Did HUD Just Restore Obama Federal Flood Rule Nixed by Trump?

February 8, 2018 by

The Trump administration’s stance on climate change became a little less clear this week.

Six months ago, President Donald Trump revoked an Obama-era rule requiring federally funded projects to account for the increased flood risk associated with global warming. Critics charged that Trump’s decision would allow the construction of buildings, roads and other projects that could soon be underwater.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told states how to spend the $7.4 billion in disaster-recovery money Congress approved after Hurricane Harvey. Tucked into the document’s 101 pages is the requirement that any new structures in a floodplain be built well above projected flood levels — virtually the same requirements as those that Trump revoked last August.

HUD also required the states that receive federal disaster money, which include Texas and Florida, to describe how they will “take into account continued sea level rise.”

Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the provisions “unprecedented for this administration.”

“The assumption was that these much-needed federal flood protection standards were dead,” Moore said by email. “All of this is being done without mentioning the words ‘climate change,’ but clearly these are the same types of actions.”

HUD’s decision reflects a reluctance to spend money “on stupid things,” according to Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank. “And building in areas that are almost sure to flood in the near future is really stupid.”

A HUD spokeswoman, Shantae Goodloe, didn’t respond to a request for comment.