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New England Leaders Convene to Help Communities Prepare for Climate Change Challenges

Release Date: 11/08/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Nov. 8, 2013) – Answering the challenge presented in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. EPA is spearheading a regional response to identify and launch actions to help New England communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Along with the six New England States, the Consensus Building Institute, Johnson & Wales University and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), EPA is holding a Climate Leaders Summit on Nov. 8, 2013 at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

While all New England communities will likely be impacted by increasing severe weather events, fewer than 10 percent have adaptation efforts underway. Regional leaders representing the private and non-profit sectors, interstate organizations, and government at the local, state and federal levels are committing to identify and develop systemic solutions to move the help New England improve resiliency before the next big storm.

"As climate change continues to contribute to sea level rise and load the dice for more powerful storms, coastal New England homes and businesses will face increasing risk of damage," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a lead advocate in the Senate for addressing climate change and cofounder of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change. "We must proactively work to bolster our coasts' natural defenses and make our communities more resilient to the harmful effects of climate change. I applaud EPA for convening this group of leaders from the region so we can work together to address this issue head on."

"Climate change is a reality, and we must face this challenge together," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England regional office. "Like all environmental challenges, the impacts of climate change won’t stop at political or geographic boundaries. We are committed to working together to overcome existing barriers, and develop high-level, systemic solutions."

“With more severe and extreme weather on the horizon we must take action to reduce the toll that changes in climate could take on our region,” said Commissioner Daniel C. Esty of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “The storms of the past few years make clear the need to work closely with our communities on effective steps to protect property, infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, government facilities, and wastewater treatment plants – as well as valuable natural resources.”

“Maine’s economy is intertwined with our natural resources and they rely on the ‘built infrastructure’ functioning properly,” said Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho. “Our economic reliance on our built and natural resource environment means that decision-makers must address vulnerabilities and prepare for severe weather events. By bringing together key people, we can take next steps to develop specific tools, coordinate and recommend appropriate strategies, and identify potential challenges for natural resource and infrastructure decision-makers.”

“When Governor Patrick announced that climate change adaptation is one of my office’s top three priorities for the remainder of his term, he stressed that forming partnerships across all levels of government will be essential in meeting the coming challenges,” said Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “I am pleased that EPA is bringing together leaders from throughout the region to make sure we’re all better prepared, and look forward to utilizing the tools developed at the Climate Summit to assist Massachusetts communities in creating a safer Commonwealth.”

“The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is working with communities across the state to help them better prepare for the “new normal” conditions that we have been experiencing due to climate change. By using existing planning tools communities can identify vulnerable infrastructure in their hazard mitigation plans and use their capital improvement plans to phase in necessary upgrades. This proactive planning will help New Hampshire communities become more resilient and reduce the expense of recovering from extreme weather events in the future,” said Commissioner Tom Burack of NH Department of Environmental Services.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to ensuring the health and resilience of our natural resources, infrastructure and quality of life,” said RI Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. “Kudos to EPA for bringing together partners from across New England at today’s summit to develop an action plan that will address the impacts of climate change on our region.”

“In Vermont, we have learned from our experience responding to Tropical Storm Irene that collaboration by local, regional, state and federal governments is critical to our ability to respond effectively to the impacts of the global climate disruption we are currently experiencing,” said David Mears, Vermont’s Environmental Conservation Commissioner.

“The water programs in our member states have expressed deep concern about climate change and its impacts. As we have seen with recent storm events such as Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy, our water resources and water infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to existing and projected climate threats. We look forward to collaborating with the diverse stakeholders brought together by EPA at this forum to advance resiliency in our region,” said Ron Poltak, Executive Director of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC).

“Johnson & Wales University and the EPA have a vested interest in the topic of climate change. Not only is JWU determined to beautify our Harborside Campus, transforming what was once a shipyard and a dumpsite from a landfill to a landmark, but also, as one of the top educators for the world’s chefs, we are particularly concerned with how climate change will affect the food supply,” said John Bower, Chancellor of Johnson & Wales University.

EPA will issue a report following the Climate Summit, which will provide further details on the actions, participants and outcomes of the day.

More information:

- New England climate leadership summit (
- President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (

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