Senate Vote to Roll Back Flood Insurance Reform Increases Climate Risk, Taxpayer Burdens

Statement by Rachel Cleetus

Published Mar 14, 2014 Updated Aug 14, 2014

WASHINGTON (March 14, 2014) – The Senate late yesterday passed a bill by a 72-22 vote that would roll back flood insurance reforms, leaving taxpayers on the hook for increased costs from sea-level rise, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist in UCS’s Climate and Energy Program:

“Congress could have helped fix our increasingly costly coastal flood insurance system, but they buried their heads in the sand, instead. Rolling back flood insurance reforms does nothing to address the underlying risks and costs we face on our coasts as sea levels rise and development increases. It’s unfortunate that this vote came just two days after so many members stayed up through the night to talk about the pressing need to address climate change. This bill is a set-back when it comes to preparing for climate change and it will hurt taxpayers.

“We need to do better. There are a variety of sensible ways to reform flood insurance that would account for the increased costs of climate change and help protect people against rising seas.

“What’s next? President Obama has proposed a $1 billion resilience fund in his budget. If Congress fully funded it, some of those funds could be used to protect coastal communities and reduce the need for costly bailouts in the future.

“Longer-term, we need a real debate about how we prepare for and pay for damage from climate change. The status quo is leaving communities on the frontlines at risk and burdening taxpayers with the costs. On ozone, acid rain, asbestos and tobacco, we’ve required companies to take responsibility for the health and environmental damage their industries have caused. We’re not there yet on climate, but as the effects of climate change mount, more and more people may realize that they’re paying for damage that originates with our dependence on fossil fuels. Putting a price on carbon and using the revenue to protect our communities and reduce emissions is the most obvious and sensible thing to do.”