Center for Biological Diversity sues FEMA to disclose funding for renewables versus fossils


The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the Federal Emergency Management Agency to promptly disclose how much disaster response funding it has spent for fossil fuel infrastructure, and how much for renewable energy resources.

The Center also seeks records on FEMA’s plans to transition its investments away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.

The group requested the spending records in late 2021 under the Freedom of Information Act, but FEMA “has neither produced any records nor provided any anticipated timetable” for doing so, the lawsuit says.

Two other groups said early in 2021 that FEMA’s $9.6 billion allocated for Puerto Rico’s grid reconstruction after hurricanes Irma and Maria should be used to support rooftop solar and storage. The two groups, Cambio and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, found that distributed solar and storage could provide 75% of the U.S. territory’s power by 2035, at potentially lower cost than the existing grid and generation mix.

“The public has a right to know how many billions of taxpayer dollars FEMA is spending to help prop up the fossil-fuel industrial complex and worsen the climate emergency,” said Augusta Wilson, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “FEMA should be leading the way to construct rooftop solar and storage, not doubling down on the dirty energy status quo.”

A Center report last year outlined steps that the President and Executive Branch could take, including with FEMA programs, to “address the climate crisis,” the group’s lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the Center “has spent and will continue to spend financial resources” advancing its climate campaign, “which requires a better understanding” of how FEMA is carrying out its post-disaster programs.

The Center said in a statement that a 2021 FEMA report titled “Resources for Climate Resilience” and the agency’s 2022 to 2026 strategic plan “do not mention any efforts to reduce the agency’s reliance on fossil fuels” in its disaster response programs.

The Center’s lawsuit also names as a defendant the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the supervision, management and control of FEMA’s activities.

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