Inside America’s biased flood program- POLITICO

FLOOD FAULTS — One of the federal government’s main tools to help homeowners adapt to climate change is riddled with inequities.

Homeowners in white or wealthy communities take the lion’s share of FEMA grants in most states to raise their homes flood-proof, Tom Frank finds in an investigation for POLITICO’s E&E News.

It is not surprising, but it is austere and indisputable.

Policies established by Congress, FEMA and state officials over three decades that limit grants to people who own homes and can pay costs not covered by the agency have made it nearly impossible for people who are black or Hispanics, or who have limited income, from getting money for federal elevation in most states, E&E News found.

There are 18 states that have received at least $5 million from FEMA to raise homes. In 12 of them, more than half the money went to predominantly white or affluent communities — defined as more than 90% of the population being non-Hispanic white or having a median household income above $100,000. .

FEMA Elevation Grants, worth up to $550,000, are the triple crown of flood mitigation. They increase the value of a home, protect it from flooding and destruction, and save tens of thousands of dollars in insurance costs. FEMA itself is bragging that an elevation project “increases the value of your property”.

Example: Eleven of the 62 homes FEMA has helped raise in Old Greenwich, Fairfield, and Westport, Connecticut, since the mid-2010s have been sold. Average sale price: $1.7 million.

“It was a godsend,” said David Harmuth, an estate agent in Old Greenwich. “For the owner, it was free money to raise his house.”

Some states, such as North Carolina and Virginia, reduce inequality by helping to pay for the portion of expenses not covered by FEMA.

But most of the money has gone to whiter, wealthier communities that can better afford to hire a consultant or staff to write the grant applications. Take Scituate, Mass., which is 95% white, has a median household income of $128,864 and received nearly two-thirds of the state’s $9.4 million in FEMA elevation funds.

The fact that Scituate has a full-time Coastal Resilience employee helps “make it impossible for low-income communities to compete,” said Sarah Murdockformer member of the Scituate Coastal Advisory Commission and head of climate resilience at the Nature Conservancy.

FEMA is well aware of the disparities in its grantmaking process. The agency said last year it would begin prioritizing the most “socially vulnerable” areas in one of its two flood grant programs, and launched an “equity-based review” of all of its grant programs.

“I don’t disagree with what you’re doing,” said FEMA’s acting associate administrator for resilience. David Maurstad said Tom in an interview. “Do we need to see different results? I think the answer is yes.

Oh, one more thing: The program is not even that effective. FEMA has spent a total of $2 billion to raise 14,400 flood-prone homes since the early 1990s. Experts say that’s not a great use of the money, particularly because it means less Funding is available for projects that protect entire communities, such as installing large pumps and tunnels for flood protection and wetland rehabilitation. Studies show that these are more effective in preventing damage.

“If your only measure is to reduce flood damage, you are wasting money,” said Caroline Kouskyexecutive director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading flood risk expert.

Learn more about Tom here.

THE CLIMATE WINS — Shareholders of the two largest U.S. oil and gas companies approved the emissions-related proposals on Wednesday, Mike Lee and Carlos Anchondo report for POLITICO’s E&E News.

The shareholders of Exxon Mobil Corp. voted 52% to 48% in favor of a proposal to examine the company’s long-term assumptions about pricing and other business criteria, in light of the need to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming .

At Chevron Corp., the owners of 98% of the shares approved a resolution to report on the reliability of the company’s measurements of methane, a heat-trapping gas.

More Mike and Carlos here.

AGRICULTURE IS HOT IN DAVOS — Agriculture and the value of land were hot topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week due to concerns over inflation, war and sustainability.

Bloomberg reports“I have been in Davos for many years and I think never before has the importance of the farmer in the food supply chain been so appreciated,” Cargill CEO David MacLennan said during the talk. a conference panel.

Of course, it’s the boss of Cargill who says so. But MacLennan gave a nod to climate-smart agriculture, or the buzzword “regenerative agriculture,” and said younger consumers would pay more for food with a transparent supply chain.

“Your soil is an asset,” he said, noting its ability to sequester carbon in addition to producing food. “We need to be more aware of how we protect it? How can we use it as an asset and think of it as we think of a financial asset? »

OK, GENERATION Z — The young jet set doesn’t know who Al Gore is, our notes from Ryan Heath.

Heard in a midtown Manhattan cafe: “I gotta do some personal, like, that thing with Al Gore.” A dramatic pause ensues as the other person explains over the phone. “Oh, I thought he was like a scientist I didn’t need to worry about.”

Debra wasn’t in Davos this week, but she was in the Loire Valley, where she heard talk of climate change possibly forcing France to adjust its notoriously rigid wine appellations. However, it detected no change in the quality of the Cab Franc.

Team Sustainability is editor Greg WordAssociate Editor Debra Kahnand journalists Lorraine Woellert and Jordan Wolfman. contact us at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

Want more? You can have it. Sign up for the long game. Four days a week and always free. It’s sustainability!

– Los Angeles transportation officials scrapped a decades-old plan to extend highway 710recognizing the need to find ways to reduce traffic congestion without adding lanes to existing highways. The LA Times has details.

— Projects for the construction of a Great Green Wall in Africa to contain the advance of the Sahara desert have come up against barriers of another nature, political and financial. The Associated Press has the story.

– Ford Motor Co. claims a small victory in its fight to claim the electric vehicle market, beating rivals Tesla Inc. and Rivian Automotive Inc. by selling a Battery powered F-150 Lightning to a customer who has committed to buy from whoever could deliver first. Bloomberg has more.

— McDonald’s shareholders rejected billionaire Carl Icahn’s plan for processing its beef on the company’s pork supply chain, Wall Street Journal reports.

Events are listed in Eastern Time

May 31st – The Washington International Trade Association holds a virtual chat on “Russia Sanctions and the New Disorder of World Trade”. 10am

May 31st – Washington Post Live is holding a virtual discussion on inflation and antitrust with former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. 11 a.m.

June 1 – The Woodrow Wilson Center Environmental Change and Safety Program is Hosting a Virtual Discussion on “Opportunities and Risks: Mining and the Green Energy Transition”. 3:30 p.m.

June 2 — The Paulson Institute holds a forum on carbon capture, storage and use. 8am

June 2 – The Treasury Department holds a virtual meeting of the Federal Insurance Advisory Committee to discuss topics related to climate-related financial risks and the insurance industry. 12 p.m.

June 2 – The Institute for Environmental and Energy Studies is hosting a virtual information session on “Building Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure” as part of the “Scaling Up Innovation to Drive Down Emissions.” 1 p.m.

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