Fact check: Did Trump cut flood-proofing regulations?
Verbatem Fact Checking
November 7, 2017
Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, a video by media company ATTN: claimed that the United States “can learn a lot from how the Netherlands prevents floods.” According to text in the video, “Regulations for flood-proof buildings [in the U.S.] have actually been cut.”
Is that accurate? Have regulations for flood-proof buildings in the U.S. been cut?
No. President Donald Trump in August revoked proposed guidelines and standards for construction of federal projects near floodplains. Neither the guidelines nor the standards were issued as regulations by any government agency.
ATTN: produces issue-oriented video content for social media. Its video, “Flood Prevention in America vs. Flood Prevention in the Netherlands,” first features various methods used by the Dutch to prevent flooding, such as floating houses and floodgates. The video then states that, in America, “We’ve got out-of-control flooding,” and, “Regulations for flood-proof buildings have actually been cut.” The video has received more than 14 million views on Facebook.
Between the middle of August and the end of September, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made landfall in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not completed its damage assessments, but various estimates peg insured losses at tens of billions of dollars.
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the federal government obligated at least $277.6 billion in disaster assistance (both emergency relief and mitigation) from 2005 through 2014 across 17 departments and agencies.
Obama’s executive order
The federal government and states administer a variety of flood-related regulations in an effort to mitigate damages from natural disasters.
President Jimmy Carter in 1977 issued Executive Order 11988, which required federal agencies to evaluate flood hazards related to federal projects and avoid to the extent possible any actions that would adversely affect floodplains, such as development.
If there is no alternative to impacting a floodplain, the project had to be constructed above base flood level, defined as the anticipated level of a flood with a one percent or greater chance of occurring in a year.
President Barack Obama amended Carter’s order in 2015 by issuing Executive Order 13690.
Executive Order 13690 established a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The new standard expanded the area considered a floodplain and raised the elevation level for federal projects in floodplains. It also allowed agencies to choose among several methods for delineating the floodplain area. The proposed standard would have applied to projects funded or permitted by the federal government, not those funded privately or by states.
The Obama order also directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to propose for public comment a set of guidelines for agencies to follow in implementing the new standard. The comment period expired in May 2017, but the draft guidelines were never finalized by the Water Resources Council (as directed by President Obama’s executive order). Consequently, no agency implemented the new standard.
Trump’s executive order
President Trump on August 15, 2017, revoked his predecessor’s proposed guidelines and floodplain standard, leaving the pre-existing standard in effect.
Trump’s order states that “[i]nefficiencies in current infrastructure project decisions, including management of environmental reviews and permit decisions or authorizations, have delayed infrastructure investments, increased project costs, and blocked the American people from enjoying improved infrastructure that would benefit our economy, society, and environment.”
A video by media company ATTN: asserts that the United States “can learn a lot from how the Netherlands prevents floods.” Text in the video claims that, in America, “Regulations for flood-proof buildings have actually been cut.”
The claim is false, because the standard was never finalized as a regulation.
Source (all emphasis is mine)
The Holland Story
When roughly 25% of the country of Holland lies below sea level and 70% of its economic output is generated there, then there is talk of significant matter of flooding to consider. Without its complex network of dikes, flood basins and sea defences, Holland would be literally be up the creek without a paddle. Additionally, if the nationwide network of pumping stations failed, within a week the entire country would be under 1 metre (3 feet) of water. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the flood protection systems that guarantee the safety of the lowlands are evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
Bad weather in early 2012 battered the country and severely tested their system. They have had a very long time (roughly a 1,000 years) to develop and refine their response in case of flooding. Dutch citizens, however, are prepared for these sorts of threats and a panoply of preventive measures swung into action, including inflatable dams, storm surge barriers and emergency flood basins.
The problem has always been that in natural disasters like floods response time is set up to take place AFTER the disaster strikes. So Holland’s top people decided to be pro-active and plan for ways to divert or mitigate flooding in a pre-planned program would be preferable. So they are turning to more cutting edge high-tech methods to help them feel more like they are preventing rather than recuperating when disaster strikes.
The Flood Control 2015 program they developed was based on findings from a 2013 pilot program. It was submitted and then integrated so that the dike, the decision-maker, and the environment would provide more advance accuracy in forecasting and decision-supporting systems. They have also begun monitoring things from outer space.
Local businesses and large companies with specialties in this area used their expertise to refine the more modern approach. Their building in flood control locations versus needs, both non-disaster and post disaster, have had to be carefully considered in construction planning, preparation, and completion. Keeping information up-to-date with evolving tech will not just be a one-time discussion but more than likely will be written into their protocol for long-term planning. Yet even that evolves as each new crisis occurs.
Dutch water-management experts are currently providing expertise all over the world, from New Orleans, to St. Petersburg and Jakarta. This work has been taken on by a Dutch consortium of private companies and research institutes (free enterprise at work). The knowledge gained can be applied in a range of other countries and could lead to some very beneficial spin-offs.
In Trump’s EO it states “More efficient and effective Federal infrastructure decisions can transform our economy, so the Federal Government, as a whole, must change the way it processes environmental reviews and authorization decisions.” Which to me doesn’t say more rules upon rules but simply get rid of the overabundance of stalling and stalemates to make sure we DO get the infrastructure improvements necessary to be more safe as well as provide employment. While rules are important having ten or twenty of them when one or two would cover the same process make sno sense.
Just because his wording focuses on employment does not mean that Trump isn’t well aware of the consequences of not completing projects. As a builder, I am sure he is very aware of the madness involved in government work permission. But of course, that is another nasty stalling point liberals don’t choose to focus on. They seem conveniently to forget that turning a faucet on or preventing a dam from breaking ONLY GET DONE if someone does the work and that only happens if the proper government paperwork and repercussions of dealing with the environmentalists is completed. By the time approval has finally been given cost overruns, government red tape, and legal fees have all but a few walking away.
A review by Project Management Research in April 2017 puts its finger on the pressure points of why such projects have not been completed. (including stalling, constant changes for issues, and corruption) Politico and other MSM, of course, don’t want to hear their reasons. They simply want to attribute all to Trump not providing enough nominees fast enough to fill positions. We all know that is NOT the problem. That is the senate’s problem. He has well over 100 nominees for different posts that have not been approved — some as far back as February.
Again a liberal tilted media group has tried to find a way to sling mud on Trump in hopes it creates a furor and sticks.
Try researching all the aspects before reporting. I agree it would be a topic of concern IF we could believe all that we read. Doesn’t appear that it is possible anymore.
It didn’t take long to find the information above that would have been helpful and provide facts for those who are interested and want to learn more in-depth information.
Seems as if this is one more case where false alarms will eventually fall on tone-deaf ears and then what will they do? Write facts, that is a novel idea.