Residents use boats to evacuate flood waters along Tidwell Road in east Houston, 26 August 2017. Photo: Adrees Latif / REUTERS

By Eliza Relman
28 August 2017

(Business Insider) – Just 10 days before Hurricane Harvey descended upon Texas on Friday, wreaking havoc and widespread flooding, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking a set of regulations that would have made federally-funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.

The Obama-era rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required the federal government to take into account the risk of flooding and sea-level rise as a result of climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after disasters.

Experts are predicting Harvey — the most powerful storm to hit the US since 2004 — will cost Texas between $30 billion and $100 billion in damage.

And in the coming days, Congress will be called upon to send billions of federal dollars to help with the state's recovery and rebuilding efforts.

But because of Trump's rollback of Obama's Federal Flood Risk Management Standards, experts across the political spectrum say much of the federal money sent to Texas will likely be wasted on construction that will be insufficiently protected from the next storm.

"We will rebuild things that should not be rebuilt and … in ways that are less safe and secure than they should be," Eli Lehrer, president of the DC free-market think tank R Street Institute, told Business Insider.

Shana Udvardy, a climate preparedness specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said it would be a "grave mistake" to rebuild in Texas without taking into consideration the increasing occurrence and severity of major storms. She added that the federal government will lag behind some 600 towns and cities that have already implemented requirements to build between one and three feet above the 100-year flood level.

Lehrer called Trump's decision to revoke the standards "the biggest step backwards that has ever been taken in flood management policy" and said the move will waste untold amounts of taxpayer money, harm the environment, and cost lives. […]

"This executive order is not fiscally conservative," Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, said in a statement. "It's irresponsible and it will lead to taxpayer dollars being wasted on projects that may not be built to endure the flooding we are already seeing and know is only going to get worse." [more]

Trump reversed regulations to protect infrastructure against flooding just days before Hurricane Harvey

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