Climate & Environment

Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming
Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.
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76 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
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U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy
A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end. The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.
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Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.
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Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country’
The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources. And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from President Trump to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.

The congressionally mandated document — the first of its kind issued during the Trump administration — details how climate-fueled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming.
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Oceans Are Warming Faster Than Predicted
Earth’s seas are absorbing excess heat 40 percent faster than previous estimates

Up to 90 percent of the warming caused by human carbon emissions is absorbed by the world’s oceans, scientists estimate. And researchers increasingly agree that the oceans are warming faster than previously thought. Multiple studies in the past few years have found that previous estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may be too low. A new review of the research, published yesterday in Science, concludes that “multiple lines of evidence from four independent groups thus now suggest a stronger observed [ocean heat content] warming.”

Taken together, the research suggests that the oceans are heating up about 40 percent faster than previously estimated by the IPCC. Since the 1950s, studies generally suggest that the oceans have been absorbing at least 10 times as much energy annually, measured in joules, as humans consume worldwide in a year.
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Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds
Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.
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The oceans are warming faster than we thought, and scientists suggest we brace for impact

The oceans are warming faster than climate reports have suggested, according to a new synthesis of temperature observations published this week. The most recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made what turned out to be a very conservative estimate of rise in ocean temperature, and scientists are advising us to adjust our expectations.

“The numbers are coming in 40 to 50 percent [warmer] than the last IPCC report,” said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and an author on the report, published in Science Magazine on Thursday. Furthermore, Trenberth said, “2018 will be the warmest year on record in the oceans” as 2017 was and 2016 before that. Oceans cover 70 percent of the globe and absorb 93 percent of the planet’s extra heat from climate change. They are responsible for spawning disasters like hurricanes Florence and Maria and generating torrential rainfall via meteorological processes with names like “atmospheric river” and “Pineapple Express.”
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Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s, new research finds
Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades thanks to an influx of warm ocean water a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted in coming decades. The Antarctic lost 40 billion tons of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989. That figure rose to 252 billion tons lost per year beginning in 2009, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means the region is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements. (It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.)
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It’s Official: 2018 Was the Fourth Warmest Year on Record
NASA scientists announced Wednesday that the Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in nearly 140 years of record-keeping and a continuation of an unmistakable warming trend. The data means that the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001. The quickly rising temperatures over the past two decades cap a much longer warming trend documented by researchers and correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the NASA group that conducted the analysis. “It’s here. It’s now.” While this planet has seen hotter days in prehistoric times, and colder ones in the modern era, what sets recent warming apart in the sweep of geologic time is the relatively sudden rise in temperatures and its clear correlation with increasing levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane produced by human activity.
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2018 was fourth-hottest year on record, NASA says
World data shows “global warming shows no sign of slowing down or stopping.”
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Today’s Earth looks a lot like it did 115,000 years ago. All we’re missing is massive sea level rise.
New research suggests the planet is already paralleling the most recent major warm period in its past. Now the only question is how fast Antarctica could collapse.
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Ruined crops, salty soil: How rising seas are poisoning North Carolina’s farmland
The salty patches were small, at first — scattered spots where soybeans wouldn’t grow, where grass withered and died, exposing expanses of bare, brown earth. But lately those barren patches have grown. On dry days, the salt precipitates out of the mud and the crystals make the soil sparkle in the sunlight. And on a damp and chilly afternoon in January, the salt makes Dawson Pugh furrow his brow in dismay. “It’s been getting worse,” the farmer tells East Carolina University hydrologist Alex Manda, who drove out to this corner of coastal North Carolina with a group of graduate students to figure out what’s poisoning Pugh’s land — and whether anything can be done to stop it. Of climate change’s many plagues — drought, insects, fires, floods — saltwater intrusion in particular sounds almost like a biblical curse. Rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren. A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that 9 percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm. Scientists are just beginning to assess the potential effect on agriculture, Manda said, and it’s not yet clear how much can be mitigated. “We spend a lot of time and money to try to prevent salt,” Pugh says. “I worry what the future is. If it keeps getting worse, will it be worth farming?” If farmers in coastal areas have any hope of protecting their land — and their livelihoods — the first step is to disentangle the complex web of causes that can send ocean water seeping into the ground beneath their feet. Though it’s known that saltwater intrusion is linked to sea-level rise caused by climate change, scientists aren’t certain exactly how salt winds up in farmers’ fields. One hypothesis is that strong winds may blow salt water from the sound into the canals and ditches that crisscross the county, which then leak into the soil. Another possibility is that the salt was left behind by storm-surge events and simply takes a long time to wash away. Or maybe the problem goes even deeper. Scientists are increasingly concerned that rising sea levels are shifting the “zone of transition” — the underground gradient where fresh groundwater meets salty seawater. This issue may be compounded by the slow sinking of North Carolina’s coastal plain since the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago.
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Development Fees

Review of Development Fees Timeline

Previously reported – February 2018

North Carolina General Assembly – House Bill 1730 / S.L. 2004-96
Enacted on 07/13/2004
Gives us the authority to impose sewer fees
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Holden Beach Sewer Treatment Fee
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House Bill 436 / Public Water and Sewer System Development Fee Act
Enacted on 07/20/2017
Eliminates the authority to charge the sewer fee
Authority to impose fees has been modified
Necessitates us having to retool water and sewer fee rate schedule
Recommends it be prepared by licensed professional engineer
Town must comply not later than July 1, 2018
Town Manager plans to commission McGill and Associates to develop rate schedule
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Previously reported – April 2018
McGill and Associates has prepared the System Development Fees Report for the Town. The report was posted to our website on March 26th and written comments were solicited. The report must be posted for at least 45 days.

In accordance with §162A-209, after expiration of the posting period, the Board needs to hold a public hearing prior to considering the adoption of the analysis. We recommend the Board schedule the public hearing for May 14th.

System Development Fees Report
Click here to view the System Development Fees Report prepared by McGill and Associates in accordance with HB 436. Written comments on the report may be sent to Comments will also be accepted by mail at Town of Holden Beach, Attn: Heather Finnell, 110 Rothschild Street, Holden Beach, NC 28462. The Board will schedule a public hearing prior to considering the adoption of the analysis. Information on the public hearing date will be provided when available.

Previously reported – May 2018
In accordance with §162A-209, after expiration of the posting period, the Board needs to hold a public hearing prior to considering the adoption of the analysis. The Board has scheduled to hold a Public Hearing on May 23rd at 1:00pm

Notice of Public Hearing
The Board of Commissioners of the Town of Holden Beach will hold a Public Hearing on May 23, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. or shortly thereafter in the Town Hall Public Assembly, 110 Rothschild Street, Holden Beach, NC 28462 to hear a presentation on the study of System Development Fees that could be levied by the Town. This hearing, the study and the presentation are in accordance with NC Administrative Code 15A NCAC 18C.0409 and 15A NCAC 02T.011. McGill Associates will present the study results which is posted on our website. Click here to view the study. All interested people are invited to attend.

Previously reported – June 2018
Agenda Packet –
Legislation House Bill 436 required a Public Hearing as one of the steps that must happen before the Town can move forward and implement the charges. HB436 is prescriptive, with precise instructions and the report given is in accordance with the legislation. The next steps are adoption of the study report and creating Ordinance that incorporates the recommended fees into a fee schedule. This process must be completed no later than July 1st. We are required to review the fee schedule and must reevaluate it in a maximum five-year timeframe.


Fee Schedule / Water and Sewer System Development Fees

  1. Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) Capacity Fees- based on a three-bedroom single family dwelling, NC Administrative Code 15A NCAC 18C.000409 & 15A NCAC 02T.0114 and McGill Associates Cost Justified Water and Wastewater System Development Fees Report Capacity dated March 2018.
    . a. Water Capacity Fee = $5,792 ($14.48 per gallon per day)
    . b.Sewer Capacity Fee= $14,785 ($41.07 per gallon per day)
  1. Residential capacities above/below the rated three-bedroom ERU in para 1 above shall be calculated and fees assessed on a pro rata per bedroom basis using the applicable Administrative code and the McGill Report as guide.
  1. Vacant lots that have never been connected to the Town’s sewer system will be credited in an amount equal to the sewer capacity fee for one ERU (3 bedrooms); however, no credit shall be provided for said vacant lots that have not paid sewer share fees to the Town of Holden Beach as previously authorized by Town of Holden Beach Ordinance 02·13 dated 10-14-02 “Chapter 52-04-Share Fees”
  1. Vacant lots that have been previously connected to the Town’s water and sewer systems and are being redeveloped will be credited in an amount equal to the prorated amount of water and sewer capacity fees in para 1 above per bedroom based on the actual number of bedrooms previously connected. The Town of Holden Beach Building Inspector may use any and all public information available to ascertain the number of bedrooms to use for the credit.
  1. Water and sewer service capacity requirements (gallons per day) for other than residential dwellings shall be determined in accordance with the applicable NC Administrative Code referenced above and fees calculated as follows:
    a. Water Capacity Fee= Required gallons per day multiplied by $14.48 per
    . b.
    Sewer Capacity Fee= Required gallons per day multiplied by $41.07 per gallon.
    . c.
    Fee calculations for water and sewer capacity fees based on changes in uses of a property that cause capacity usage changes will provide for determining a credit for the existing use water and sewer capacity charges against the new uses’ water and sewer capacity requirements as established by the NC Administrative Code referenced above.
  2. Sewer Capacity charges and credits shall be calculated and collected at the time a building permit is applied for.


WHEREAS, Session law 2017-138 (House Bill 436) known as the “Public Water and Sewer System Development Fee Act” sets certain standards and limitations before a town may adopt a system development fee for water and sewer service; and

WHEREAS, said Act requires that a system development fee be established only after written analysis prepared by a qualified financial professional or qualified licensed professional engineer in a manner as set forth in said Act; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Holden Beach has retained McGill Associates, a qualified and licensed professional engineer and consulting firm, to perform said analysis in accordance with said Act; and

WHEREAS, McGill Associates has performed said analysis and delivered a written report to the

Town of Holden Beach pursuant to said Act; and

WHEREAS, the Audit Committee of the Town of Holden Beach has reviewed the report and had no comment other than it appeared to be accomplished in accordance with the Act; and

WHEREAS, the analysis has been posted on the Town’s website as required in said Act and a public hearing has been held as required in said Act; and

WHEREAS, all other conditions, standards and requirements of said Act has been satisfied.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLIVED by the Holden Beach Board of Commissioners that the Town hereby adopts and approves the Cost-Justified Water and Wastewater System Development Fees Report created by McGill Associates, dated March 2018.
A decision was made – Approved unanimously


WHEREAS. the Town of Holden Beach Board of Commissioners adopted the Cost-Justified Water and Wastewater System Development Fees Report created by McGill Associates, dated March 2018; and

WHEREAS, the Holden Beach Fee Schedule needs to be updated to reflect the recommendations in the Report.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners of the Town of Holden Beach, North Carolina does hereby approve the deletion of the Impact Fees and the Share Cost sections and the addition of the Water and Sewer System Development Fees (Attachment 1) to the Holden Beach Fee Schedule.
A decision was made – Approved unanimously

Previously reported – July 2018

Fee is based on combination of existing system capacity and planned capital improvements to expand capacity

An unintended consequence of System Development Fee adopted in June
Seven (7) bedroom permit was $10,000 now costs $30,000 a difference of $20,000
. • Five (5) bedroom permit was $7,000 now costs $21,000 a difference of $14,000

That’s a whapping 300% increase which will negatively impact new construction on the island. By comparison, Ocean Isle Beach had a minor increase since their system is older and already paid for. I’d expect to see both the General Contractors and the Realtors up in arms. Unchanged we will have significantly reduced the future revenue stream from new construction from both our Ad Valorem and Occupancy taxes. Really don’t see how the Board doesn’t have to reevaluate the fee schedule.

Town Attorney Noel Fox walked them through the prescriptive legislation and all the protocols that were followed which was a lengthy and complicated procedure. Most of the community including contractors and realtors were unaware of the significant fee increase. Based on what was presented to the public, a reasonable case could be made that posting System Development Fees without any explanation given as to the effect on construction cost is why no one questioned the report or even knew the building permit fees would be impacted. Although the process was followed as required, they are now aware that people who needed to know didn’t. Thus, the brouhaha. In an attempt to address any misunderstanding, the Board submitted some thirty (30) questions for the Town Manager to complete and post on the Town website. It appears that they are at least willing to give it a second look. They were elected, and it is strictly their call whether to make an adjustment or not. I got the feeling that the Board took umbrage to some of the comments that were made, particularly a lack of understating what the fee schedule change would actually translate to in dollars and cents. In addition, they questioned the negative economic impact that was suggested by some of the speakers. If in fact they decide to reduce the development fee it was established that they can’t make it retroactive.


This Board –
. 1)
chose to implement the max recommended fee schedule
. 2)
did not adequately consider whether the increased fee would “unduly burden new development”

Previously reported – August 2018
Water and Sewer System Development Fee
The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 436 in July 2017, amending Chapter 162A of the General Statutes by adding “Article 8, System Development Fees.” This amendment was enacted as “An Act to Provide for Uniform Authority to Implement System Development Fees for Public Water and Sewer Systems in North Carolina and to Clarify the Applicable Statute of Limitations.” in HB436, which requires compliance with designated calculation methodology by July 1, 2018.

In response to the House Bill 436, the Town of Holden Beach retained McGill and Associates to complete a system development fee analysis. Based on the Town of Holden Beach’s combination of existing system capacity and planned capital improvements to expand capacity, the development fee, in accordance with HB 436 rules for an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) for water and sewer was calculated to be $20,577. ERU is defined as the water and sewer capacities required to serve the most typical user type, which is a three-bedroom single-family dwelling.

McGill Associates has calculated costs for water and wastewater capacity on a per gallon per day basis for the Town of Holden Beach. This calculation was performed using the Combined Method to account for the Town’s combination of existing capacity and planned future capacity expansion through capital expenditure. This calculation resulted in a development fee of $20,577 for an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). ERU is defined as the water and sewer capacities required to serve the most typical user type, which is a three-bedroom single-family dwelling. The fee for other types of development can be calculated by applying the calculated the cost of capacity per gallon of flow per day to the water and wastewater demands for various uses as defined by NC Administrative Code 15A NCAC 18C .0409 and 15A NCAC 02T.0114. Using NC Administrative Code 15A NCAC 18C.0409 and 15A NCAC 02T.0114 ensures that the same standard used to plan, design, construct and finance capital assets is applied as the same cost recovery basis to be applied to new development.

The Town may elect to charge less than the cost-justified System Development Fee documented in this report. Any adjustment must be calculated on a cost per unit volume basis, meaning the same cost per gallon adjustment must be applied equally to all customers.

Repeal the Board’s Previous Vote on Implementation of the Water and Sewer Development Fees

They repealed and replaced the development fee schedule
. 1)
Repealed Resolution 18-05
. 2)
Replaced with the following interim fee schedule:
Water Capacity Fee is $100 per bedroom
Sewer Capacity Fee is $2,700 per bedroom

A five (5) bedroom in the sewer fee schedule before June 30th was $13,125
A five (5) bedroom in the new interim sewer fee schedule after June 30th is $13,500
A five (5) bedroom in both the old and the new interim water fee schedule is $500
Total cost of $14,000 vs. $13,625, approximately what the fees were before July 1st

For those property owners that already paid their sewer share fee they will get a credit of $2,700 per bedroom up to and including a five-bedroom house; additional bedrooms will be assessed at $2,700 per bedroom

This is an interim fee schedule until they have an opportunity to reevaluate the situation

A decision was made – Approved (3-2)
Vote was three (3) to two (2), no surprise there
Mayor Pro Tem Sullivan and Commissioner Kwiatkowski both voted against the motion

Previously reported – October 2018
Discussion of Activities and Timelines to Re-conduct the Determination of Maximum Sewer and Water System Development Fees and Subsequently Set “Permanent Fees Before the End of 2018 – Commissioner Kwiatkowski

All Pat said is that the interim rates would remain in effect for the next ninety (90) days which takes us into 2019.

No discussion of activities, timelines, or variables being considered were shared with the public.

Previously reported – February 2019


This was supposed to be an interim fee schedule
They committed to permanent fees before the end of 2018
Then they said the interim fees would remain in effect for the next ninety (90) days
Well both of those dates have come and gone
A permanent fee schedule has yet to be adopted



Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. It does so by providing affordable insurance to property owners and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. These efforts help mitigate the effects of flooding on new and improved structures. Overall, the program reduces the socio-economic impact of disasters by promoting the purchase and retention of general risk insurance, but also of flood insurance, specifically.
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Previously reported – December 2018
National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization
Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On May 31, 2019, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to June 14, 2019. Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP by no later than 11:59 pm on June 14, 2019.

FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the flood insurance contracts in place with NFIP policyholders. Should the NFIP’s authorization lapse, FEMA would still have authority to ensure the payment of valid claims with available funds. However, FEMA would stop selling and renewing policies for millions of properties in communities across the nation. Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors estimates that a lapse might impact approximately 40,000 home sale closings per month.

NFIP reauthorization is an opportunity for Congress to take bold steps to reduce the complexity of the program and strengthen the NFIP’s financial framework so that the program can continue helping individuals and communities take the critical step of securing flood insurance. The level of damage from the 2017 hurricanes makes it abundantly clear that FEMA needs a holistic plan to ready the Nation for managing the cost of catastrophic flooding under the NFIP.
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Previously reported – February 2019
Private Flood Insurance Gets Boost from Regulators
Flood insurance policies not backed by the government currently represent less than 5% of the residential market
The number of flood insurance policies underwritten by private companies could triple under a new federal rule that would require mortgage lenders to accept both private and government-backed policies.

The rule, approved by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency late last week, is aimed at boosting the availability of private flood insurance in flood zones, a market dominated by a multibillion-dollar government program. It could usher in private flood insurance for hundreds of thousands of residential properties in those areas, according to government estimates. “This ruling has the potential to open up the private insurance market,” said Michael Barry, a spokesman at the industry-funded Insurance Information Institute. He said the effect was likely to be concentrated in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, where most of the nation’s flood insurance policies are held.

The private-sector insurance industry historically has been reluctant to write flood insurance because of the potential for large losses, but interest has grown in recent years with the improvement of mapping and modeling technologies. Private flood insurance policies currently represent less than 5% of the residential market, according to government and academic research. Most private flood insurance is for commercial and more expensive residential properties that need coverage above the federal program’s $250,000 limit.

The public program had more than five million policies outstanding and $1.3 trillion in potential claims as of July 2018. It is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “If the private market can take care of it, that’s just more sustainable for taxpayers and for society in general,” said R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a libertarian policy organization that has argued for shrinking the government flood insurance program.

The regulation is set to go into effect in July, as the next hurricane season gets under way. It stems from a provision in a 2012 flood insurance law that sought to partially address financial pressures on the government’s flood insurance program, which is deeply in debt from record disaster payouts in recent years and limitations on its ability to increase premiums.

Congress has for years debated how to fix the National Flood Insurance Program, created about 50 years ago because private insurers were unwilling to risk catastrophic flood losses. Lawmakers, divided based on the prevalence of floods in their districts, have approved only partial solutions such as premium increases or debt forgiveness for the government program. The government, for instance, wrote off $16 billion in debt for the federal program in 2017 following claims made in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Congress must reauthorize the federal insurance program this year. It is expected to discuss additional ways to overhaul the federal program, such as redrawing the maps that dictate where coverage is required and making it financially stable.

Opponents of opening up the flood insurance market argue private insurers could cherry-pick safer properties that could be cheaper to insure, saddling the public program with riskier ones. And some lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), have called for increasing controls over the private flood insurance sector.

The rule would require lenders to accept private flood insurance policies that have coverage at least as comprehensive as what is offered by the federal program. Banks also could allow policies that aren’t as comprehensive as government flood insurance, a move backed by the insurance industry but opposed by some consumer advocates because it could concentrate riskier insurance policies in the federal plan.

Narrower coverage will “appeal more to lower risk people and then leave the National Flood Insurance Program principally with higher risk people,” said Daniel Schwarz, a professor at University of Minnesota Law School. Three other regulators, including the Federal Reserve, must still approve the rule.
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Previously reported – March 2019
National Flood Insurance Program needs long-term reauthorization to address key challenges
As the House Financial Services Committee meets this week to discuss reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), there is a lot at stake. The NFIP, on which 5 million Americans depend for protection from flooding, began with the best of intentions — reducing the burden on federal taxpayers stemming from flood relief while providing resources to help devastated communities rebuild. But as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman was fond of saying, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” Judged by its results, the NFIP is badly in need of serious changes to address its massive debt, persistent operating deficits, and many structural flaws — all of which expose taxpayers to financial risk. With the NFIP’s authorization set to expire in May, Congress has an opportunity to enact real reforms that will put the NFIP on a sustainable, fiscally-responsible footing. Lawmakers should begin to chart a future for the NFIP that addresses its key challenges.

One of the NFIP’s biggest flaws is that it masks the true flood risk of properties by offering a significant portion of its policyholders heavily subsidized rates. One in five homeowners with NFIP protection pay less than half the full cost of their policy. No one begrudges low-income homeowners who need financial assistance to purchase coverage, but most of the NFIP’s subsidies actually go to homes with the highest values. A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that the median value of homes with NFIP coverage is about double that of all American homes. Not only that, but wealthier households tend to get much larger subsidies than middle-income homeowners. Ending these handouts to the wealthy and refocusing resources on the truly needy is essential. Limiting NFIP subsidies would have another positive effect. Currently, by shielding policyholders from the full cost of building in a flood zone, the government encourages more houses to be constructed in disaster-prone areas than if homeowners bore the costs of flooding themselves. Transferring more of the flood risk from federal taxpayers to individual homeowners would cause them to think twice about where to build their home.

But setting risk-based premiums is impossible without accurate flood maps. Many of the 22,000 communities that participate in the NFIP currently rely on outdated and inaccurate flood maps. A recent audit found that only 42 percent of the NFIP’s maps “adequately identified the level of flood risk.” Without better mapping that incorporates improvements in engineering methods and technology, full-risk insurance rates cannot be accurately determined, and homeowners and local policymakers may be misled about the true flood vulnerability of their communities.

Another issue that merits more attention is mitigation. The best way to reduce insurance premiums for homeowners is to lessen the risk of flood loss. Making communities more resilient to flooding before disasters strike by adopting better zoning and building codes and other measures can significantly reduce the cost of cleaning up after floods. Studies have shown that for every $1 invested in mitigation, society saves $6 in rebuilding costs. Overall, so-called “repetitive loss properties,” structures that are damaged and repaired over and over again, account for about 1-2 percent of the NFIP’s total policies but have been responsible for 30 percent of claims since the program began in 1968. One Mississippi home worth $70,000 filed 34 claims with the NFIP from 1978 to 2010 totaling $663,000 — more than 9 times the value of the house. Through more aggressive mitigation incentives, policymakers could reduce this massive drain on the NFIP’s finances.

Congress should also resolve ambiguities in federal law that have limited the growth of private flood insurance; currently, private insurance only makes up 4 percent of the residential market. Greater private-sector involvement in flood insurance would benefit both consumers — many of whom could find lower rates and more flexible options through private carriers — and taxpayers by reducing the NFIP’s financial exposure.

Rather than continue postponing meaningful reforms to the NFIP with short-term stop-gaps, Congress should work over the next several months to craft a long-term solution to the NFIP’s challenges. Without reform, the NFIP’s precarious financial position will only grow worse, to the detriment of taxpayers and homeowners alike.
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House Financial Services Committee Issues Hearing Memo on National Flood Insurance Program
Subject: March 13, 2019, Full Committee Hearing Entitled: “Preparing for the Storm: Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program”

Prior to 1950, flood insurance was a peril often included in standard homeowners’ insurance policies. However, in response to an increasing frequency and severity in flood- related losses in the 1950s, insurance companies began excluding flood insurance coverage and selling it separately. By the 1960s, widespread flooding along the Mississippi River caused most private insurers to flee the business of flood insurance altogether, leaving many consumers with virtually no access to private flood insurance.1 The lack of availability of flood insurance for consumers left them vulnerable in the event of a flood, and also left taxpayers vulnerable to bearing the costs of flood damage through post-disaster relief in the case of a flood event.

In direct response to this private market failure, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created in 1968 with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act (NFIA). In doing so, Congress determined that “as a matter of national policy, a reasonable method of sharing the risk of flood losses is through a program of flood insurance which can complement and encourage preventive and protective measures” and that transferring the costs of private property flood losses from the general taxpayer to individuals in the floodplains through premiums would ease the strain on the nation’s limited disaster resources. Congress also passed the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (FDPA) that requires most property owners in a designated Special Flood Hazard Area to purchase flood insurance.

The last long-term reauthorization of the NFIP occurred when Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12), which was subsequently amended by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA). Since the end of fiscal year (FY) 2017, the NFIP has been reauthorized ten times and has experienced brief lapses. According to the National Association of Realtors, an estimated 40,000 home sales are lost or interrupted every month that the NFIP’s authority lapses. The NFIP’s authorization is currently set to expire on May 31, 2019. In the event of a lapse, NFIP will be unable to enter into new flood insurance contracts, which will lead to widespread market instability due to the stalling of mortgage processing for homes that are statutorily required to have flood insurance.

Several Members of Congress have put forward legislative proposals to reauthorize the NFIP and make programmatic reforms to promote affordability, protect policyholders, and improve flood mapping and floodplain management.

Overview of the NFIP
The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration (FIMA). The NFIP was designed to serve two interrelated goals: (1) provide access to primary flood insurance and (2) reduce flood risk through the adoption of floodplain management standards. The NFIP advances these goals by offering primary flood insurance exclusively for properties in communities that adopt minimum floodplain management standards under FEMA regulations. The NFIP also administers the Community Rating System (CRS), which is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes communities for implementing floodplain management practices that exceed the NFIP’s minimum requirements and, in exchange, FIMA offers reduced flood insurance premiums to policyholders.

Today, the NFIP is the principal provider of primary flood insurance in the U.S., covering over 5 million households and businesses across the country for a total of over $1.3 trillion in flood insurance coverage. As of the end of FY 2018, approximately 22,324 communities participate in the NFIP, covering an estimated 93 percent of the U.S. population. According to FEMA, the NFIP saves the nation an estimated $1.87 billion annually in flood losses avoided because of the NFIP’s building and floodplain management regulations.

In 1983, FEMA created the Write Your Own (WYO) Program in an effort to: increase the NFIP’s policy base and geographic distribution of policies; improve service to NFIP policyholders through infusion of insurance industry knowledge and capacity; and, provide the insurance industry with direct operating experience with flood insurance. This WYO Program operates as a partnership between FEMA and participating property and casualty insurance companies that are compensated to write and service NFIP policies. The WYOs assume none of the risk by participating in this program. FEMA retains all of the insurance risk and underwrites any losses. Currently, approximately 60 different companies administer about 87 percent of NFIP policies through the WYO Program. The remainder of NFIP’s policies are provided through the Direct Program, which is operated by a government contractor and performs the same basic functions as a WYO company.

The NFIP offers a Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) for properties in participating communities within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). By virtue of the mandatory purchase required by law, most property owners within the SFHA are required to purchase flood insurance. Many of the SFIP’s policy terms are set in statute. The maximum coverage amount for building coverage is $250,000 for single-family homes, and $500,000 for multi-family residential properties, and non-residential properties including commercial properties. The maximum coverage amount for contents only is $100,000.9 If the SFIP’s maximum coverage amounts are insufficient to cover the full value of the property, policyholders may have the option of obtaining excess flood insurance in the private market.

The NFIP also offers coverage for properties that are not within a SFHA, usually as a Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). PRPs include similar coverage but at discounted rates in accordance with their lower risk profile. If a property has a significant loss history, that policyholder may become ineligible for a PRP and would need to purchase a SFIP that is commensurate with the flood risk.

The NFIP’s Financial Status
The NFIP is largely self-funded through insurance premiums collected from policy holders. Policyholders are also assessed a number of surcharges and other fees. In FY 2018, policyholders paid $382 million in surcharges, $188.162 million in federal policy fees, and $496.82 million in reserve fund assessments. A portion of these premiums, fees, surcharges, and assessments goes towards the cost of flood mapping and floodplain management. A large portion also goes to paying interest on debt of the NFIP.

Congress designed the NFIP as a program that would operate on a cash flow basis, borrowing from the Treasury in bad years and returning funds to the Treasury in good years. The NFIP was largely self-supporting in this way from 1986 until 2005, but due to extraordinary losses incurred as a result of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, and then Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the program currently carries a debt of $20.5 billion.11 It is also important to note that a significant portion of the NFIP’s debt accrued as a result of Hurricane Katrina ($19 billion) could not possibly have been properly accounted for in NFIP’s risk modeling; specifically, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers took responsibility for engineering and design failures in the levees that should have been able to provide far better protection for New Orleans in the face of Katrina.

Taxpayers are not on the hook for this debt and receive millions of dollars in interest payments every year (currently approximately $400 million annually or a total of $4.2 billion since 2005) at the expense of policyholders. In 2017, following a proposal submitted by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, Congress passed legislation to partially forgive $16 billion of the NFIP’s debt of $30.4 billion, after the NFIP’s debt ballooned following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and other historic flooding that year.

Affordability Challenges
In 2018, FEMA submitted its congressionally mandated Affordability Framework demonstrating, among other things, that low-income homeowners and renters face significant affordability challenges. The report documents that those that are least able to afford higher premiums tend to live in the highest flood hazard areas writing, “generally, incomes are higher outside the SFHA than they are inside the SFHA. The median household income for residential policyholders is $82,000, although it is substantially lower in the SFHA than outside the SFHA.” Further, FEMA found that “the combination of higher premiums and lower incomes in the SFHA creates affordability pressure on households.”

Draft Legislation
* Waters_009 is a discussion draft that would reauthorize the NFIP through September 30, 2024 and address a number of affordability issues such as: 1) forgiving the NFIP’s debt; 2) creating a 5-year demonstration for means-tested assistance to low-income policyholders; 3) reducing fees and surcharges; 4) revising the NFIP’s coverage limits; 5) enabling policyholders to pay premiums in monthly installments; and 6) creating a state revolving loan fund modeled after legislation previously introduced by Rep. Crist.

* Maj_Mitigation is a discussion draft that would make several improvements to floodplain management and mitigation such as: 1) raising the amount of funds available under Increased Cost of Compliance program and expanding the eligible mitigation activities to include the cost of acquisitions, among others; 2) granting the Administrator discretion to consider the extent to which communities are working to remedy problems with repeatedly flooded areas when administering mitigation assistance; 3) granting credits for alternative forms of mitigation, allowing coverage for coops and community-based policies; and 5) authorizing and flood plain management activities.

* Maj_Mapping is a discussion draft that would reauthorize the flood mapping program and provide funding to support flood mapping. It would also make several improvements to the mapping program such as: 1) requiring the most up-to-date technology, and more advanced and granular flood maps; 2) improving the process for policyholders and communities to appeal FEMA’s mapping decisions; and 3) creating new flood map zones for levee-impacted and for agricultural areas.

* Velazq_035 is a bill that would make numerous improvements to the claims process drawing on the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy. The bill would ensure that policyholders better understand the terms of their flood insurance policies and improve the appeals and litigation process for consumers
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Climate Advocates Cheer Trump Policy Shift on Flood Insurance

  • Premiums to be based on full flood risk starting in late 2020
  • Change expected to raise costs for the most deluge-prone homes

Climate advocates say an overhaul of the nation’s flood insurance program being unveiled by the Trump administration will spur communities around the country to better plan for extreme weather, but could drive up costs for some homeowners.

The changes being announced Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency represent one of the most significant reforms in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program. It will tie premiums to the actual flood risk facing individual homes nationwide starting in October 2020. The current system sets prices based largely on whether a home is inside or outside of the 100-year flood plain.
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Trump Administration Plans Flood Insurance Overhaul
Expensive properties could see rate increases under new FEMA plan
The Trump administration said Monday it plans to overhaul government-subsidized flood insurance, in a sweeping proposal that could raise rates on more expensive properties and those in higher-risk areas. The new system would affect policies for most homeowners who own property in flood-prone areas, where such coverage is required because few private companies offer flood insurance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the National Flood Insurance Program, said the plan would start assessing properties individually according to several variables—including hurricane rainfall, coastal surges and the distance to a body of water—rather than applying one formula across an entire flood zone when assessing flood risk and contract cost. The government also would factor in the replacement cost of the home, which could push up premiums for homeowners with higher-valued properties and decrease those with lower-cost homes. FEMA plans to announce the new rates on April 1, 2020 and implement them starting Oct. 1 that year. They could affect more than 5 million single-family policyholders of public flood insurance. The NFIP covers both coastal flood zones and inland river flood plains, though the policy change may have a greater impact in coastal states including Florida, Louisiana and Texas, where most of the policies are held.

The changes are likely to stoke a longstanding debate over flood insurance, with policy makers divided over how much the public should subsidize the program. While those in coastal areas have advocated for more federal funding, both environmentalists and fiscal conservatives have argued the program encourages building in risky flood-prone zones. FEMA has increasingly struggled to pay off claims after a series of natural disasters in recent years. The government wrote off $16 billion in debt for the federal program in 2017 following claims made in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Scientists say the frequency of such events is influenced by climate change. FEMA’s current system calculates rates based on whether a home falls in a designated flood zone. Since higher-valued properties are more likely to hit the $250,000 insurance cap because they face costlier damages, “there’s an inequity,” said David Maurstad, FEMA’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation. “Lower-value homes are paying proportionately more than higher-value homes.” “What we’re going to do is change an insurance-rating structure that hasn’t fundamentally been changed since the 1970s,” Mr. Maurstad added. “We’re going to consider more flood risk than we currently do now.” The changes would also leverage new loss-estimation technology, said Mr. Maurstad. In recent years, private insurers have developed increasingly sophisticated models that account for variables including climate change. The agency hopes that a more risk-sensitive pricing could attract more homeowners to purchase flood insurance, even if they aren’t required to. “People even outside the high-risk area will have a better understanding of what the specific risk is,” said Mr. Maurstad. “They will take the responsible action and insure for flood just like they insure for windstorms, hail and fire.”

FEMA faces Congressional restrictions on how much it can increase rates, so the agency could phase in the rate changes, said Mr. Maurstad. It plans to make more details of the plan public in the coming weeks, he added. For years, Congress has debated how to modernize the financially beleaguered flood-insurance program, created about 50 years ago because private insurers were unwilling to risk catastrophic flood losses. Lawmakers are set to reauthorize the federal insurance program this year, after granting a short-term extension in December.
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Update –
Vote set on flood insurance extension
Nick Sobczyk, E&E News, May 13, 2019
The House will vote this week to extend the National Flood Insurance Program until the end of the fiscal year, another sign lawmakers have again punted on reform talks. The NFIP expires at the end of the month, and despite months of extra time to reach a deal on a reform package, the measure up for a vote under fast-track procedure this week would be the 11th short-term reauthorization in two years. The measure would extend the program until Sept. 30. There are talks underway on both sides of Capitol Hill, but few signs lawmakers are close to striking a long-term reauthorization deal for a program that advocates say is badly in need of reform. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said last week he’s working with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) on a reform bill. And House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has drafted reform proposals and held a hearing on the NFIP to jump-start efforts on the other side of Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, four bipartisan former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrators penned a letter to congressional leaders last week imploring lawmakers to make long-term changes to the program. The group includes Obama-era FEMA chief Craig Fugate and Brock Long, who resigned the post earlier this year. Among other things, they suggest a requirement that sellers disclose flood risk to potential homebuyers and a low-interest loan program to help buy out owners of properties that are repeatedly flooded. Especially in a time when losses from natural disasters and flood events are ballooning, it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to keep paying to rebuild in flood zones, they wrote. “By incentivizing Americans to live in vulnerable areas without taking steps to mitigate the risk, the NFIP gives property owners a false sense of security,” they wrote. “In the absence of reforms, costs in taxpayer dollars and lives lost will only get worse.”

Gen X


Holden Beach Newsletter
Chemours has issued a press release announcing that the company will take measures to eliminate byproduct GenX wastewater emissions from its Fayetteville site.
Click here to view the release.

In order to keep citizens informed, Brunswick County has established a website to share information about GenX as they learn it. You can find this page at The website contains a FAQ section that they update as they learn additional information (or receive additional questions), links to all their press releases and links to other resources like information from NCDEQ. There is also a link where citizens can go to sign up to receive email updates on the topic.

The Public Information Officer for Brunswick County announced that the County has taken legal action against DuPont and Chemours for contaminating the Cape Fear River.

Statement from Brunswick County
The filing of formal legal action against Chemours and DuPont represents another crucial step in protecting our public drinking water supply. It sends a clear message that Brunswick County will simply not stand for the discharge of emerging or unregulated chemicals into our public drinking water supply. Let us be clear…we will ensure that any company that threatens this vital resource is held responsible. Furthermore, our litigation team is consulting the nation’s leading experts to determine the best long-term water testing and treatment methods for the entire county. As part of that, we will ensure that the costs for doing so do not fall upon the rate payers, but upon those dumping the unregulated chemicals in the water.
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Previously reported – February 2019
Updated consent order requires Chemours to consider GenX in river
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Previously reported – March 2019
Judge signs GenX consent order
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Previously reported – April 2019
Proposed Gen X-related bill would target Chemours, form task force
Ambitious new legislation would set new standards for Gen X and other similar compounds in the state’s water supply. If passed, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would be required to form a task force to analyze and identify pollutants found in ground and surface waters, air, soil, dust, and food within the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. Cumberland, Bladen, Columbus, Brunswick, and New Hanover Counties all fall within that area. The measure would require Chemours and other polluting companies to be named and held financially responsible for replacing the tainted water supply with a permanent replacement water source. Additionally, polluting companies would be required to fund periodic maintenance for the filtration system used for the clean water supply. A chief sponsor of the bill, Sen. Harper Peterson believes that Gen-X is responsible for an elevated rate of thyroid cancer, liver cancer, and other illnesses in the Cape Fear region than in the rest of the state. The bill would require $270 million for funding.
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Update –

Two years later, where do we stand on GenX?
It has been two years since news broke that the chemical compound known as GenX was found in the drinking water of thousands of people in the Cape Fear region. This unknown contaminant sparked fear and outrage across the area. Two years and countless meetings, protests, water samples, and lawsuits later, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority says the water is far safer to drink than it was before GenX started making headlines. “It’s been two years but we’ve accomplished a lot in two years,” said Jim Flechtner, the executive director of CFPUA. “We’ve seen the levels of these contaminants produce not only in the river, but also in the finished water that we are drinking. We’re taking steps so that our plant can filter these compounds from our drinking water very effectively.” After calls from the community and political leaders, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has been forced to hold Chemours, the company responsible for dumping the chemical into the Cape Fear River, responsible. “We’re taking legal action against Chemours because we believe our customers shouldn’t pay for this. And we’re also working with the state because the real answer to this is that these contaminants shouldn’t be in the environment to begin with,” Flechtner said. Flechtner said the true answer to the ongoing problems is to have proper regulation and proper enforcement on a state level. Despite that, he said, CFPUA tests the drinking water before and after it is treated on a weekly basis. “Our water is cleaner than it used to be. We understand where these contaminants are coming from, and we’ve taken steps to stop it. We’re also holding those accountable through legal action who have put these contaminants in the environment. Two years ago, the levels of GenX and other toxic chemicals were estimated to be about 130,000 parts per trillion. Currently, levels of GenX in the river are measuring at 150 parts per trillion, Flechtner said. “Because of some of our work at our plant, we’re reducing that to about 60 parts per trillion in the finished water. So levels are down considerable. They have never been that high to begin with, but the good news is we’ve been able to bring them down,” he said. Throughout the past two years, community activists have attended forums and meetings, demanding clean water. Those efforts are finally paying off. “Our community is very engaged and that’s a great thing. The more active our customers are the more active our community is, the better results we’re going to get. So it’s encouraging to see all the grassroots efforts, the political efforts, regulatory efforts to bring the best water for this community. So while our focus is changed, I think we all understand where these compounds are coming from, from the upstream discharges and holding them accountable and responsible for what’s happened is important. And it’s very rewarding for me to see so many people in our community working on this issue,” Flechtner said. In the next two years, the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant will receive a granular activated carbon filter to remove more GenX and other contaminants from the drinking water. “We’re finishing up design on the granular activated carbon filters we added to our Sweeney Water Treatment Plant that will bring these levels down even further. So the water will be significantly cleaner. And it’s another barrier of protection. We can’t rely on these upstream companies to tell us what they’re putting in the river,” he said.
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Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners Insurance Policy

Insurance Policy
Previously reported – September 2018
Insurance Commissioner Causey settles homeowners’ insurance rate dispute
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey announced today the N.C. Department of Insurance has ended the legal dispute with the North Carolina Rate Bureau on its proposal for an 18.7 percent homeowners’ insurance rate increase. Commissioner Causey has negotiated an almost 14 percent lower rate for an average 4.8 percent increase statewide. “I have negotiated a rate that will have minimal impact on the coast yet keep the state’s insurance companies financially sound,” said Commissioner Causey. The 4.8 percent increase will vary according to territory with a cap of 5.5 percent statewide instead of the 25 percent bump on the coast initially proposed by the NCRB. The agreement also covers insurance for tenants and condominiums, which is capped at 12 percent. This rate settlement will save consumers approximately $293 million in the first year alone, compared to the NCRB’s proposed increase.

The NCRB is separate from the NCDOI and is made up of insurance industry representatives. The Rate Bureau filed for the proposed 18.7 percent rate increase November 17, 2017, claiming the increase was necessary because of the increased costs stemming from tornado, severe thunderstorm, and windstorm/hail damage. Commissioner Causey had concerns over the initial filing and set a July 23, 2018, hearing date for the case to be decided if an agreement couldn’t be reached. Over the last several months, the Department and the NCRB have been in litigation while trying to settle the case without the necessity of a long, expensive hearing. The last time homeowners saw an insurance rate increase was in 2012. At that time, the NCRB case was settled for an average statewide increase of 7 percent. The increase will take effect October 1, 2018.
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Previously reported – February 2019
NC Rate Bureau seeks rate hike
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N.C. Rate Bureau asks for 17.4 percent rate increase for homeowners’ insurance
The North Carolina Rate Bureau has requested the N.C. Department of Insurance increase homeowners’ insurance rates 17.4 percent effective Oct. 1, 2019. The N.C. Rate Bureau represents the state’s insurance companies and is a separate entity from the N.C. Department of Insurance. The Rate Bureau attests the increase is needed to cover increased losses, hurricane losses and the net cost of reinsurance. Last year, the Rate Bureau requested an 18.9 percent increase in homeowners’ insurance rates, but Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey settled, instead, on an average 4.8 percent rate increase.
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Update –