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Flood Standard Should Be Reinstated ASAP to Protect Residents & Taxpayers

LETTER: State AGs call for Congress to reinstate the Flood Standard that President Trump terminated two weeks before Harvey hit Houston

October 17, 2017
Contact: stateimpactcenter@nyu.edu

Washington, DC – David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Impact Center at NYU School of Law and former Interior Deputy Secretary, released the following statement after state attorneys general from New York, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland and the District of Columbia sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which the Trump Administration terminated two weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston:

“The Trump Administration should heed the warnings of state attorneys general and push to reinstate the Flood Standard that communities need now more than ever to protect residents and taxpayers. Opportunities for including Flood Standard language in disaster relief legislation have come and gone. Further delays are unacceptable. In the absence of Presidential leadership, Congress should act now to ensure that federal dollars are spent wisely, and with devastated communities’ long-term interests in mind. Willfully ignoring the increased risks associated with more frequent and severe, climate-aggravated storm events is both fiscally and morally unacceptable.” 


President Obama ordered development of the Federal Flood Standard in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to ensure that rebuilding activities take into account the increased risks associated with more frequent and severe, climate-aggravated storm events. The science and engineering community responded to the President’s call, developing a strong science- and experientially- based record that supports a modern, resilient Federal Flood Standard. 

Scientists, engineers and the public were in the final stages of codifying the Standard and providing clear guidance for federal reconstruction efforts when President Trump improvidently and without justification overturned the Federal Flood Standard – only two weeks before Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston.

Unfortunately, the Administration terminated the flood risk evaluation effort when it was needed most. Congress is now appropriating tens of billions of dollars to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. And they are preparing to do so based on 40-year-old guidance that does not incorporate climate science or the tough lessons learned during recent disasters. 

As the attorneys general explain in their letter, Congress needs to step into the breach and codify an updated Federal Flood Standard. It is the only fiscally responsible course of action. As they explain, it is common sense that “all federal agencies consider the same future risks” and deploy the “same actionable, scientific information that the U.S. military uses to evaluate and address foreseeable risks when deploying federal investments.”

ABOUT THE STATE IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.