whether — regardless of your opinion on that law.
 
In state plan states — so these are states that run their own OSHA programs, are approved by us and monitored by us — they would have to have a rule in place that was as least as effective.  So, they would either implement ours or we would review theirs to make sure that it was as least as protective as — as the rule that we finalize.
 
And then on penalties, this would fall within the normal penalty structure.  So, this would significantly increase penalties for heat-related violations.  Right now, we have to use our general duty clause to protect workers from — from hazards that they’re exposed to by employer inaction, and the maximum penalty is around $16,000.  This would provide significantly more.  And it would depend on the facts to give you a number.
 
MR. EDWARDS:  Thank you for that, and thank you to all of the speakers.  That does conclude our call.  I know there’s a lot of interest in these announcements and we weren’t able to get to everybody, so please do not hesitate to reach out to the White House Press Office or me directly, and we will try to route those questions and answers for you as quickly as possible.
 
Again, as a reminder, this call is embargoed until tomorrow at 5:00 a.m., and that applies to the factsheet that we sent around as well.  Also, as a reminder, attribution for any remarks and the Q&A portion of the call is for a “senior administration official.”
 
Again, reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns or just need some help getting some more answers.  And we thank you for your time.  Have a good one.
 
   5:45 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/07/01/background-press-call-by-senior-administration-officials-to-preview-new-actions-on-the-impacts-of-extreme-weather-events/