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By Matthew Burns from WRAL

Washington — Gov. Roy Cooper urged Congress on Wednesday to take a more active role in battling climate change.

Speaking to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, Cooper recounted North Carolina’s recent history with so-called 500-year floods. The state has seen three of them in less than 20 years in Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence last fall.

Florence caused $17 billion in damage, much of it in the same areas devastated by Matthew two years earlier. State and federal agencies have already approved more than $1 billion in recovery grants and loans.

“When storms are becoming more destructive, it’s not enough to pick up the pieces. We must take action to prevent this kind of devastation in the future,” Cooper said. “I urge this Congress and all our federal partners to match the same level of determination brought to disaster recovery in our fight to reduce the effects of climate change.”

He cited his executive order last fall that North Carolina slash its greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025 and his decision two years ago to support the Paris climate accord.

“While local and state action is critical, federal partners must join us in taking action to protect our people from the growing harm of climate change,” he said. “We need federal legislation and regulations that promote emission reductions and the preservation of forests, marshes, barrier islands and other natural infrastructure that protect communities from the worsening effects of storms. We need federal leadership to work with global partners to fulfill and strengthen international agreements. We need consistent federal action that meets the urgency of our global climate problem.”

Along with Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, he fielded questions from committee members on a range of issues, including offshore drilling, a priority of President Donald Trump’s administration. Both Cooper and Baker said their states don’t support it due to their tourism industries and fisheries.

“Not off our coast,” Cooper said. “We cannot tolerate a disaster of epic proportions, which could occur.”

When asked about the impact of climate change on rural communities, he said farmers have been hit hard by its effects.

“Many of them, hit by flood after flood, storm after storm, are now beginning to make the decision, ‘This is just not worth it. It’s not worth it to be in this business,'” he said. “That should be a frightening result, not only for [North Carolina], but for the rest of the country and the world.”

Before he left for Washington, Cooper told reporters in Raleigh on Tuesday that he thinks President Donald Trump’s administration is headed in the wrong direction on climate change, especially by pulling out of the Paris accord. He also doesn’t approve of Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.

“We need to get [Congress] to work with the president to make some changes in what is happening at the federal level,” Cooper said. “This ignoring of climate change is going to be catastrophic for our country.”

The governor also planned to meet in Washington with federal officials about Florence relief funds and continuing recovery needs for Matthew as well. The partial federal government shutdown slowed down the release of those disaster funds, but the process is now getting back on track.

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