WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (USVI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment released the following statement regarding the introduction of ‘The Just Rebuild for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Act of 2017’ by Senator Bernie Sanders:
“On September 6th, Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms of the century, destroyed the islands of St. John and St. Thomas. Three weeks later on September 19th, the island of St. Croix was devastated by Maria, the second Category 5 hurricane to rip through the US Virgin Islands in less than a month. Both Hurricanes Irma and Maria have wreaked havoc in the U.S. territories of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean nations.
“Although the full extent of the two hurricanes' impact has yet to be assessed, it is clear that in the Caribbean, the damage from these storms appears to be unparalleled. Dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries have been reported alongside widespread infrastructure damage all throughout the Caribbean. That is why in the days and months ahead, we must continue to work together to ensure that the individuals and families impacted by these devastating storms receive all the aid they need. The catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and Maria demands massive amounts of aid to address the overwhelming needs of the countless victims who now face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.
“I would like to thank Senator Bernie Sanders for introducing ‘The Just Rebuild for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Act of 2017’ which will allow the people of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to not only recover from extreme weather, like Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but to rebuild in a way that will allow the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to better withstand these catastrophes like Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It is crucial that we not only react to extreme weather conditions, but also recognize that they are a product of climate change. Protecting our territories from super storms and other natural disasters will require us to not only create stronger infrastructure but also work to mitigate the causes of climate change by decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and promoting environmental safeguards.
“This bill from Senator Sanders is crucial because it will emphasize the importance of input in the recovery process by local impacted communities along with ensuring public participation in an open and transparent oversight process. This legislation will also promote long-term economic development, environmental safeguards, and rights of the local communities affected and to chart the path to recovery for the Virgin Islands. Ensuring the input of local communities as well as local and municipal powers in the recovery effort of the Virgin Islands is critical to a balanced response that fully meets the needs of impacted communities of the Territories. It is imperative that we learn from the shortcomings from these disasters that have created a humanitarian crises the echoes of which are still being felt in the Virgin Islands.
“Finally, there is no doubt that building more resistant infrastructures in the Virgin Islands is critical to future economic stability. We must rebuild the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico the right way so that when faced with natural disasters in the future we will not have to spend massive amounts in order to recover.”