New report on flooding threat to infrastructure is a dire warning to Pa. | Wednesday Morning Coffee

‘This is the moment for swift, decisive action,’ one expert said

October 13, 2021 7:11 am

Flooding in Bucks County on 7/12/21 (Photo via, reproduced by permission).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

When Pennsylvania lawmakers voted late last month to extend Gov. Tom Wolf’s disaster declaration for the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Ida, they weren’t responding to events that were happening in a vacuum.

Rather, they were on the frontlines of an environmental battle that’s being fought on multiple fronts across the nation. And it’s one that policymakers can ill afford to lose.

That’s because, according to new research, a quarter of all the nation’s critical infrastructure, including such indispensable services as police and fire protection, hospitals, and wastewater treatment plants could be taken offline by severe flooding. And the threat is expected to grow as the planet continues to grow ever warmer.

In addition, as much as 2 million miles of roadway, about 23 percent of the nation’s total, is similarly vulnerable, CNN reported, citing the research by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research and technology group.

“Changing environmental conditions are driving worsening flood events, with consequences to communities across the country, directly and indirectly threatening the quality of life, safety, and wellbeing of Americans,” the nonprofit said in a summary of the report it released on Monday.

The sprawling document is a warning to policymakers, pointing out that the nation “is ill-prepared for the extreme weather now becoming common due to our changing environment, evident by the flood cataclysms that wrought destruction to much of the country in the past decade.”

And that’s true from Washington down to the state and local level, where the “impacts of extreme flooding exceed the speed American communities can fortify themselves. Identifying vulnerabilities at a local level is required to brace for climate extremes, preventing further destruction,” the report warned.

(Image via (Source: First Street Foundation)

The report found that the nation’s Gulf Coast, and — this should come as no surprise to Pennsylvanians — Appalachia are particularly vulnerable to flooding.

And according to one advocacy group, that means policymakers in the Keystone State — Democrat and Republican alike — need to come off the bench to confront and combat this growing threat.

“This report clearly demonstrates the risk climate change poses in Pennsylvania if we don’t act. Pennsylvanians are increasingly seeing the impacts of flooding and the effects uncontrolled climate change can have on their daily lives, safety, and prosperity,” Mandy Warner, the director of Climate and Clean Air Policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Capital-Star in an email.

The report shows that “regions all across Pennsylvania will be impacted by flooding,” Warner continued, adding that it “demonstrates that elected officials, including those that have opposed climate action, have much at stake for their constituents and need to deliver real climate solutions. Pennsylvania can no longer afford inaction on climate change.”

President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill would pay for billions of dollars in flood mitigation efforts across the country, including $7 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $3.5 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Mitigation Assistance program, CNN reported.

In her email, Warner also stressed the importance of state level action, calling on Wolf to “adopt strong regulations to cut climate pollution,” which includes getting the state fully involved with a regional cap-and-trade plan known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, “and tightening state regulations to cut methane emissions from low-producing oil and gas wells.

“This is the moment for swift, decisive action that the majority of Pennsylvanians support,” Warner said.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Marley Parish talks to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Val Arkoosh, a Montgomery County commissioner, who has a plan to prioritize women in the workforce.

The state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources needs $1.4 billion to pay for infrastructure repairs across Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks. But the agency says it’s adamantly opposed to charging admission to cover the cost, Cassie Miller reports.

For the first time in the Pennsylvania State Police’s 116-year history, a Black woman has attained the rank of deputy commissionerCassie Miller has the story on the rise of Lt. Col. Kristal Turner-Childs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 16,287 new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania during a four-day period stretching from 12 a.m. on Saturday to 12 a.m. on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 1.48 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

With the registration deadline less than a week away, elected officials in Philadelphia are urging citizens to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz says the ‘Biden is collapsing’ storyline is overrated. And opinion regular Mark O’Keefe says the House GOP’s silence on a bill letting local cops use radar isn’t just deafening, it’s deadly.

(Getty Images)

State lawmakers hand out millions of dollars worth of government contracts to law firms who donate to their campaigns, Spotlight Pa. reports (via the Inquirer).

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro kicks off his 2022 gubernatorial campaign today with an event in Pittsburgh. The Post-Gazette previews the announcement.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, insisted Tuesday that there’s ‘no new information’ in a scathing congressional report implicating him in former President Donald Trump’s election interference campaign, ABC-27 in Harrisburg reports.

Voters in Allentown will vote on whether to keep English as the city’s official language this November – though most city residents may not realize the question is on the fall ballot, the Morning Call reports.

A northeastern Pennsylvania school district’s stadium played host to a large anti-mask rally on Tuesday night, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

WHYY-FM talks to three Italian-American city residents who want Philadelphia’s Columbus statue taken down.

Open ICU beds statewide have dipped to their lowest point since the start of the pandemic, WITF-FM reports.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau looks at why efforts to overturn the state’s mask mandate have apparently stalled (via GoErie).

The Observer-Reporter profiles a ‘moonshot grant program’ in one southwestern Pennsylvania district and how it’s remaking learning. looks at how some cities are using trash pick-up programs as a way to combat homelessness.

The U.S. House approved a temporary extension of the nation’s debt limit on Tuesday. Roll Call has the details.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
10 a.m., 205: House Labor & Industry Committee
1 p.m., Live Streamed: Senate Democratic Policy Committee 
2 p.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Legislative Reapportionment Commission

Gov Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Staff Reporter Marley Parish, who rings in another year. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some new music from Nashville’s own Coin. It’s the very grooving ‘Chapstick.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
It was always going to be tough for a visiting club to prevail in Las Vegas on opening night — the Golden Knights have some of the most enthusiastic fans in the NHL. But the expansion Seattle Kraken made a game of it on Tuesday, losing 4-3 in their league debut. A two-goal second period helped the Kraken close an initial 3-0 deficit.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.