With President Obama in New Orleans Today, SmarterSafer.org Says Updating Federal Natural Disaster Policies Must Be Priority

(Washington, DC) – With President Obama visiting New Orleans today, members of SmarterSafer.org – including the National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers and the Competitive Enterprise Institute – issued statements stressing the need to update Federal efforts to manage hurricanes and other natural disasters.  For decades, federal policies have incentivized construction in hurricane-prone, environmentally sensitive areas and have allowed the accelerating degradation of our natural defenses. It’s time to update these policies to emphasize smart mitigation measures that protect the environment, put Americans to work and make current coastal residents safer.

“President Obama understands that features like wetlands, barrier islands and floodplains are our best natural defenses against the inevitable storms of tomorrow.  Katrina was a costly lesson that we must never forget.  We will work with the President to align federal policies and investments with these ‘green’ approaches to better protect New Orleans and communities throughout the nation, and to reform policies which subsidize environmentally unsound and financial risky conduct.” said Andrew Fahlund, Vice President for Conservation at American Rivers.

“Recent experiences of powerful and destructive Gulf Coast and Atlantic hurricanes and other major storms and droughts elsewhere in the nation are a wake-up call to the dangers of global warming and the need for action to protect our communities, including strengthening of land use and building controls to reduce risk, and restoring coastal and other wetlands and ecosystems that buffer the impacts of nature’s extremes.  We urge President Obama to make a priority of restoring critical coastal wetlands, working with communities to mitigate their risks and vulnerabilities, and to eliminate certain subsidies that promote building in high risk and environmentally sensitive areas,” said David Conrad, Senior Water Resources Specialist for the National Wildlife Federation.

“Almost four years after Katrina, much work remains to be done in New Orleans. President Obama is acutely aware of the city’s problems and I look forward to him using his trip to lay out an agenda for mitigation, wiser environmental protection and reform of current programs that increase moral hazard, increase the risk of financial bailouts, and encourage Americans to put their families in harms’ way. What happened during Katrina should never happen again and, to keep the city safe, the federal government must take bold action,” said Eli Lehrer, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

SmarterSafer.org – formerly known as Americans for Smart Natural Catastrophe Policy – is a national coalition made up of a diverse set of voices united to support environmentally-responsible, fiscally-sound approaches that promote public safety. The Coalition strongly opposes legislative proposals that encourage people to build homes in hurricane-prone, environmentally-sensitive areas by creating new programs that directly or indirectly subsidize their homeowner’s insurance.