One Year Later, America Must Better Prepare for Severe Storms Like Sandy

One year after Superstorm Sandy, the BlueGreen Alliance released a series of five recommendations to address shortfalls in America’s infrastructure.

October 28, 2013

BlueGreen Alliance Releases Five Recommendations to Fix America’s Infrastructure Deficit

WASHINGTON, DC (October 28, 2013) – One year after Superstorm Sandy, the BlueGreen Alliance released a series of five recommendations to address shortfalls in America’s infrastructure. The labor and environmental partnership contends that without a comprehensive plan to fix the systems Americans rely on every day—including our roads and bridges and water, electric, transit and communications systems—we will continue to be vulnerable to extreme weather events that will only occur more frequently as climate change worsens.

“We’ve already seen the extreme and costly damage this new era of climate change-related weather has in store for us,” said D. Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America. “The sooner we recognize and prioritize the projects that need the most work, we’ll be better able to protect communities next time. It goes almost without saying that the pervasive need for repairs offers an opportunity for job creation and economic growth that we can’t afford to pass up.”

The BlueGreen Alliance identified five key infrastructure priorities for cities and states to redesign and strengthen to ensure climate resilient systems:

  • Strengthen electric grid reliability and expand capacity;
  • Modernize water systems and increase storm water capacity and coastal storm surge responsiveness;
  • Identify and reconstruct vulnerable sections of transportation systems;
  • Strengthen communications technology to withstand greater weather damage; and
  • Renovate anchor community institutions like hospitals and schools to serve as needed crisis centers.

“With record temperatures, record droughts, and record storms devastating communities across the nation, it’s clear the threat of climate disruption is now a dangerous new reality,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “Americans are already paying the costs of extreme weather, so it is vital that we prepare now to protect our families and communities from future disasters while taking immediate action to curb the carbon pollution fueling the climate crisis.”

In the days and weeks after the storm, thousands of utility workers were among the first responders for disasters like Superstorm Sandy, and were on the front lines of picking up the pieces. In New York City for example, UWUA represents workers across the region who provide electric, gas, and steam service in the area.

“Repairing America’s systems won’t happen overnight,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We have to rebuild stronger and smarter to ensure the safety of our families and communities and create family-sustaining jobs. The bottom line is that the basic systems we rely on every day—the ones we rely on to get us from place to place, for heat and electricity, clean water, and to allow us to communicate with each other—must be maintained and improved in a way that recognizes our reliance on them.”

Superstorm Sandy was the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. In the year since the storm, President Obama has introduced a comprehensive plan to combat the effects of climate change and curb carbon pollution. The president’s actions come at a time when Congress has failed to act to prevent climate change or address these critical infrastructure needs.

“One of the biggest underlying problems of what happened during and after Sandy was that utility workers have had to do more with less over the past few years and it’s unacceptable,” said Vinnie Kyne, Local 1-2 UWUA member. “Patch job repairs aren’t going to cut it anymore. We need a long-term plan.”