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article imageOp-Ed: Trump revoked flood regulations two weeks before Harvey hit

By Karen Graham     Aug 31, 2017 in Environment
Houston - Just two days before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking a set of Obama-era regulations that would have made federally funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.
The Obama-era rules, which had not yet gone into effect,  would have required the government to take into account the risks of flooding and sea level rise due to climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after a disaster.
The rules were part of a national policy consistent with President Obama's Climate Action Plan that resulted in the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (Standard), a flexible framework to increase resilience against flooding and help preserve the natural values of floodplains.
Since 2015, infrastructure projects paid for by federal dollars were required to plan ahead for floods and water damage. But now, with the revocation of the Obama-era regulations, Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and other cities and towns sustaining flood damage from Harvey can rebuild without any planning for future floods.
Vehicles lie abandoned beside the Barker Reservoir after the Army Corp of Engineers started to relea...
Vehicles lie abandoned beside the Barker Reservoir after the Army Corp of Engineers started to release water into the Clodine district as Hurricane Harvey caused heavy flooding in Houston, Texas on August 29, 2017
MARK RALSTON, AFP/File
When President Obama signed the regulations, they were welcomed by conservatives and environmentalists alike as being sensible because they would save taxpayer's money. The whole point of the rules was to ensure public infrastructure projects had plans in place that took into account future floods, including elevating their structures to avoid future water damage.
The cost of rebuilding will be enormous
Experts are already predicting the costs of rebuilding will be enormous, with estimates ranging from $40 billion on up to $75 billion or even more. And in the coming days and weeks, Congress will have to shell out federal dollars to help Texas with its recovery from the devastating storm.
Of course, Trump has said that revoking the regulations would help in making the federal permitting process for the construction of transportation and other infrastructure projects faster and more cost-efficient without harming the environment, according to the Associated Press. “It’s going to be quick, it’s going to be a very streamlined process,” Trump said.
The widespread flooding in Houston shut down several major highways
The widespread flooding in Houston shut down several major highways
Thomas B. Shea, AFP
According to an official White House statement on the revocation, "Obama’s order didn’t consider potential impacts on the economy and was applied broadly to the whole country, leaving little room or flexibility for designers to exercise professional judgment or incorporate the particular context of a project’s location."
So now, the way things stand, the federal government will continue to pay out billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure in the same vulnerable way in the same places that are vulnerable to flooding. In a 2016 report from the Federal Government's Accountability Office, close to $277 billion on relief aid was spent by the federal government from 2005 to 2014 responding to natural disasters like Harvey.
“Had those regulations been finalized for FEMA and HUD, in particular, they would have ensured that all the post-Harvey rebuilding complied with those standards, helping ensure that we built back in a way that was safer,” said Rob Moore, senior policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council.
CC License: Attrition  no deriv.
CC License: Attrition, no deriv.
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Opportunity knocking on Houston's door
The devastation caused by Harvey can also be looked at as an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past. We have the technology and expertise to rebuild in a more environmentally conscious way that would protect people's lives and the economy. Saying something is economically unfeasible is not true when we look at the pictures of a city underwater.
Climate change is not something the survivors of Harvey's flooding are thinking of now, but it will become a big question and be discussed nationwide in a week or so. If we ignore the impacts of global warming, it will be our lives we are putting on the line.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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