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PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.







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SEPTEMBER 11, 1996

Printed for the use of the

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure


BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman

WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
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WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
BILL BAKER, California
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
PETER I. BLUTE, Massachusetts
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
ZACH WAMP, Tennessee
RANDY TATE, Washington
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
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NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
BOB FILNER, California
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FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi

Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York, Chairman
ZACH WAMP, Tennessee
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
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BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
(ex officio)

ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. HAYES, Louisiana
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
MIKE PARKER, Mississippi
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
BOB FILNER, California
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
(ex officio)

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    Kwiatkowski, Dennis H., Deputy Associate Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC

    Lo Vallo, Vincent, Commissioner of Street Sanitation, on behalf of Hon. Anthony M. Masiello, Mayor, City of Buffalo, NY

    Rodham, David, President-Elect, National Emergency Management Association, Lexington, KY

    Stupak, Hon. Bart, a Representative in Congress from Michigan

    Wynne, Charles F., Director, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Harrisburg, PA


    Borski, Robert A., of Pennsylvania
    Poshard, Hon. Glenn, of Illinois
    Quinn, Hon. Jack, of New York
    Stupak, Hon. Bart, of Michigan


    Kwiatkowski, Dennis H
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    Masiello, Anthony M., submitted by Vincent Lo Vallo
    Rodham, David
    Wynne, Charles F


    Petri, Hon. Thomas E., a Representative in Congress from Wisconsin, article, ''FEMA Money! Come & Get It!'', by James Bovard, American Spectator, September 1996

    Quinn, Hon. Jack, a Representative in Congress from New York, a letter from Governor George E. Pataki of New York, September 10, 1996

    Stupak, Hon. Bart, a Representative in Congress from Michigan, letter from Ontonagon Board of County Road Commissioners, September 9, 1996




U.S. House of Representatives,

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,

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Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment,

Washington, DC.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:03 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Sherwood L. Boehlert (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

    Mr. BOEHLERT. Good morning. Welcome to the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.

    Today's hearing is about snow removal, although it could just as easily be about water removal, such as in response to local and coastal flooding in the wake of Hurricane Fran. As someone who just swam in from the airport, I can talk about the influx of water.

    As everyone knows, national attention is currently focused on recent hurricanes and the efforts by FEMA and others to respond, repair, and restore. Today's hearing on snow removal is just as timely and important. Who can forget the problems and controversies from the blizzard of 1996.

    I think everyone, even FEMA, agrees there is a need to develop a snow removal policy that is consistent, coherent, and fair. FEMA has worked hard—and I might say well—over the years to improve the disaster relief program. To date, however, FEMA's policies on Federal assistance for snow removal have been somewhat confusing and, at times, controversial. Some might even say that in some instances politics has been the overriding factor. In other situations, cities that had the foresight and initiative to mitigate the cost are either directly or indirectly penalized.
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    Others claim that FEMA's current policy wavers between ''no dough for snow'' at one end and ''ask and ye shall receive'' at the other.

    As a Member of Congress from upstate New York, I know all too well the realities surrounding snow removal. Everyone in this room remembers how 18 inches of snow crippled the Nation's capital for over a week last winter. Eighteen inches is a drop in the bucket for my District. In the northern part of my District, just for conversation's sake, 300 inches of snow is not unheard of.

    The Districts Mr. Quinn and I represent, on an average received over 120 inches of snow last winter. That's the central and southern part of my District.

    These and other concerns prompted the gentleman from Buffalo, Mr. Quinn, to introduce 3348, the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996. The bill provides the Congressional leadership needed to direct FEMA to establish a consistent, coherent, and fair policy. It does not take sides or create controversy; it is simply a good government bill, and a great deal of credit is due to Mr. Quinn for developing it.

    I welcome today's witnesses and look forward to receiving their testimony. I want to give particular thanks to FEMA and the State emergency management officials who are here, in spite of the current flooding and hurricane relief efforts. All of us realize it's a sacrifice on your part to be here to help us improve snow removal policies.

    I congratulate Mr. Quinn for his leadership and I look forward to moving H.R. 3348 through committee and Congress as soon as possible.
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    But before I close and recognize Mr. Quinn, let me once again state the very high personal regard I have for the people at FEMA, for their dedication, and for the outstanding work they're doing day in and day out. I'm confident that, as we talk through this proposal from Mr. Quinn, we can come up with something that is worthy of our collective best efforts.

    And now it gives me a great deal of pride to turn to the innovator, the person who has championed this cause, the person who has worked tirelessly on it, Mr. Quinn of Buffalo.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Boehlert, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to take a few minutes today.

    I want to thank Chairman Shuster and Subcommittee Chairman Boehlert for their assistance in today's hearing, and welcome all the members of the subcommittee, particularly ranking member of the full committee, Congressman Oberstar, for his interest in this issue and his help and work over these past 4 or 5 months.

    You know, people looked at us—Sherry, myself, and Bart Stupak—like we were a little crazy when we were talking about snow removal in July and August here in Washington when it was about 85 degrees and the humidity was about 90 to 100, but what we were trying to do, and what we are doing today, with your assistance, Mr. Chairman, is to be prepared for those winter storms that come to upstate New York and parts of the northeast and all across the country.
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    At this time I also want to particularly thank Congressman Bart Stupak, who is on our first panel and will testify in just a few moments, for his advocacy of this legislation on the other side of the aisle. Bart and I have worked on a number of issues here in the Congress, but this is one we put together last year, and his help has been invaluable to me, and it will be as we bring the issue to a vote on the floor; Mr. David Rodham, the president-elect of the National Emergency Management Association for his early support; and the staff here at the Water Resources Committee.

    Mr. Chairman, I introduced the legislation earlier this year in the interest of developing a new clear, concise snow removal policy.

    After hearing from cities in my District, of course, like the city of Buffalo and towns like Cheektowaga and West Seneca, Lancaster, the city of Lackawanna, they received—and by all accounts you'll hear from some testimony later—upwards of 36 inches of snow in about 12 to 15 hours.

    When we tried to get some help for these communities through Washington here we sort of ran into a brick wall. It seemed like nobody could give us a straight answer just how these towns and cities would be eligible for assistance. And I don't think it was because they didn't want to help us. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that FEMA has been helpful in so many instances helping residents and constituents all across the country. But they couldn't give us a clear, concise answer.

    No city, not even Buffalo, can prepare for a storm like the one that we experienced in any budget or any snow emergency removal plan that you could put together.
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    I'm very proud that our city, the city of Buffalo, and others were able to come together as a community and get us out of the terrible mess that we were in. What might have taken other cities weeks to clean up, Buffalo did in a weekend. The main arteries were open for business Monday morning and we responded.

    It prompted me to say at one time, ''I wonder if we're penalized because we do a good job at removing snow, that our plans are ready, our commissioner is prepared.'' And when we talked to FEMA they said, ''We don't think that's the case.''

    We're going to hear in a few moments, after Congressman Stupak, from Mr. Vincent LoVallo, who is the commissioner of the streets department in the city of Buffalo, testifying on behalf of Mayor Masiello. I want you to know that the commissioner comes to us as a former elected official in the city as a councilman and knows the public's reaction to situations like snow removal and weather-related problems.

    We've worked in my State with Governor Pataki and the National Emergency Management Association to try to clarify the Federal snow removal policy to help our communities cut through the bureaucratic red tape.

    I believe the bill promotes a clear, concise, simple policy that will benefit everyone, from Congress to FEMA, as well as individual States and individual communities.

    Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to those along the east coast who were devastated by Hurricane Fran and others, but it illustrates the point that, as a Nation, we reach out to help those fellow Americans who are afflicted with natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and so forth.
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    FEMA has a definitive policy or guideline in place for dealing with most of these natural disasters. Blizzards we face across the Nation pose no less a threat to our lives and property.

    The bill also stresses the urgency in establishing new guidelines so they are in place before we face some of the perils that we saw in the blizzards of 1995.

    Mr. Chairman, the legislation enjoys wide bipartisan support. Democrats and republicans understand the problem. Our co-sponsors are close to 30 at the moment. And I think it's an opportunity for our Federal legislators to work with FEMA, to work with our Federal agencies to come up with clear, concise policies.

    In closing, Mr. Chairman, I only want to say that in times of tight budgets, not only for Federal and State officials, but also for our city officials, in times of those tight budgets where we have been asked to make tough decisions on allocation of funds, the supporters of this legislation aren't looking for a handout. They haven't come hat in hand to say, ''We need some money.'' What they're looking for, rather, is a straightforward attempt to come up with a policy that makes sense.

    As legislators, I know Mr. Stupak and I, we're not trying to tell anybody what to do; we're trying to get the policy in place.

    So I'm happy to work with FEMA. They've been great in crafting and drafting the legislation, so we'll look forward to hearing their testimony and appreciate comments from both sides of the aisle.
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    Mr. BOEHLERT. I want to thank you very much, Mr. Quinn, for a very comprehensive but very much to-the-point statement.

    Now I would like to turn the chair over to you to proceed to recognize Mr. Stupak. I have another commitment that I have to make.

    Mr. QUINN [ASSUMING CHAIR]. Mr. Poshard?

    Mr. BOEHLERT. I'm sorry, Mr. Poshard. Excuse me, sir.

    Mr. POSHARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to recognize and congratulate the efforts of my good friend from New York and from Michigan.

    I represent a District that at least partially resides in Tornado Alley, and I'm very familiar with the disasters that occur with tornadoes, and we've had increasing devastation from floods over the past few years.

    But I think all of us recognize here that there are other conditions that warrant disaster emergency declarations, and I'm glad to see that those are being brought to the forefront here. Certainly any way that we can be supportive and help in this endeavor we would like to do that.

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    Thank you.

    Mr. QUINN. Thanks very much, Mr. Poshard. I appreciate your comments and your help.

    The Chair now would recognize The Honorable Bart Stupak from Michigan.

    Mr. Stupak, would you like to proceed?


    Mr. STUPAK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the opportunity to appear here today on your legislation, the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996, which would finally establish some guidelines so we may obtain Federal relief in snow-related incidents.

    Your legislation is timely, after the 1995–1996 record snowfalls across the United States, but a point I'd like to emphasize is, number one, the governors must still act. Even though we may clarify the guidelines here, it is a governor who must still ask the Federal Government to declare a part of his or her State a disaster and ask for Federal relief.

    So, while we may clarify the guidelines, we still need affirmative action by our governors, and we're not trying to erode that power there.

    You mentioned FEMA earlier, and I'd just like to say in 1993–1994, in my District, northern Michigan, we actually received frozen disaster aid for frozen pipes, of all things, in northern Michigan.
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    We had no snow in 1993–1994, and with the severe cold weather we had up there, most of the water pipes for our communities froze. I'm talking heavy frost 12, 14 feet below the surface. And FEMA was instrumental in helping us in overcoming that situation. When our governor did act, FEMA was right there within 24 hours, and we resolved a very serious situation to the tune of about $14 million in damage up in northern Michigan.

    And while we're talking about the warm weather here, when I left home yesterday morning it was 42 degrees. We're getting ready for winter already. Personally, I found it rather refreshing to have that kind of nice weather, but it's already 42 degrees in the mornings when we're getting up.

    But in my District last year we had 8 consecutive months of snow on the ground. One area of my District had total accumulation of 321 inches, or nearly 27 feet of snow. So if you can imagine for a moment, the level of snow would completely bury the typical two-story family home and would probably reach, I'm sure, the ceiling in this hearing room here today.

    We average a minimum of 200 inches of snow per year up there, so we're well-equipped to handle the snow, but we never had anything like we had in 1995–1996, because it was not just one single storm, even though one storm did dump five feet of snow—the same one that hit Buffalo pretty hard. We talked about it when we came back to Washington. We actually had five feet in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which is right on the Canadian border.

    But for the rest of my District it was a series of record-breaking storms. The total accumulation of these record-breaking snowfalls pushed road crews and local communities to the brink of disasters. There were times our county road commissions and their crews were working 24 hours a day for several days straight to make sure the roads were clear. Seventy-five hour work weeks were commonplace.
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    Road commissions and local governments did not have the budgets to deal with the continuous onslaught of snow. As I said, in 1993–1994 we basically had no snow; 1994–1995 was an average year, maybe about 200 inches of snow; but then we get to 1995–1996, and even the best planners cannot anticipate how much snow you're going to receive, and we ended up with 370 inches of snow in some areas.

    As you mentioned the blizzard in Washington last year, and despite the fact that they worked tirelessly, the entire city was shut down for days and many side roads weren't cleared for weeks later. Well, I agree that you're not equipped to deal with it as we are in northern Michigan, but in northern Michigan last year our winter was like that all year. Not just once but all year long for 8 months we had record-breaking snow storms that devastated these communities.

    And the problem was not so much the snow and what to do with it; the problem was the financial havoc that it wreaked on our local units of government.

    And the long-term effects of this financial disaster are going to be with us for a long, long time. Many local units of government—in fact, in Michigan we must balance our budget, so then when you have record snowfalls your county road commissions are working round the clock 24 hours a day. Where do you pick up the money to pay for these people and you have to balance your budget?

    We did not have the money available for this financial over-run. We've increased taxes. The city of Ishpeming just had a millage to increase taxes which will be strictly for snow removal and to pay for last year's snow removal cost. We've cut community programs from police departments to summer youth programs. The summer maintenance and repair on our roads have all been—that budget has been totally devastated. There is no maintenance and construction going on on our roads. We have lay-offs. And the future of the community and region will face financial hardships for several years to come.
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    Despite this disastrous situation the communities faced this winter, FEMA really does not have any clear criteria for dealing with snow emergencies, and that's why, Mr. Chairman, your legislation is so important.

    The blizzards demonstrate that snow can be just as devastating as any other natural disaster; therefore, I hope that we do act quickly to implement 3348 for distinct guidelines for dealing with snow-related emergencies.

    Finally, Mr. Chairman, one of my county commissioners, Ontonagon, just faxed me a letter last night. We did not request this letter, but we're already thinking about this winter, and Ontonagon County, which is one of my larger counties, very sparsely populated, submitted a letter—and I'd like to submit it for the record—where they basically pointed out that the winter of 1995–1996 devastated them. They lost their whole construction season. They're asking if there is any way the Federal Government can urge the State to put forth request for Federal funds and ask for their help.

    I'd like to submit that as part of the record, Mr. Chairman.

    [The letter from Ontonagon County follows:]

    [Insert here.]

    Mr. STUPAK. Once again I'd like to thank you. I urge the speedy passage of this legislation because the snow will be coming, and in my District it could be as early as next week.
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    Again, I'd just like to emphasize that we're not impeding upon the power of the governors. They still must act to have us declared a disaster area. We're just trying to clarify it.

    Once again I thank FEMA.

    Mr. Chairman, if there are any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.

    Thank you, again, for holding this hearing.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Stupak.

    I might add, as you closed with your comment about the governors, that, for the record, today I've received a letter from our governor in New York, George Pataki, who supports this legislation.

    You and I talked before the hearing today about sharing that information with our governors, but, for the record, I'll submit Governor Pataki's letter and pass it along to your staff.

    [The letter from Governor Pataki follows:]

    [Insert here.]

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    Mr. QUINN. Are there any questions for Mr. Stupak at this time? Mr. Poshard?

    Mr. POSHARD. No questions.

    Mr. QUINN. We are joined this morning by Mr. Oberstar, the ranking member of our full committee.

    Mr. Oberstar, any questions at this point?

    Mr. OBERSTAR. None at the moment thank you.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.

    Mr. Stupak, I consider this our legislation, not mine. It's kind of you to refer to it that way. I appreciate your help and work on this.

    Mr. STUPAK. I appreciate it, and look forward to working with you. And I know Mr. Oberstar comes from Minnesota, and they have plenty of snow there. And for us northerners to put it in proper perspective, 1 inch of rain equals one foot of snow. That's the way we measure it back home. So if this was winter, we would have plenty of snow around here today.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Bart.

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    Mr. STUPAK. Thank you.

    Mr. QUINN. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Stupak follows:]

    [Insert here.]

        Mr. QUINN. For those of you following our schedule of events here, we're going to have a slight change, and we've asked if Mr. Dennis Kwiatkowski could hold for just a moment and we'd ask our first panel, Mr. David Rodham of the National Emergency Management Association, to take the table to testify now. Joined with Mr. Rodham will be Mr. Charles Wynne from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Mr. Vincent LoVallo from the city of Buffalo, New York, the commissioner of street sanitation, on behalf of Mayor Masiello.

    Gentlemen, as you approach the table and prepare your testimony, I'd like to remind you that we will receive all of your written testimony for the record. We would ask that you keep your comments this morning, if possible, to about 5 minutes, and we'll have some time for questions from the subcommittee.

    Mr. Rodham.

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    Mr. RODHAM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

    On behalf of the National Emergency Management Association, NEMA, I want to thank you all for inviting me to provide testimony regarding H.R. 3348, the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996.

    NEMA represents the State directors of emergency management in all the States and territories of the United States who are responsible to their governors for an integrated and responsive emergency management system, as well as protecting citizens from natural and man-made disasters.

    First of all, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to commend you for recognizing the need to establish the national policy relating to major disasters and emergency assistance for snow-related events. The winter storm of 1996 proved extremely frustrating for local, State, and Federal officials due to the lack of a clear, concise snow policy upon which a Federal disaster declaration could be based.

    The States impacted by record snowfall this year felt that the criteria used by FEMA for emergency and disaster declarations during the winter storms of 1996 were significantly more narrow than for previous such declarations and represented a serious departure from criteria utilized after the blizzard of 1993.

    FEMA's interpretation of guidance has varied from disaster to disaster and from State to State. For example, one State received a Federal disaster declaration for the 1996 winter storm as ''a limited major disaster.'' This term does not exist in the 44 Code of Federal Regulations.
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    Restrictions and limitations for snow clearing specified in FEMA's correspondence to the States, such as one lane in each direction along snow emergency routes or primary roads, and for access of emergency vehicles to hospitals, nursing homes, and other critical facilities, are inconsistent with 44 CFR, which specifies a broader range of eligible roads.

    In addition, many costs which were previously eligible for reimbursement were not eligible in 1996. These inconsistencies and special treatment for snow-related events have created the perception of unequal treatment between States and disasters.

    Mr. Chairman, the governors' declaration request—NEMA recently conducted a survey of States regarding snow criteria. States were asked: what should be the trigger points for a State to request a Federal disaster declaration? State respondents felt that the trigger point should be the same as for any other emergency, such as: roads closed, isolated communities, loss of electricity and subsequent heat, destruction of critical supplies, death, injuries, limited access to emergency vehicles, and closure of businesses and institutions.

    A governor's request for a declaration, be it for a snow event or otherwise, is all-inclusive, combining public safety, economic, and other factors.

    Mr. Chairman, the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996 would set forth a requirement that, in determining the eligibility of a State or local government for assistance in connection with a snow-related event, the President would give consideration to existing capabilities of the State or the local government. NEMA supports this provision in the legislation and further suggests that a State's level of risk for a particular hazard be taken into account as well.
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    44 CFR defines a snow event as eligible for a major disaster declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

    A Presidential declaration is based upon a finding that an event is of such severity it is beyond the capability of the State and the local government, that available resources have been exhausted and Federal assistance is needed.

    Provisions outlined in authorizing legislation and Federal regulation must be uniformly applied, regardless of the nature of the event, whether it be a flood, an earthquake, a hurricane, or a snow storm.

    Mr. Chairman, H.R. 3348 cites FEMA fire suppression agreement as an example of a clearly-articulated emergency assistance policy. NEMA does not support using the fire suppression formula as a model for determining snow assistance due to the many problems and difficulties States have experienced with the current formula.

    In addition, the declaration request period for fire suppression grants and costs eligible for reimbursement are not compatible with a snow event.

    Let me just point out that fire suppression is—where you have the problems with fires is generally in the rural areas, and where you have the most problem with snow is in your city areas like the city here that was paralyzed last year.

    James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, stated in an address to the States during a February 1996, conference that there was a need for an official snow policy at FEMA and he committed to having one in place by October 1.
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    Immediately thereafter, NEMA formed a small working group made up of State emergency management directors from various regions across the country who were concerned with snow and equity issues.

    At FEMA's request the group provided comments regarding snow eligibility and declaration criteria based upon findings from NEMA's survey of the States and the recent experience of the eastern and northeastern States during the severe 1996 winter.

    It's NEMA's understanding that FEMA had reviewed those comments and plans to publish a proposed rule by October 1st of this year.

    NEMA has not yet had the opportunity to review their proposed rule, but we're hopeful that FEMA has given full consideration to comments provided by the States and incorporated as many of them as possible.

    Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, emergency managers are very apprehensive about entering another winter without an official snow policy in place. NEMA applauds the foresight of yourself and the committee to address the issue before the first snowfall of the year.

    NEMA pledges its continued cooperation with Congress, with FEMA, to develop and implement a snow criteria which is fair, consistent between disasters, States, and regions.

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    I'd be happy to answer any questions, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Rodham.

    I think what we'll do is hear everybody's testimony first and then go to questions.

    Mr. Charles Wynne is the director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

    Mr. Wynne?

    Mr. WYNNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    On behalf of Governor Ridge, I thank you for the opportunity to discuss the need for a comprehensive national policy regarding Federal aid following severe winter storms and heavy snow events.

    Pennsylvania shares the concern of other States that FEMA has not been consistent in its application of program standards and regulations regarding winter storms.

    The Federal disaster assistance program was created to extend the strong hand of the Federal Government to help communities ravaged by the forces of nature back to their feet.

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    A disaster is a condition that constitutes a significant threat to public health and safety in a community. Major hurricanes and severe earthquakes are disastrous for impacted communities. It is Pennsylvania's experience that, under certain conditions, severe winter storms can have the same paralyzing effect on a community.

    In determining Federal aid for a President's declaration of a major disaster for the January 7th blizzard and the subsequent January 12th severe winter storm, FEMA modified its previous policy to allow snow plowing assistance to one-lane access on snow emergency routes or primary roads.

    Snow emergency routes and primary roads are not included in Federal law and regulation, but are, in fact, designated by municipal ordinance. We'd prefer the determination made in the Federal regulations issued pursuant to the Stafford Act, which defines the right-of-way as well as street and road definitions.

    Additionally, using snow emergency routes for primary roads is inconsistent with the precedent set by FEMA following the 1993 and 1994 winter storm disaster declarations in Pennsylvania.

    As we see it, snow emergency routes represent only 10 to 15 percent of vital local roads and are so designated to facilitate high-volume traffic movement out of an area. These routes are not designed or designated based on their proximity to hospitals or fire stations, for instance.

    More importantly, people live on collector roads, minor arterial roads and streets, and on principal arterials which are clearly defined in the Stafford regulation. If a family's home is on fire, it is on the collector roads and the minor arterials which must be clear in order for trucks to respond to the fire.
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    The 1996 blizzard was more severe in intensity and scope than the 1994 storms, yet Pennsylvania received a greater level of disaster assistance in 1994 in the form of reimbursement for salt and anti-skid materials than in the more-significant 1996 blizzard.

    The prudent use of those materials is likely to reduce the potential severity of accidents resulting in the loss of life, stranded motorists, and the inability to access victims.

    Emergency response costs should also be eligible for reimbursement for those life-saving, property protection, and other essential response missions carried out during a Federally-declared disaster.

    In 1994, FEMA paid overtime costs on a cost-share basis for emergency operation center personnel and emergency responder costs following the presidentially-declared major disasters.

    There are two eligibility standards which FEMA regulations say must be met in order for these costs to be eligible: one, eliminate or lessen immediate threats to life, public health, or safety; and, two, eliminate or lessen immediate threats of significant additional damage to improve public or private property through measures which are cost-effective.

    During the blizzard and subsequent winter storm, the Pennsylvania State Police and the National Guard, among others, performed numerous life-saving acts. These actions were ongoing throughout the 51 declared counties during a period of 12 days.
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    FEMA has determined these essential life-saving functions, which we believe meet the two standards set forth by FEMA, are not eligible.

    There is also a perception that snowfall is not as serious as other disasters. Winter storms can constitute a public health and safety threat when snow-bound communities are inaccessible for fire, police, and emergency medical response. Such a storm hit the northeast on January 7th of this year. It was followed by a second major storm on the 12th.

    Blizzards such as this are not routine to our area, and it is only when Pennsylvania's resources are stretched by such cataclysmic events that we seek Federal assistance.

    Following the 1993 and 1994 winter seasons, PEMA wrote to all county and municipal governing bodies urging local officials to increase their annual winter maintenance budgets to reflect the previous harsh winter season.

    The State Department of Transportation increased its State-wide winter maintenance budget from $86 million in 1993 to $116 million in 1994 as a direct result of the lessons learned in responding to the March 13th blizzard. The same budget in 1996 is now at $146 million.

    Pennsylvania and its communities continue to exercise hazard mitigation in the budget development process. We do not factor in Federal disaster aid in our budget projections.

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    The record-breaking winter exhausted many communities' snow removal budgets. The public safety issue here is the fact that communities were only 15 days into the 1996 municipal budget year, leaving local officials with virtually no capability to respond to future winter conditions.

    Indeed, many localities diverted funds from other needed program areas to afford adequate public safety response.

    The magnitude and severity of the January 7th budget can best be demonstrated by the fact that Governor Ridge took the unprecedented step of closing all interstate, State, and community roads in 47 counties, including the cities of Philadelphia and Harrisburg. They remained closed for 32 hours.

    Our Department of Commerce projected that the economic impact of this shutdown on commerce and business and industry exceeded $500 million.

    In conclusion, Pennsylvania stands eager to work with the community and FEMA on these concerns. The northeastern States face blizzards as unpredictable as hurricanes and earthquakes. These States are not requesting reimbursement for routine maintenance costs associated with winter weather, but rather Federal assistance in catastrophic conditions which are beyond the means of the individual States.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Wynne.
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    It gives me a great deal of pleasure now to introduce Mr. Vincent LoVallo, who is the commissioner of streets and sanitation in the city of Buffalo, my home town that I represent. I want to welcome him to the committee.

    Mr. LoVallo?

    Mr. LOVALLO. Thank you, Congressman Quinn, for the opportunity to submit testimony of the mayor of the city of Buffalo, Anthony M. Masiello, to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources about the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996.

    The act would have FEMA clearly define policy for deterring the disaster status of a snow emergency. The events of this past week with Hurricane Fran devastating North and South Carolina make us all very glad that we have FEMA to help areas of our Nation recover from natural disasters.

    It was disconcerting to see the destruction and disruption that Hurricane Fran caused to cities along the Atlantic coast. It is equally comforting to know that FEMA is joining with State and local governments, not-for-profit organizations, and citizens to heal communities.

    Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods are forces of nature that are facts of life in our Nation, but so are blizzards.

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    It does snow once in a while in the city of Buffalo, in case the community needs to be made aware. According to the National Weather Service, a Federal agency that receives too little credit for doing a great job, in Buffalo our community averages between 90 and 100 inches of snow a year. We love our winters. We ski. We skate. We win football games. We love our winter.

    The winter of 1995–96 was particularly devastating. A snow storm of record proportion hit our community Sunday, December 10, 1995. More than 37 inches of snow fell within a 24-hour period. A National Weather Service official says this snow fall was the second-largest amount to fall within a 24-hour period in a large city in recorded history.

    Our street crews, working together with our police, fire, public works, and other departments, did what they always do—they rallied together, working as a team, to make sure the citizens of Buffalo were safe and our city was functional.

    Governor Pataki responded with the National Guard and our State Department of Transportation personnel and our businesses, our not-for-profit organizations, our churches, and our citizens did what Buffalo is famous for—we helped each other.

    Everyone worked around the clock plowing streets, shoveling sidewalks, helping the elderly, ministering to the sick. Despite several more inches of snow, our city was back to business as usual by Friday, December 15.

    Let me add that in the towns and villages surrounding the city of Buffalo and throughout the county of Erie this same story holds. We live in a region that works together.
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    The county of Erie coordinated an application to FEMA to reimburse the city of Buffalo for more than $1 million of extraordinary expenses that were incurred because of the blizzard. Needless to say, we were disappointed, confused, and hurt when we discovered that the Federal Government turned its back on the city of Buffalo while responding favorably to other communities such as Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.

    We can only conclude that we were rejected because we are used to dealing with the natural emergency, too used to pitching in, too self-sufficient.

    Now, FEMA and the subcommittee may say, ''Well, snow is a regular occurrence in the city of Buffalo. Buffalo shouldn't expect the Federal Government to help.''

    I might point out that hurricanes are regular occurrences in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Tornadoes are regular occurrences in the midwest. Earthquakes are regular occurrences in California. Floods are regular occurrences along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. And snow is a regular occurrence in Boston, the city of New York, and the city of Philadelphia. FEMA helped everyone but Buffalo.

    I am proud of our citizens for their perseverance. I am proud of our city employees for their hard work. I am proud of our governor responding when we needed his help. Now I am hopeful that our city's Congressman—you, Mr. Quinn—and our other representative, Mr. LaFalce, will help make sure that FEMA is there to help Buffalo.

    What we would really like is to be treated fairly, to be reimbursed for the $1.16 million in expenses that our city taxpayers had to endure.
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    We speak strongly in favor of the Snow Removal Policy Act of 1996 to ensure that Buffalo is not left out in the cold again.

    And, Mr. Chairman, just very briefly, those were the statements of the mayor. Now I'd like to give you just a few minutes of my life of hell on those dates.

    The Weather Bureau stated that the snow fell within a 24-hour period. Really, Mr. Chairman, it fell between 12 and 15 hours. It fell from about 7:00 in the morning until about 9:00 or 10:00 at night, maybe a little longer. And the city of Buffalo was open for business on Monday morning.

    Bus routes, mains, and secondaries were open. The city of Buffalo employees were sleeping in the Broadway Garage. I don't know if you've ever had a chance to visit that beautiful facility—and I say that tongue in cheek, Mr. Quinn—but they were sleeping on the floors of the Broadway Garage.

    Four front-end loader engines blew up at the price of about $30,000 a motor, but we got it done. We got it done.

    And I wonder if it is that we're too good. Do we need to fail? Closing the city of Buffalo would have cost the city of Buffalo millions and millions of dollars that Monday morning in sales tax and in salaries to the people of the city.

    Our job is to keep our city open, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us, if we possibly can. And I don't see any reason why we should not be looked at favorably for doing such a good job.
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    Thank you.

    Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. LoVallo.

    As we ask the Members—and we've been joined by other Members here this morning, but Mr. Oberstar and Mr. Poshard I'm sure have some questions before I get to that point.

    I only want to point out and emphasize something that Mr. Wynne mentioned as you talked about the budgets, the State budgets in Pennsylvania, and you talked about numbers in 1994 of about $86 million budgeted, it went up to $116 million, and then again to $146 million State-wide.

    I think that underscores one of the things that Mr. Stupak and I mentioned when we began the hearing this morning and we've talked about to our colleagues.

    We're not talking about municipalities, whether they're local cities and towns and villages or even States, looking for a hand-out.

    Clearly, Mr. Wynne, as you pointed out in Pennsylvania, you've taken initiative yourself to increase budgets millions and millions of dollars.

    What we're here trying to do today and will in the coming weeks is to try to get a policy that's consistent, that's fair to everybody.
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    From my perspective, I want to thank all of you for your testimony this morning. I appreciate those of you that we consider experts in the field, who do the business of States and cities and towns and villages

all across the country and in your States and your organizations, so we appreciate your testimony very, very much.
    Mr. Poshard?
    Mr. POSHARD. No questions.
    Mr. QUINN. No questions at this time. Mr. Oberstar, do you have anything now?
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I've been dealing with FEMA issues for many years, going back to when I chaired the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee and the then-Reagan Administration proposed to eliminate Federal support, requiring 100 percent contribution by local governments except in exceedingly rare circumstances, and then-Congressman, now Governor Ridge, was upset that policy because it would adversely affect his District. And there were many other Members who felt the same.
    So, with the participation of our colleague, Mr. Clinger, who was the ranking republican on the subcommittee, we held hearings—extensive hearings—on the subject, resulting in a consensus that the policy ought to be blocked, that we ought to have Federal participation that would be in the range of 75 percent, and that ultimately became the policy.
    We crafted a bill, invited Mr. Ridge to be the lead sponsor of that bill, which is a rather unusual thing to do, I must say, because normally the chairman of the committee takes the bill and runs with it, but I felt he had led the initiative and deserved to have some credit for it.
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    We moved that bill; it is now a law. But what troubled me, and has since, is disaster creep. There is an increasing appeal from jurisdictions throughout the country to deal with an ever-wider range of problems through the emergency management program. We deal with drought, we deal with flood, we deal with earthquake. FEMA is in the process now of developing a rule which they expect to issue in the beginning of next month on snow. From what I understand—and we'll hear more about it when they testify—it's going to be a conservative approach.
    When the earthquake strikes or the hurricane hits, when the floods swamp an area, the Federal Government's asked to come in. When drought dries up the crops, the Federal Government is asked to come in and help out. When the good years happen, none of the jurisdictions say, ''Here's a little return on your investment. You helped us out, helped us through a tough time, and we've had good times now. We don't have to budget so much for flood or drought or hurricane or earthquake disaster, so we'll give you a little back.'' That never happens.
    The same governors, the same mayors come in to this Congress and say, ''Balance your budget. We do.'' Of course, those governors don't have to maintain national defense, they don't have to respond to national problems, they don't have to defend the shores and move the mail.
    You know, I just have to express that concern that I have and that frustration. We're the ones that have to take the heat for the outlays and expenditures to either balance the budget or continue a deficit, and yet there are all these demands to fix this or that problem.
    For the purposes of this hearing, my concern is that we develop a policy that's consistent. We have a longstanding policy for assistance of local jurisdictions in drought, in flood, in earthquake. There are standards established by FEMA for declaration of disaster. Those standards have to be submitted by the governor of the—I mean the application has to be submitted by the governor of the State to ask to determine that the disaster meets the standards set by FEMA, and then it's reviewed ultimately by the President and a determination is made.
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    I can understand Buffalo's justifiable concern that New York got help, Philadelphia got help, Washington got help, Buffalo didn't. We've never had any help in northern Minnesota. We get 131 inches of snow on average, and 12 inches is not a disaster. It makes things a little difficult to get around, but we get there.
    This year we had to not only pile the snow high; we had to actually haul it out and dump it on the lake in my town because there was no place else to put the snow. But the city didn't come to me with its hand out and say ''help us.''
    So what is it that makes things so extraordinary that snow should now be a major disaster consideration?
    Let me ask, first of all, the governmental responsibilities. Who removes snow on the interstate system in your jurisdictions? Who removes snow from the State highways that run through towns or counties?
    Mr. LOVALLO. The city of Buffalo.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. City of Buffalo is responsible—
    Mr. LOVALLO. Except for the throughways.
    Mr. OBERSTAR.—for the removal of snow on the interstate?
    Mr. LOVALLO. The city of Buffalo removes the snow on State-owned streets that run through the city of Buffalo. The throughways—
    Mr. OBERSTAR. But the interstates that go through it?
    Mr. LOVALLO.—and the expressways are plowed by the State of New York.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. The State of New York does that?
    Mr. LOVALLO. Right.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Any other State highway on which the State has responsibility?
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    Mr. LOVALLO. Yes, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Pennsylvania?
    Mr. WYNNE. Yes, sir. The State is responsible for the interstate and State highways. There are very few county roads in Pennsylvania, basically state roads. In the municipal areas, the municipalities are responsible, but if it's a State road going through their municipality, the State is responsible.
    Mr. RODHAM. I'll speak for Massachusetts. That's my home State. I'm not from Lexington, Kentucky.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. I recognize that in your accent.
    Mr. RODHAM. You recognize that. I thought you might. I also wanted to make one comment on Mr. LoVallo's testimony that I take a little umbrage with, and that's the part about winning football games up in Buffalo. This weekend the New England—they unfortunately won a football game they shouldn't have and beat the New England Patriots.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, listen, Minnesota Vikings used to win football games when they played them outside.
    Mr. RODHAM. That's right.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. They go in a house and they can't win.
    Mr. RODHAM. To your question, Congressman, Commonwealth of Massachusetts plows all Federal highways. The municipalities plow all their own streets and many of the State streets that run through the municipalities.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Now, did the State governments exceed—and, if so, by how much—their average annual budgeted amount for snow removal in this past winter?
    Mr. WYNNE. I can speak for that. Yes, Mr. Oberstar, they did, approximately in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 million. And we had, as I said before, increased our budget every year in the last several years to meet the growing demand. Having suffered the storms of 1993 and 1994, we just kept increasing the budget in anticipation of greater storms.
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    Mr. LOVALLO. Sir, I'm also sure that the State of New York, with the 140.3 inches we received at the Buffalo Airport this winter, probably ran over their budget, also.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Now, in the city of Buffalo, what other problems did citizens encounter besides snow removal, inability to move in the aftermath or during the storm?
    Mr. LOVALLO. Well, sir, let me say this to you: again, you know, I am not speaking and we are not here—the city of Buffalo is not here for a 12-inch exhibition snow, which I would call—a 12-inch snow in the city of Buffalo is an exhibition game. We're talking about a snow of between 12 and 15 hours at about three to five inches per hour that could have closed the city down if the city of Buffalo wasn't prepared.
    The only—there were two problems. Number one, the health, safety, and welfare issue that we avoided because we are on top of the game; secondly, the financial problems that only cause more devastation financially to a very poor city.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. What are the other problems besides snow removal?
    Mr. LOVALLO. In the city of Buffalo?
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes. Did power go out?
    Mr. LOVALLO. No, power did not go out.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Gas interruption?
    Mr. LOVALLO. No, it didn't.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Is there an emergency vehicle system to get people to—
    Mr. LOVALLO. Yes, there is.
    Mr. OBERSTAR.—hospitals if they're needed? Did that work?
    Mr. LOVALLO. Yes, it did. Again, Mr. Chairman, you know, it just seems to me that the cities that do their jobs get penalized because we're prepared. And I still had to incur a $1.1 million cost to take care of the snow to keep my city open.
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    Mr. OBERSTAR. You didn't need additional snow removal equipment to—
    Mr. LOVALLO. No. But I used additional overtime, sir, me working my people 16 hours a day around the clock, sleeping, not letting them go home.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. I understand that.
    Mr. LOVALLO. For days.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. It's a super-human effort. I commend you. You obviously did a superb job. But the main impact was on cost?
    Mr. LOVALLO. Yes, sir. But cost and not spending the money and saying you only have ''X'' amount. As far as I'm concerned—and my boss and my commissioner or administration may fire me after they hear this statement—there is no dollar amount in keeping the city of Buffalo open, as far as I'm concerned. There is no amount of salt that I will not use. There is no amount of overtime that I will not use to keep the city open.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. I don't think you'll get fired or reprimanded for that. Just remember what happened in the city of Chicago a few years ago when Mayor Byrne didn't keep the city open. She lost her job.
    Mr. LOVALLO. Well, the budget director takes kindly at making sure that I stay within my bounds.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes. Well, I appreciate that. What about Pennsylvania?
    Mr. WYNNE. Yes, sir. In Pennsylvania we suffered approximately 60 snow-related deaths during that period of time. We mobilized over 5,000 National Guardsmen in a blizzard brigade led by the lieutenant governor, Lt. Government Schweiker. We had to—the city of Philadelphia was basically closed for at least five days. We were into major not only plowing activities, but also hauling activities.
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    We had permits to dump snow, not unlike yourself in Minnesota, into rivers. We had to stop that because the Delaware, which is a fairly large river, which was gauged to be able to take the snow, we were dumping so much snow that it was starting to back up the water on the river. And we only allow dumping when the stream is moving fast enough and wide enough to take it.
    So we had severe conditions.
    Again, the governor closed the State highways for 32 hours. I'm still getting telephone calls on who is essential personnel when the roads are closed by the governor. So it was a significant impact to the life of the Commonwealth.
    In addition, the local governments, who were actually competing with one another for contract snow plowing as the snow just continued to be there—hauling and lifting were significant issues because we couldn't get the equipment in to some of the more narrow streets of the older cities like Philadelphia and into Harrisburg.
    When fires did occur—and they did—fire fighters were in waist-deep snow for several hundred yards, putting them at great risk.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, I have other questions, but I know there are other Members here, as well, and I appreciate the additional time.
    Mr. LATHAM [assuming Chair]. And obviously submit in writing, and we would hope you would respond with additional questions later.

    Anyone else? Mr. Poshard?
    Mr. POSHARD. No.
    Mr. LATHAM. If not, with that we, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for coming in. We appreciate your very, very helpful testimony.
    You're excused.
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    We'll call Mr. Dennis Kwiatkowski, who is the deputy associate director of FEMA.
    You may proceed.
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
    I'm pleased to appear before you today to discuss H.R. 3348, the Snow Removal Policy Act.
    Determining if, when, and how much Federal assistance is necessary to help State and local governments remove snow is an issue on which there are many points of view. It is our goal, along with yours, to have a clear and consistent policy for snow declarations and to have clear policies on eligible types of assistance in the event of such declarations.
    FEMA has a number of activities underway to achieve this goal, and I would like to briefly describe them to you.
    First, I must emphasize that declarations for snow are a relatively recent phenomenon. Between 1979 and 1993, no emergencies or major disasters were declared for snow storms or blizzards. In 1993, 18 declarations were made by the President for the blizzard of 1993, which paralyzed the east coast. In 1994, 11 declarations were approved for winter storms. More recently, 14 declarations were made for the blizzard of 1996, commonly referred to as the ''Storm of the Century.''
    The total projected Federal cost for these 43 events is nearly $650 million. All of our policies for snow, as with other types of disasters, are set with the fundamental principle in mind that Federal disaster assistance under the Stafford Act is supplemental in nature and to be provided when it is beyond the capabilities of State and local governments to respond.
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    Traditionally, snow removal is budgeted by State and local governments, and, for the most part, no permanent damages result from snow, alone. These factors are taken into account as we try to balance the need between wise use of Federal dollars and serious unmet emergency needs at the State and local levels.
    We also are concerned that we not provide disincentives for local governments to continue to budget for this responsibility.
    Nonetheless, we are well aware that unusually heavy snow can create emergency situations which may create supplemental assistance. FEMA now has developed a proposed rule which would clarify and specify the types of assistance that would be eligible in the event of a declaration based on snow or blizzard conditions.
    The assistance we would like to provide would be supplemental in nature and seek to remedy emergency needs. Basically, Stafford Act assistance would cover removal of snow from one lane in each direction along designated snow emergency routes, along streets that provide access to critical facilities, and would cover search and rescue activities on all roads and highways.
    As we will propose, the rule will clarify the eligible assistance and help ensure that we treat all communities and States fairly and consistently.
    To the extent that this legislation, H.R. 3348, could be construed to encourage and expand to other categories of assistance, we would be opposed to that expansion.
    With respect to declaration criteria, the Snow Policy Removal Act of 1996 specifically references fire suppression assistance as an example of a clearly-articulated emergency assistance policy.
    However, I must point out that, while we are certainly interested in looking at all possible alternatives, there are several drawbacks to patterning snow declaration criteria after the fire suppression assistance program.
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    First, there are no floor cost figures available for snow removal. It would take three to four years to develop such figures for snow removal.
    Secondly, FEMA does not have the capability to verify each State's snow removal cost. We discovered during the blizzard of 1996 that many States do not keep records of such data, and to do so would create an unacceptable administrative burden for many States.
    Finally, the National Emergency Management Association recently sent a questionnaire to all State emergency management directors on the subject of snow criteria. Twenty-six States responded and were split almost equally as to whether the Stafford Act and the Code of Federal Regulations are adequate to address snow disasters. They were also split as to whether snow criteria should be based on a formula similar to the fire suppression.
    One of the concerns that we have about H.R. 3348 is that it stipulates a rather short time frame of only three months to issue final regulations. Given the comments we anticipated and the lack of clear direction on the direction the policy should take, we do not think that three months would be long enough to adequately consider all comments and issue the final regulations.
    In closing, I want to again assure you that it is FEMA's goal to have clear and consistent policies for all of its programs and that we look forward to the opportunity to work with you in any way that we can to make that happen. Our plan with regard to snow policy is to issue the proposed regulations by October 1st.
    As we go through the rule-making process, we look forward to hearing comments and suggestions of the jurisdictions.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
    Mr. LATHAM. Thank you very much.
    I guess I don't have any questions at this time.
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    Mr. Poshard?
    Mr. POSHARD. No.
    Mr. LATHAM. Then I recognize Mr. Oberstar.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    Thank you, Mr. Kwiatkowski, for a very fine presentation. It's important to have a factual basis for what we are considering here.
    I, at the outset, would like to express my great appreciation for and admiration of the work that James Lee Witt has done as director of FEMA. He has certainly responded, mobilized the resources of the agency to the recent disasters that have been declared and has conducted himself in a very creditable manner and reflected credit on the agency and on the Administration.
    I know that FEMA has also played a role in aviation disasters, as well, which is not normally your responsibility, but you have people on the ground and available and have responded wonderfully.
    It's very interesting, from your testimony, that for 14 years, 1979 through or up to 1993, there were no snow emergencies declared, and then suddenly a disaster age came upon us. Snow was discovered in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996. Forty-three emergencies, $650 million in cost, of which the Federal Government has contributed $545 million, or 85 percent—that's a pretty sizeable amount, not to be compared with how much we spent on Hugo and other hurricanes or the Loma Prieta or the Northridge earthquakes, but, nonetheless, not inconsiderable amount—a very significant contribution.
    What policy elements were common in making the disaster declarations in those 43 events?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. I think in the 43 events we're talking about, sir, the element that was common was an evaluation that these events that triggered those declarations were truly beyond the ordinary and were more regional in scope and clearly were beyond State and local capability.
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    What is always looked at, in conformance with the Stafford Act, is that the situation be beyond State and local capability and that Federal assistance be supplemental and, in fact, tailored to meet the situation.
    There were differences between the 1993 event and the 1996 event which caused some of the differences in the application of Federal policy.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. What does ''beyond State and local capability'' mean in the practical world? I know what States go through in making a presentation to the President for a drought emergency, for a flood emergency, for hurricane emergency declaration, for tornadoes the chairman has suggested. What distinguishes—what are the distinguishing characteristics of ''beyond State and local capability'' in a snow emergency?
    I say that, keeping in mind the previous testimony that in at least the memory of those previous witnesses the main impact was cost to local government. They greatly exceeded their budget for snow removal.
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Well, a couple of illustrative examples I believe would—might be in order here.
    In 1993, the storm was basically characterized as a ''white hurricane.'' It started down in Florida and caused tornadoes and flooding and went all the way up through the east coast.
    What we had at that time was massive power outages, many people in shelters. There were health and safety threats. Everything had basically ground to a halt, and there were emergency conditions that were though that the Federal Government could supply supplemental assistance to.
    In 1996 we were in contact with all the States that were impacted by the blizzard of 1996, and every one of the States had reported that the emergency conditions were being met, but as the storm began to exceed the capacity of the States to deal with it, it was thought that some kind of supplemental Federal assistance might be necessary to help them maintain the status on emergency conditions.
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    With regard to example of the storm in Buffalo, I think that the State—what we have to look at in a case like that is: is the event beyond the combined capabilities of State and local government?
    I think Mr LoVallo has demonstrated that the local government performed very well and the State was also, I think, assisting with National Guard.
    So we have to make a judgment as to whether that situation was beyond the—not only the capability of Buffalo, but also beyond the capability of the State of New York to assist.
    And, in fact, in that particular—
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. LoVallo would argue—excuse me for interrupting, but Mr. LoVallo would argue that approach penalizes communities who have been prudent, who are well-prepared, who set aside the financial resources, have the equipment, the personnel, work them overtime, have a well-developed plan, respond to it.
    And then you come along and say, ''Well, Washington was a basket case because they aren't prepared, they don't have the equipment, don't have the personnel, don't know how to respond to snow. But you, Buffalo; you, Duluth, Minnesota; you, Racine, Wisconsin, are well-prepared so we don't help you out.
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. I think that's—unfortunately, that's part of the intent, I believe, of the act, when you look at combined capability of State and local government. Each locality has to be prepared for events that are unique to that particular locale, and that's something that we take into consideration.
    To say that because somebody experiences snow storms in the north or sand storms in the south, that we should—that the Federal Government should step in and handle it every time something like that happens would not be a prudent Federal policy.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Should there be a disincentive then for those who are not prepared?
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    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Absolutely not. I think that the Federal Government—that no locality can be sure that the Federal Government is going to be there to assist in every case, so they have to take the prudent actions to be able to be prepared to respond to those things that are unique to their localities.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, but, I'm saying that, for example, in the drought of 1988, St. Paul, responding to a previous drought situation, did as the Corps of Engineers recommended and the—drilled the wells, developed alternative water resources, put in place sprinkling and car washing limitations, and put that plan into effect when the drought was upon them.
    The city of Minneapolis did not. The city of Minneapolis appealed to the Corps of Engineers to release more water from the headwaters of the Mississippi, the five lakes that comprise the headwaters of the Mississippi, which are located in my Congressional District, and within largely an Indian reservation and a resort community.
    Lowering the water to the extent the city of Minneapolis wanted would have destroyed the tourism, would have destroyed the fishery, and denied upstream people water that they needed when they had taken all the necessary precautions. They're the ones who get flooded out by holding water back in time of high water and had made appropriate preparations for it. The city of Minneapolis didn't. I wasn't very happy about having them come and say, ''Bail us out.''
    So there should be a disincentive. We shouldn't release additional water for them if they don't take the necessary precautions.
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. I think that there is also another problem that we face, and that's sometimes when Federal assistance is made available, localities begin to rely on the existence of Federal assistance and they don't properly plan.
    We have some instances where we've seen in the newspapers up in the northeast where some localities have actually lowered their budgets for snow removal in anticipation of Federal assistance.
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    So when you have Federal assistance available, it may, in fact, be a disincentive for localities to be prepared.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. All right. Does your proposed regulation take into account or include a requirement for a maintenance of effort on the part of State and local governments?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. The proposed regulation that we will be issuing very shortly will describe the kind of assistance that will be available after a declaration. The director is currently looking at proposals for declaration criteria which are not available as yet, so our regulation does not cover both aspects. It does not cover the declaration criteria and the eligibility criteria.
    The eligibility criteria is limited and intended to be supplemental to the efforts of State and local government. The declaration criteria has yet to be announced, and the director is still reviewing some options.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. What does this introduced bill provide in the way of authority that is not going to be provided in the forthcoming proposed rule-making?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Actually, none, sir. What it tells us to do is to issue a clear policy, which is our intent. The only thing it does do is it puts a time frame on it. We might be able to meet the time frame since our proposed reg will be out by October 1st, but the other thing that it does that causes us some concern, based on the wording, is that there might appear to be an expansion of assistance that might be interpreted to be made available.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. I'll have other questions further, but I'm sure, Mr. Chairman, you have questions, and I—
    Mr. LATHAM. No. This is very interesting. Go ahead.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. So actually this legislation is simply going to speed up, if it's enacted in time, the proposed rule-making framework; is that right?
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    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. That is correct, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Do you anticipate meeting the proposed October 1—
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Yes, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR.—deadline?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Yes, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. And then that's notice of proposed rule-making?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Those regulations will be out for comment.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. It will be an NPRM. And what is the comment period? Is it 60 days, 90 days?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. It's normally about 60 to 90 days.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Is the proposed rule going to specify 60 or 90 days or some other time?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. I believe it does. Let me just—60 days is the comment period.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Sixty days. And then, following that comment period, FEMA—any Government agency normally has 30 to 60 days to review comments and move to a final rule, correct?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Yes, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. That would mean that you could meet issuance of a final rule by January, 1997?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. We would try—at least by that time. We would try to beat that, depending on the number of comments and the nature of the comments.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. You could have a final rule out before the beginning—serious beginning of a new snow season?
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    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Before the serious part of the snow season. That is correct.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Right. It takes—if the last glacier retreated 10,000 years ago, every year it makes a come-back in northern Minnesota and northern Michigan and northern Wisconsin, but we're pretty good at defeating the come-back effort and it doesn't hit us pretty much until mid-January.
    What will be the principal features of the proposed rule-making in clarifying authority of the—responsibilities of local government and authority of the Federal Government?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. The principal feature, as I said, is to make sure that Federal assistance is supplemental to State and local efforts, because snow removal is normally a budgeted item.
    We do not want to supplant State and local efforts; we would merely want to supplement when their emergency conditions exist, so we're talking about opening emergency routes. We will probably be talking about some emergency measures such as search and rescue. But we would not be looking at expanding the assistance beyond that level because we feel that would normally be State and local responsibility.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Will a factor in the determination be review of local maintenance of effort from the standpoint of local budgets?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. That would be—that perhaps might be a feature of the declaration criteria, not of the eligibility criteria once a declaration is made.
    Once the declaration is made, areas that are designated eligible for assistance would receive the kind of assistance that I've mentioned.
    That may be a feature. The tax base or something of that base may be a feature of the declaration criteria that the director is now reviewing.
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    Mr. OBERSTAR. Is there anything in the proposed rule-making that will protect against what I'm concerned about, and that is Federal Government supplanting and taking over, in fact, local and State responsibilities?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. No, sir. The legislation basically directs FEMA to issue a consistent policy for snow assistance, which we are in the process of doing. And, as I said, it may, depending on how it is interpreted, may expand the kind of assistance we would—
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Anything in your proposed rule that would protect against the Federal Government assuming what normally have been State and local responsibilities?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. The proposed rule would. The proposed rule would limit assistance to being supplementary to open emergency routes. It would not be expansive to all roads or not be expansive to hauling of snow and things of that nature, so it would be limiting. It would stop the assistance at a supplemental nature.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Is there a consensus among States, to the best of your knowledge, as to what FEMA's snow disaster assistance policy should be?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. There is not only consensus among the States; there is not much consensus around the country. We have been criticized just as heavily for assisting in snow emergencies as we have by those who have received the assistance.
    As Mr. Rodham mentioned, the States were surveyed by NEMA, and 26 States responded, and they were split as to whether the kinds of assistance that we were offering was adequate and whether the Code of Federal Regulations adequately met it. So even the States that responded were split.
    We have been criticized in editorials around the country for offering assistance. We have been criticized by Members of Congress on the Appropriations Committee, by some of our oversight committees in both the Senate and in the House for expanding assistance into snow. So just as many people who say they want us to expand assistance into snow, there are just as many people that are saying that it's gone too far and it's not a Federal role and it's not a fiscally-sound policy to pursue.
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    So it's pretty well split as to which side of the line you want to line up on.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, I do understand, as I'm sure Chairman Petri does, that there are certain disadvantages to doing business, having manufacturing facilities, etc., in northern-tier States because snow exacts a heavy toll on our highways, our bridges, and on our ability to conduct commerce.
    There are, of course, not those responsibilities in southern States. They don't have to deal with snow removal and the effects of salt on the roadways and on the bridges.
    On the other hand, they have to often deal with hurricane and, out west, earthquake.
    But we live with that disadvantage and we make up for it. We budget for it, we plan for it, and we deal with it.
    The midwest floods of two years ago were of sweeping nature, going across several State jurisdictions and boundaries. It's unusual for a snow storm to have that wide a sweep.
    You describe an unusual circumstance of the ''white hurricane,'' and then this past winter of the snow that moved up the east coast.
    One of the factors in making a determination of disaster eligibility in drought and flood is the geographic distribution, the area-wide distribution of that disaster or claimed disaster. Is area-wide distribution of snow, the fact that a snow storm covered many counties or more than one State, a principal or significant factor in making a snow emergency disaster declaration?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. I guess I have two comments in that regard, but one in reference to the Mississippi floods or any other kind of event that we normally respond to, and the other deals with the geographic impact.
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    First, the geographic impact. Because we look at the combined effects on State and local government, the entire geographic impact does enter into the consideration as to whether supplementary Federal assistance is needed.
    If the impact is localized and the combined efforts of State and local government are sufficient to respond, then you would indicate that Federal assistance isn't needed.
    With regard to most of the other disasters that we respond to, there is physical damage that is evident and there is physical damage that must be responded to. There are people without homes for long periods of time. There is a long period of time and a lot of money that will be needed to restore public infrastructure or to replace businesses or to provide unemployment assistance. The impacts are far greater.
    When you're dealing with a blizzard or a snow storm, even one of large magnitude, what you are dealing with is an area or a time period of inconvenience for many and some short-term emergency conditions which most localities would have to deal with.
    Very rarely is a snow storm or a blizzard followed or accompanied with a lot of physical damage. In fact, this year when we told the States, during the response phase, if there was physical damage accompanying the event, we would be glad to review the magnitude of that damage and amend the declarations if necessary. There was some damage to roofs and snow loads and so forth, but not of the extent that would require Federal assistance, especially when insurance is considered.
    In several of the coastal States, because the storm did cause some damage in coastal areas by wind-driven water, the declarations were amended to take care of that kind of physical damage.
    So we were receptive to that, but I think there was a declared difference between the kind of assistance that's needed in snow and the kind of assistance that's needed when you have devastating floods or hurricanes or tornadoes, when you have a whole range of assistance that must be applied other than financial assistance to help clear the snow.
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    Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, it seems to me the rule-making process is moving along appropriately, properly. You're committed to meeting the deadlines. You don't see any unusual circumstances that will require you to extend beyond the 60 days or 30 days of review, comments. You're developing a cohesive policy.
    If the city of Buffalo feels that they are being disadvantaged, or other communities—I don't mean to single out Buffalo, but they testified to that point—for being prepared, financed, and organized, and capable of meeting what in other places might be a disaster, they should not walk away from this hearing feeling that they are going to continue to be disadvantaged. They will have opportunity for input in the rule-making process to assure that it's fair to all jurisdictions, correct?
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Yes, sir.
    Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have any other questions, and I appreciate the forbearance of the committee.
    Mr. PETRI [assuming Chair]. No. It's very worthwhile.
    Without objection, the opening statements of Representative Borski and of any other Member wishing to place a statement in the record will be admitted.
    [The prepared statements of Mr. Borski, Mr. Poshard and Mr. Quinn follow:]

    [Insert here.]

    Mr. PETRI. And, by unanimous consent, without objection, a recent article on FEMA will be included in the record.
    [The article on FEMA follows:]

    [Insert here.]
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    Mr. PETRI. Any follow-up questions Members may have for the witnesses and answers to those questions will also be included in the record.

    Sir, we know this is a busy time for you and, in fact, the weather outside brings home the kind of problems, and the basement of Rayburn, actually, if you walk through, water is coming somehow down to the subway as we speak. How that's happening I don't know, but it's probably an emergency.
    So we thank you very much for being here and we look forward to working with FEMA as we work on this legislation.
    Mr. KWIATKOWSKI. Thank you, sir.

    Mr. PETRI. This hearing is adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 10:25 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]