Energy & Environment

White House to review floodplain building codes in response to petition

A worker wades through flood water in New York City
Getty images

The White House on Tuesday announced a series of new proposals for climate initiatives, including new building standards for structures in flood-vulnerable areas.

In the fact sheet, the Biden administration announced a comment period for an update to the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) standards for floodplains. The last major update to the standards took place in 1976.

A request for information by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeks information for what updates and revisions are necessary to existing codes; any new requirements would be added to the standards that communities must meet as a condition of federal flood insurance.

“Specifically, FEMA is seeking input from the public on the floodplain management standards that communities should adopt to result in safer, stronger, and more resilient communities,” FEMA said in the request. “Additionally, FEMA seeks input on how the NFIP can better promote protection of and minimize any adverse impact to threatened and endangered species, and their habitats.”

Other provisions in the White House announcement include a redesigned version of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. The updated version incorporates artificial intelligence technology and updates the site’s accessibility features.

The request comes after a petition filed in January by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Association of State Floodplain Managers. NRDC lawyer Joel Scata hailed the announcement in a statement, saying, “With the climate crisis making flooding more frequent and more intense, these building standards must be updated so homes aren’t inundated and ruined on a regular basis.”

“We look forward to working with FEMA to ensure standards are put in place to protect homeowners while reducing their insurance costs,” Scata added.

The announcement comes shortly after Hurricane Ida pounded both the Gulf Coast and the Northeastern U.S. As the remnants of the storm drifted northeast, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said it did at least $50 million in damage to public infrastructure.

A report released Monday by the nonprofit research group First Street Foundation indicated about a quarter of all critical infrastructure in the U.S. is at risk from flooding.

Tags Building America Kathy Hochul
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