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Congressman Tom Marino

Representing the 10th District of Pennsylvania

FEMA Decision on Gas Leases Impedes Disaster Recovery Efforts

September 4, 2012
Press Release

Susquehanna, PA – Earlier today, Congressman Marino (R-PA) met with Susquehanna County residents and County Emergency Management Agency officials to address concerns regarding the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Residents and businesses of the 10th District are continuing to work through the recovery process in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which devastated our community last September,” said Marino.  “While disaster assistance through FEMA’s numerous programs have been utilized, some residents are still waiting to receive desperately needed assistance.”

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides funding at local and state levels for the implementation of measures that will prevent further loss from future natural disasters.  The program focuses on conserving taxpayer dollars though a long-term approach, ensuring money is spent only once, rather than spending money on the same properties multiple times. Property acquisition through the program is an essential tool in realizing these goals.

FEMA recently released guidance for Pennsylvania property acquisitions which indicated that any property with leased subsurface mineral rights is ineligible for acquisition under HMGP.  Due to the extensive number of properties with leased mineral rights in northeastern Pennsylvania, many residents will no longer qualify for the property acquisition under the program.

“This broad policy change by FEMA does not appear to take into account the many nuances in mineral leases, such as whether the lease is for surface rights or is limited only to subsurface rights, it fails to address the reality that many of these leases may never be used for energy development, and it ignores the fact that many of these homeowners would face serious challenges extinguishing the leases to conform with the new policy,” said Marino.  “Instead of looking for a reason to say ‘no’ and leaving people who have been devastated by disaster in harm’s way, FEMA should work to develop common sense guidance that will allow homeowners to move on with their lives, protect our emergency personnel during natural disasters, and ensure taxpayer dollars are not paying for repeated repairs of the same properties.”

Congressman Marino sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Fugate on August 29, urging a reconsideration of the guidance to benefit both the residents of his district and the continued standing of the grant program as an extremely valuable tool in disaster mitigation.