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Trump Speeds Federal Reviews, Kills Flood Rule

Thursday, August 17, 2017

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President Donald J. Trump introduced a new executive order Tuesday (Aug. 15), streamlining the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects and effectively overturning Obama administration regulations on building in areas that could be affected by flooding.

President Trump
U.S. Department of Labor

President Donald J. Trump's new executive order seeks to streamline the environmental review and permitting process for new infrastructure projects and rolls back an Obama administration rule on building in flood-prone areas.

The Presidential Executive Order on Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure was issued “to ensure that the federal environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects is coordinated, predictable and transparent,” the document says.

‘One Federal Decision,’ Floodplain Rollback

The order establishes a maximum two-year process for permits and approvals for major projects, and creates a process called “One Federal Decision,” in which one federal agency takes the lead on permitting for a given project, and works with secondary agencies on permit issues.

The new rule also entirely revokes the Executive Order Establishing Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input, signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015. That rule had required that infrastructure projects receiving federal funds, as well as hospitals and schools, be built on higher ground than was previously necessary. It also called for the inclusion of up-to-date climate science in determining floodplains.

© / banksphotos

An executive order issued by President Obama had restricted building near the 100-year floodplain on federally funded projects, but the new order from President Trump nullifies the rule.

Last year, in accordance with the Obama executive order, the Federal Emergency Management Agency proposed rulemaking that would require all new road and other projects that are federally funded to be built at least 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain. Hospitals and schools would be required to be built 3 feet above the 500-year floodplain.

Industry, Policy Response

Some in the building industry responded positively to the new executive order, noting that the move brings down some regulatory barriers.

The American Petroleum Institute says the order will help the oil and gas industry to speed up projects and create jobs.

“We welcome the administration’s action to streamline the regulatory process in developing and transporting our nation’s oil and natural gas resources,” API’s president CEO, Jack Gerard, said in a statement. “It is good for our economy, consumers, and strengthening our national security.”

"NAHB commends President Trump for signing this executive order that rescinds the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, an overreaching environmental rule that needlessly hurt housing affordability,” said Granger McDonald, president of the National Association of Home Builders. “The FFRMS posed unanswered regulatory questions that would force developers to halt projects and raise the cost of housing. This action by President Trump will provide much-needed regulatory relief for the housing community and help American home buyers."

But some expressed worry that the rollback of the flood management rule could have detrimental effects, including a long-term cost to taxpayers.

“We can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods,” former FEMA public affairs director Rafael Lemaitre told Reuters. “And it will."

“The Trump administration’s decision to overturn this is a disaster for taxpayers and the environment,” Eli Lehrer, of the fiscally conservative R Street Institute told The New York Times.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; President Trump; Program/Project Management

Comment from Martin Rose, (8/17/2017, 6:01 AM)

One ASSUMES that State and local zoning ordinances regarding construction in a flood plain remain in effect. Perhaps the author could clarify this issue.

Comment from Andy Mulkerin, (8/17/2017, 3:41 PM)

Hi Martin! That's correct -- any state or local rules remain unaffected by this action. The Obama-era rule created standards that were more strict than what already existed at the federal level. The Trump order reverses that move, and federal regulations on building on the floodplain now revert to the previous standard, created during the Carter administration. Any state or local regulations that are more stringent than the federal rule will still apply. Thanks for reading!

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