Electric snow blenders, snow-clearing devices and portable generators can help stop a powerful storm surge that can knock out power to tens of thousands of homes.
But they’re also expensive, and the machines are slow, requiring special training and maintenance.
The storm surge surge could be devastating for homeowners and businesses in parts of New Orleans.
The flooding that’s left is estimated to cost more than $1.6 billion in damages, including $1 billion in property damage and more than a dozen deaths, according to FEMA.
But a new bill from Rep. Michael Capuano, R-Mass., aims to help reduce the costs and increase the safety of electric snowblowers.
The bill would ban a federal rule that prohibits electric snow-blowers from being used to clear snow.
Under the rule, electric snow machines are allowed to be used to remove snow and ice, but not to clear ice or snow.
Capuana said the rule prevents a lot of homeowners from having the equipment and training to clear icy or snow-covered snow and other snow that could harm people.
Under Capuanas bill, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would no longer ban a state or local jurisdiction from enacting an ordinance that requires an electric utility to use a specialized electric snow machine to clear winter-storm-related ice and snow.
Capuano said he wants to make sure electric snow removal equipment is not used for private use.
He said he understands that the power companies would be the ones who would want to make a profit from the equipment.
“What we want to do is get the power out of the hands of the power company and the power utility and make sure that it is used for public use,” Capuanos spokesman, Mark Danko, said.
The bills move the goalposts on how much money an electric company should be responsible for storm surge insurance.
But the bills would allow electric companies to recover a percentage of the cost of storm surge damage if they are found to be at fault.
The companies that currently pay for storm damage claims would have to pay for any future storm surge liability if they exceed the standard for a power company.
In a statement, the utility industry group CTIA said the bill “is long overdue.”
The CTIA also noted that a bill signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 2001 called the Emergency Snow Remediation Act of 2001 (ESRA) would have made it easier for power companies to pay storm surge claims, but Congress refused to pass it.CAPUANO’S bill would require the power grid operator to reimburse electric companies for storm-related storm surge costs, and would make it easier to collect the damages for homeowners whose power is damaged by a power outage caused by a storm surge.
Capucciano said the bills are necessary because “our power companies are not operating in a way that can be repaired and maintained in the most cost-effective manner.”
Capuanos bill would also require the government to pay an annual fee for power company liability insurance for storm and power-plant owners.
The money would go to pay off the government’s storm-surge insurance program, Capuonos office said in a statement.
“Our goal is to have the federal government cover the costs of storm- and powerplant-related costs, including storm surge, that are incurred,” the statement said.
Capuccanos bill does not address the state-level legislation, the bill signed last week by Gov.
John Bel Edwards, D-La., that would increase the liability for utility companies that fail to meet storm surge requirements.
Capuccanos said the state could work with utilities to work out a way to share the liability.
Edwards signed the legislation on Monday.