January 9, 2023

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency today for failing to release public records about the agency’s spending on energy-related projects and assistance to help communities rebuild after disasters. The records should show how much FEMA spends on fossil-fuel related projects compared to renewable energy alternatives.

“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 Center attorney Augusta Wilson. “Transparency is critical to pushing FEMA to rebuild communities with renewable and resilient energy. The agency should be leading the way to construct rooftop solar and storage, not doubling down on the dirty energy status quo.”

The January 4th lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., follows the Center’s 2021 request under the Freedom of Information Act for public records relating to several categories of FEMA spending on energy-related projects for communities hit by blizzards, hurricanes, fires and other disasters. The Center also sought records that could shed light on FEMA’s plans to transition its investments away from fossil fuels.

Last month’s superstorm cut off power to millions of Americans and damaged fossil-fuel power plants and the brittle centralized grid, the latest in a series of extreme weather events to do so. The storm affirmed the importance of providing communities with distributed renewable energy systems to withstand climate-driven disasters.

FEMA’s 2021 report, Resources for Climate Resilience, and the agency’s 2022-2026 strategic plan do not mention any efforts to reduce the agency’s reliance on fossil fuels to rebuild disaster-ravaged communities. These investments include diesel generators, repairing furnaces and other fossil-fuel heating systems, and rebuilding fossil fuel-based power plants and transmission systems.

“December’s catastrophic bomb cyclone is just the most recent evidence that communities are relying on FEMA more than ever,” said Wilson. “The agency has to rebuild reliable, less costly, carbon-free electric grids so they can withstand the next climate change-fueled disaster. By investing in more resilient power systems, FEMA can protect frontline communities and lead the transition away from fossil fuels.”