[Senate Report 109-320]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

109th Congress                                                   Report
 2d Session                                                     109-320


                       DEBRIS REMOVAL ACT OF 2005


                              R E P O R T

                                 of the


                          GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                              to accompany

                                 S. 939


                August 30, 2006.--Ordered to be printed

     Filed under authority of the order of the Senate of August 4 
                   (legislative day, August 3), 2006

                   SUSAN M. COLLINS, Maine, Chairman
TED STEVENS, Alaska                  JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, Connecticut
GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio            CARL LEVIN, Michigan
NORM COLEMAN, Minnesota              DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii
TOM COBURN, Oklahoma                 THOMAS R. CARPER, Delaware
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, Rhode Island      MARK DAYTON, Minnesota
ROBERT F. BENNETT, Utah              FRANK LAUTENBERG, New Jersey
PETE V. DOMENICI, New Mexico         MARK PRYOR, Arkansas
JOHN W. WARNER, Virginia

           Michael D. Bopp, Staff Director and Chief Counsel
                       Kurt A. Schmautz, Counsel
      Joyce A. Rechtschaffen, Minority Staff Director and Counsel
               Lawrence B. Novey, Minority Senior Counsel
                  Trina Driessnack Tyrer, Chief Clerk

109th Congress                                                   Report
 2d Session                                                     109-320


                       DEBRIS REMOVAL ACT OF 2005


                August 30, 2006.--Ordered to be printed

     Filed under authority of the order of the Senate of August 4 
                   (legislative day, August 3), 2006


 Ms. Collins, from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
                    Affairs, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 939]

    The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs, to whom was referred the bill (S. 939) to expedite 
payments of certain Federal emergency assistance authorized 
pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and 
Emergency Assistance Act, to authorize the reimbursement under 
that Act of certain expenditures, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same reports favorably thereon as amended 
and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.

                         I. Purpose and Summary

    The purpose of S. 939 is to expedite payment of Stafford 
Act emergency assistance for debris removal, and ensure that 
Stafford Act assistance may include reimbursement for clearing, 
removing, and disposing of debris from any emergency access 
road and reimbursement to individuals for debris removal if it 
is necessary for safe and sanitary living conditions.

                             II. Background


    Debris removal is one of the largest and most challenging 
aspects of disaster recovery. Disaster debris is a reminder of 
the scope of a disaster, and can account for as much as 40 
percent of all disaster-related costs for some hurricanes.\1\ 
Proper management and removal of this disaster debris is 
critical to protect public health and safety, restore the 
environment, and allow recovery and rebuilding efforts to begin 
in affected areas.
    \1\ ``Disaster Debris Planning,'' materials presented by FEMA at 
EPA's August 2003 ``RCRA National Meeting,'' see [http://www.epa.gov/
epaoswer/osw/meeting/pdf02/ward. pdf].
    Disaster debris from hurricanes and floods can include an 
enormous variety of materials. Among the major components are 
construction materials, damaged or destroyed buildings, 
sediments, trees, limbs, shrubs, household appliances, personal 
property, and vehicles. This debris must be collected, 
separated by types of materials and into nonhazardous and 
hazardous debris. Hazardous debris often includes containers of 
pesticides, drain cleaners, cleaningsupplies, and paint; 
asbestos-coated pipes; and surfaces coated with lead-based paint. 
Separation of hazardous from nonhazardous materials is necessary to 
prevent improper disposal, which can release hazardous substances to 
the environment. However, hazardous and nonhazardous materials often 
are commingled, making separation difficult or impossible. Finally, 
there is an overlapping category of wastes consisting largely of, or 
heavily contaminated by, oil or other hazardous substances.

                            THE FEDERAL ROLE

    State and local governments have primary responsibility for 
waste management. When these governments are overwhelmed in the 
wake of a disaster, the Stafford Act authorizes debris removal 
by federal agencies from publicly and privately owned lands and 
water. Debris management falls under Emergency Support Function 
#3, Public Works and Engineering, which is coordinated under 
the National Response Plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
    The Corps is tasked with managing, monitoring, and 
providing technical assistance in the clearance, removal, and 
disposal of debris and the clearing of ground and water routes 
into the affected areas. The physical work generally is done by 
contractors, to the extent that it cannot be accomplished by 
local government sanitation workers. The Federal Emergency 
Management Agency (FEMA) reimburses local governments for 
debris removal on public and private property in counties that 
are eligible for assistance.

                        NEED FOR THE LEGISLATION

    Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne hit Florida 
during the 2004 hurricane season. In the recovery from those 
disasters, various Florida counties reported widely varying 
levels of responsiveness and cooperation from FEMA with respect 
to reimbursement of debris removal costs. In many cases, 
reimbursement decisions were delayed for months, some were 
denied without recourse for affected counties, and millions of 
dollars in claims remained outstanding one year after the 
hurricanes struck. A survey conducted by the Florida 
Association of Counties found that a number of counties were 
forced to use up their savings, issue new bonds, take out 
loans, raise taxes or take other actions to cope with the 
delayed reimbursements.
    S. 939 aims to prevent a recurrence of the most severe of 
these problems by requiring FEMA to pay 50 percent of the 
federal assistance to an eligible applicant within 60 days. In 
addition, the bill clarifies that FEMA can reimburse localities 
for clearing all emergency access roads whether on public or 
private property. FEMA can now reimburse state and local 
governments for debris removal ``[w]hen it is in the public 
interest.'' \2\ S. 939 establishes that the clearance of access 
roads on private property that are needed by emergency 
personnel is in the public interest. This eliminates a 
recurring point of conflict between FEMA and local government 
applicants for debris removal assistance that has played a 
significant role in some of the delayed payments.
    \2\ 44 CFR Sec. 206.224.

                        III. Legislative History

    S. 939 was introduced on April 28, 2005, and was referred 
to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 
The legislation is sponsored by Senators Martinez, Nelson (FL), 
and Vitter. On September 22, 2005, the Committee considered S. 
939 and ordered the bill favorably reported with an amendment 
in the nature of a substitute by voice vote. Members present 
were Senators Collins, Voinovich, Coleman, Chafee, Lieberman, 
Levin, Akaka, Lautenberg, and Pryor.

                         IV. Section-by-Section

Section 1. Short title

    Section 1 sets the short title of S. 939 as the ``Debris 
Removal Act of 2005.''

Section 2. Expedited payments

    Subsection (a) directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, 
acting through the Director of FEMA, to make expedited 
reimbursement payments to eligible applicants for eligible 
claims under section 407 of the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 
Sec. 5173). These expedited payments are 50 percent of the 
total amount the applicant is eligible to receive under the 
Stafford Act
    Subsection (b) establishes that the date of an expedited 
payment described in subsection (a) shall be paid not later 
than 60 days after the date of the application.

Section 3. Debris clearance, removal, and disposal from emergency 
        access roads

    Subsection (a) defines ``emergency access road'' as a road 
that requires access by emergency personnel--including 
firefighters, police, emergency medical personnel, and any 
other entity identified by the Secretary of Homeland Defense--
in order to provide emergency service after the declaration of 
an emergency or major disaster
    Subsection (b) authorizes reimbursement under section 407 
of the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5173) for clearing, 
removing, and disposing of debris from any emergency access 

Section 4. Inclusion of debris removal as eligible claim for Federal 

    Section 4 amends section 408(c)(2)(A) of the Stafford Act 
(42 U.S.C. Sec. 5174(c)(2)(A)) to make individuals and 
households eligible for federal assistance to reimburse debris 
removal. Federal assistance can be extended at the President's 
discretion in the case of a major disaster for debris removal 
from owner-occupied residential property, utilities, and 
residential infrastructure as necessary for a safe and sanitary 
living or functioning condition.

Section 5. Applicability; termination of authority

    Section 5 applies this Act to each major disaster declared 
under Section 401 of the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5170) in 
2005, and terminates this Act one year after its enactment.

                   V. Evaluation of Regulatory Impact

    Paragraph 11(b)(1) of rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of 
the Senate requires that each report accompanying a bill 
evaluate the ``regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out this bill.'' Carrying out S. 939 would have no 
regulatory impact.

                      VI. Changes to Existing Law

    Pursuant to Paragraph 12, rule XXVI of the Standing Rules 
of the Senate, changes in existing law made by the bill, as 
reported, are shown as follows (existing law proposed to be 
omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new matter is printed in 
italic, and existing law, in which no change is proposed, is 
shown in roman):


                      CHAPTER 68--DISASTER RELIEF

           Subchapter IV--Major Disaster Assistance Programs


           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

    (c) Types of Housing Assistance.--

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

          (2) Repairs.--
                  (A) In general.--The President may provide 
                financial assistance for--
                          (i) the repair of owner-occupied 
                        private residences, utilities, and 
                        residential infrastructure (such as a 
                        private access route) damaged by a 
                        major disaster to a safe and sanitary 
                        living or functioning condition; [and]
                          (ii) eligible hazard mitigation 
                        measures that reduce the likelihood of 
                        future damage to such residences, 
                        utilities, or infrastructure[.]; and
                          (iii) the removal of debris and 
                        wreckage resulting from a major 
                        disaster from owner-occupied private 
                        residential property, utilities, and 
                        residential infrastructure (such as a 
                        private access route) as necessary for 
                        a safe and sanitary living or 
                        functioning condition.

             VII. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

                                                  October 28, 2005.
Hon. Susan M. Collins,
Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security and Government,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
    Dear Madam Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 939, the Debris 
Removal Act of 2005.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Rachel 
                                               Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

S. 939--Debris Removal Act of 2005

    Under current law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency 
(FEMA) reimburses state and local governments, and owners or 
operators of nonprofit organizations for costs associated with 
removing debris that results from a major disaster. S. 939 
would require FEMA to pay half of the Federal Government's 
share of such costs within 60 days of an applicant's request 
for reimbursement. S. 939 also authorizes FEMA to pay costs 
associated with removing debris from emergency access roads and 
private property.
    Under current law, FEMA has broad authority to remove 
debris from both public and private property. Consequently, CBO 
estimates that implementing S. 939 would not have a significant 
effect on the budget though it could affect the timing of 
payments. CBO also estimates that enacting S. 939 would not 
affect direct spending or revenues.
    S. 939 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Rachel Milberg. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.