Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Martha Sheils appears before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Martha Sheils, Director of the New England Environmental Finance Center, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water & Power on August 2, 2017. The hearing focused on “Increasing Water Security and Drought Preparedness through Infrastructure, Management, and Innovation.”

Martha's comments centered on how protecting existing natural infrastructure (our forests and wetlands) provides communities with clean drinking water and flood protection. The most economical and environmentally effective water infrastructure is our existing natural inventory of forests, riparian zones, and wetlands, which is the first line of defense to keep effluents and polluted runoff out of waterways. Targeting natural areas for flood control and the reduction of water contamination is much more economical than building expensive solutions like water filtration plants, wastewater treatment plants, restoring or creating floodplains and wetlands, or building hard flood protection barriers.

The protective benefits of natural infrastructure can be quantified by the “avoided costs” of the fixes that would need to be built in their absence. If the federal and state governments were to adopt the principle that preventing a weather related disaster is much more economical than post-disaster recovery, they would place more emphasis on promoting natural solutions that include land conservation and the use of built green infrastructure.

Martha was asked to file a formal written response to questions posed by the Senators during the hearing; her answers will become part of the record and used in future work.

Martha was accompanied to the hearing by Program Manager Ed Suslovic, who played a key role in assisting with developing the oral testimony. Other contributors include Charlie Colgan, Jack Kartez, and Spencer Meyer of Highstead, a non-profit land conservation organization in Connecticut.

Photo:
Ed Suslovic, NEEFC Program Manager, Martha Sheils, NEEFC Director, and Angus King, U.S. Senator for Maine
August 2, 2017 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.