Trump to roll back Obama-era rule on rising sea levels
President Trump is set to repeal an Obama-era order requiring tougher new building standards for government-funded infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas, including those at risk of rising sea levels brought on by climate change.
Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday that will, in part, repeal a 2015 directive from then-President Barack Obama that established that it was a federal policy to “improve the resilience of communities and federal assets against the impacts of flooding,” which are “anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats.”
Trump will revoke the order on Tuesday as part of an effort to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects, a White House official said.
The official called it a “small part” of Trump’s order, which will not block states from expanding their own building standards for infrastructure projects.
The flooding order was one of several Obama administration climate actions that Trump considered repealing in an expansive roll-back he signed in March. But the flooding measure was left off of the final list of nixed orders.
Floodplain officials generally supported Obama’s order when he signed it in 2015.
The order specifically outlines three ways for agencies to site, design and build flood-resilient infrastructure projects. One provision requires most public projects be built at least 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation, with critical buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers built 3 feet above that level.
The Obama administration said the new standards were necessary because of sea level rise associated with climate change.
Democrats and environmentalists on Tuesday sharply criticized the decision to pull back the order.
“Rescinding this executive order would roll back the most significant action taken in a generation to protect our infrastructure from the most common and costly damage we see in America,” said Rafael Lemaitre, the public affairs director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under Obama.
“Eliminating this requirement is self-defeating – we can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods. And it will.”
Melanie Zanona contributed. Updated at 2:14 p.m.
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