SmarterSafer Newsletter November 5, 2009

SMARTERSAFER.ORG is a diverse coalition of groups and organizations dedicated to reforming federal natural catastrophe policies.   With Congress recently extending the National Flood Insurance Program through December 18, this  first “Smart Bites” email newsletter is a special edition focused on that issue.   Later editions will focus on other aspects of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy and promoting public safety.


The Senate extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through December 18, setting up a debate down the road on the long-term future of the program… DHS and HUD have created the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, a collection of over 20 federal agencies and departments dedicated to assisting recovery organizations with their responses to disasters.  The group is looking for input from stakeholders.  Click here for more information.

REFORMING NFIP is out with its ideas for reforming the National Flood Insurance Program.  Click here to read the ideas which include: emphasizing a multi-faceted mitigation strategy, adjusting NFIP rates to reflect the actual risk of living in flood-prone areas and restricting NFIP coverage – including a rebuilding ban – for new construction in high-hazard, environmentally sensitive areas.


How did the National Flood Insurance Program come into existence and why didn’t private flood insurance develop in the United States on a significant scale?  In a paper for the Independent Institute, Eli Lehrer outlines the history of the NFIP and diagnoses its problems.


David Conrad, the National Wildlife Federation’s Senior Water Resources Specialist, lays out the case for reforming NFIP: “Forty years after being established by Congress, the NFIP is essentially bankrupt, drowning in an insurmountable $19 billion dollar debt to the U.S. Treasury. The nation’s annual flood damages are rising precipitously, and taxpayers are continuing to provide large-scale subsidies to develop high-risk, environmentally-sensitive areas that are prone to flooding.  In addition, the effects of global warming, including more powerful and destructive storms and rising seas, are exacerbating the situation.  In its current form, the NFIP is neither on a sustainable nor a desirable course.  Congress and the Obama Administration need to commit to a top-to-bottom review and overhaul of the flood insurance program. This review should include a broad review and overhaul of how we deal with floods, the impact of the changing climate and our management of floodplains to protect public safety and the environment.”


The New York Times explored concerns about the NFIP’s actuarial and fiscal fitness, giving an overview of the challenges facing lawmakers as they contemplate reforms.  Click here to read the story.