Climate

 Climate & Environment

Previously reported – January 2018
North Carolina’s coastal policies among worst in nation on climate change
Days after a federal report issued a harsh warning about climate change, an environmental group said North Carolina’s policies leave it among the most ill-prepared on the East Coast to deal with the effects of rising seas.
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Brunswick County eliminated plans to address rising sea levels. Apparently, no one knows why
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Previously reported – August 2018

N.C. beach homes and coast are ‘doomed’ and residents need to get out, scientist says
Sea level rise is an imminent threat to North Carolina’s 18 barrier islands — the Outer Banks — and the area just behind.
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Previously reported – December 2018
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.

According to NASA, at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists think that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely caused by human activities.” Americans overwhelmingly agree that the federal government needs to take significant action.
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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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FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT
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Previously reported – January 2019


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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Previously reported – March 2019
Ruined crops, salty soil: How rising seas are poisoning NC’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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Previously reported – August 2019
Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns
The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report. Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. Already, more than 10 percent of the world’s population remains undernourished, and some authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.
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Previously reported – September 2019
Oceans are under threat, report warns
Climate change is disrupting seafood harvests, posing risks to important marine ecosystems and threatening the well-being of hundreds of millions of coastal residents, according to a United Nations report released today.

The report, based on more than 7,000 studies, represents the most extensive look so far at the effects of climate change on oceans, ice sheets, mountain snowpack and permafrost. (Read it here.)

Why it matters: The oceans have long served as a buffer against global warming, absorbing carbon dioxide and excess heat. Without those protections, the land would be heating much more rapidly.

New U.N. climate report: Monumental change already here for world’s oceans and frozen regions
Growing coastal flooding is inevitable, and damage to corals and other marine life has already been unleashed. But scientists say the world still has time to avert even more severe consequences.
Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations. The warming climate is killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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Previously reported – December 2019
The biggest climate stories you might have missed — but still have time to read.
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Previously reported – January 202095 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump
President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under Mr. Trump. Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed and rollbacks still in progress. The Trump administration has often used a “one-two punch” when rolling back environmental rules, said Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks regulatory rollbacks. “First a delay rule to buy some time, and then a final substantive rule.” But the process has not always been smooth. In some cases, the administration has failed to provide a strong legal argument in favor of proposed changes and agencies have skipped key steps in the rulemaking process, like notifying the public and asking for comment. In several cases, courts have ordered agencies to enforce their own rules. Several environmental rules — summarized at the bottom of this page — were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges. Other regulations remain mired in court. All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
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2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade
Last year was the second-hottest on record, government researchers confirmed on Wednesday in analyses of temperature data from thousands of observing stations around the world. They said that 2019 was only slightly cooler than 2016 and the end of what was the warmest decade yet. The independent analyses by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed that global average surface temperatures last year were nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average from 1951 to 1980. Temperatures in 2019 were only a small fraction of a degree Celsius lower than in 2016, a year when a strong El Niño pumped a lot of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. The results closely match those from a separate analysis released last week by a European climate agency — one based more on computer modeling than on observational data from 2019 — and were yet more evidence of the relentless warming of the planet caused in large part by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. The warming trends “are clear and unequivocal,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducted the NASA analysis. “The surface temperature record tells us that the last decade was more than 1 degree Celsius higher than the late 19th century and we know that this has been driven by human activities.” Six of the warmest years on record occurred during the past decade, and the five warmest all occurred in the last five years, the NASA and NOAA research shows.
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Previously reported – January 2020
The EPA just rolled back protections for wetlands.
What does it mean for Cape Fear region?
The Environmental Protection Agency and United States Army just finalized a historic rule that removes federal protections for wetlands. Under the new rule passed last week, wetlands and streams that do not continuously maintain a surface water connection will no longer have federal protections under the Clean Water Act. If implemented, the rule will likely have devastating national impacts on water quality and increase flood-related risks in already vulnerable coastal communities, including the Cape Fear region. The new ruling redefines Waters of the United States (WOTUS) protected from pollution and obstruction in the Clean Water Act. It ignores subsurface flow (i.e. underground water) connecting wetlands and streams that don’t have a direct surface water connection. This means wet, low-lying inland features that currently trigger federal and state review in the development process could soon get filled in with little to no oversight. “We could fully expect to see new development in areas that are very vulnerable to floodwaters,” Keri Allen, coastal advocate at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, said. “Without protections for these wetlands, you’re going to see building there.”

‘No basis in science’
In comments submitted last year, North Carolina’s Attorney General and Director of the Department of Environmental Quality described the rule as having been established “on the basis of arbitrary dividing lines that have no valid basis in science.” An estimated 17% of North Carolina’s total landmass is comprised of wetlands, at 5.7 million acres. Of these wetlands, 95% are located in the coastal plain. Nationwide, more than half of wetlands will no longer be protected under the new ruling. Even wetlands still technically defined as a WOTUS directly adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be impacted by this ruling. Should it be implemented, the ruling would open up development in areas protected for decades, leading to unprecedented stormwater runoff and flooding, which inevitably will bear down on the coast. Thirty-nine days into his presidency, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to initiate repealing the 1972 Clean Water Act. Last year, the new definition opened up to public comment, garnering 620,000 comments on the proposal, according to the EPA. Proponents of the change describe it as removing red tape to give breathing room to property owners who own land containing jurisdictional wetlands or streams. In announcing the finalized rule last week, the EPA characterized the changes as a simplification of the federal review process that will spur economic growth. Scores of environmental advocacy groups, scientific organizations, and state-level government agencies adamantly oppose the rule’s justification. “In the process, the agencies have abandoned their expertise,” the Southern Environmental Law Center wrote in its comments, submitted last year on behalf of 80 organizations, including the Cape Fear River Watch. The change was a top lobbying priority for the National Association of Realtors last year, according to the SELC. While the rule’s economic analysis
admits it would increase downstream flooding damages, put a greater cost burden on storm-restoration agencies, and increase costs for drinking water suppliers, it claims removing federal oversight would save money overall.

Environmental groups argue this methodology is flawed and fails to fully quantify the extent of imminent damage, should the rule go into effect. Soon, the new rule will be published in the Federal Register. After 60 days in the Federal Register, it will become effective — that is, baring delays from legal challenges, which are anticipated. “These revisions don’t just undo what was done under the Obama Administration,” Allen said. “These set us back decades.”

Wetlands
Wetlands are, in essence, sponges. Often described as nature’s kidneys, wetlands provide critical environmental and economic functions. Hydrophytic plants (i.e. plants that grow totally or partially submerged in water, or in waterlogged soil) absorb excess nutrients found in stormwater runoff, helping to protect bodies of water from harmful algal blooms and pollution. They both save and generate public money by reducing the need for investments in storm-control costs and spurring economic growth via tourism and commercial fisheries. One acre of wetlands is capable
of storing 330,000 gallons of water. When removed, these waters flow unimpeded, directly to traditional navigable waters, pushing storage capacity limits in storm events, causing rivers and stream to crest and ponds and lakes to overflow. Ephemeral streams — riverbeds that are alternately dry or filled by stormwater — would also lose federal protection under the new rule. Currently, if developers wish to impact wetlands or stream features, an extensive oversight process is initiated. Filling or dredging wetland features requires a 404 permit, obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a subsequent state-level version from the Division of Water Resources with a 401 permit. Property owners must prove impacts are “unavoidable” before impacting these resources; if such a determination is granted, the owner must invest in a 2:1 ratio in a public mitigation program that restores wetlands and streams. “Right now we have a pretty thorough process of inter-agency coordination,” Allen said. If the rule is implemented, Allen said the future permitting process is uncertain. “That’s something we don’t know,” she said. “It will definitely be a diminished review process.” The new WOTUS ruling shifts the burden of oversight responsibility to states — an unwelcome task for North Carolina. Both the DEQ and AG’s Office assert the state is too ill-equipped, over-burdened, and underfunded to pick up the jurisdictional review of these wetland and stream features. And according to the SELC, states lack the “political will” and funds to confront powerful polluters. It’s also worth noting that water quality issues are driven by interconnected water systems — networks that do not start or stop at state boundary lines.
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Dirty Water Rule puts the Cape Fear River and NC’s drinking water at risk
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Jan. 23 that leaves half the nation’s wetlands and thousands of streams, which provide millions of Americans with drinking water, without the federal protection of the Clean Water Act. “North Carolinians care deeply about clean water: for drinking, swimming, fishing and sustaining nature. Yet this Dirty Water Rule will leave the Cape Fear River and other waterways vulnerable to pollution and degradation, and put our drinking water at risk,” said Krista Early, Clean Water Advocate of Environment North Carolina. “Polluted water can make anyone sick, no matter where you live or your politics. This move defies common sense, sound science, and fifty years of bipartisan support for clean water. “The Dirty Water Rule puts the wetlands of North Carolina at risk. As unprotected wetlands become degraded or paved over, they will no longer help filter out pollution. Pollution from unprotected streams and lakes will flow into the rivers like the Haw and Cape Fear. North Carolina waterways like the Cape Fear River are already facing problems from toxic PFAS pollution and degrading our streams and wetlands around it will only make that problem worse. According to U.S. EPA’s own data, intermittent and ephemeral streams help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans. The Dirty Water Rule removes Clean Water Act protections for many of these streams, putting the drinking water of many North Carolinians at risk. Noting the nexus among streams, wetlands, and larger waterways, the Dirty Water Rule was recently rebuked by EPA’s own science advisors. Public support for maintaining Clean Water Act protections is widespread. More than one million Americans, including business owners, local officials, scientists, and hunters and anglers, provided comments to EPA, urging the agency to protect streams and wetlands under the Act. Those speaking up include North Carolina business owners, faith leaders, public health experts, swimmers, and anglers who are raising their “Voices for Clean Water.” Lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, developers, and the oil and gas industry have long demanded that federal protections be removed for streams and wetlands. Pollution from agribusinesses contributes to toxic algal out-breaks, fish kills, dead zones, drinking water contamination, and fecal bacteria that can make swimmers sick. Some developers are eager to build on wetlands and the oil and gas industry has countless pipelines running through them. Some of North Carolina’s Members of Congress are speaking up too. Representative David Price (NC-04) recently co-sponsored a House resolution urging EPA to reverse course on the Dirty Water Rule and several other attacks on clean water. “The Dirty Water Rule is a moment of truth for every single representative in Congress,” said Drew Ball, State Director of Environment North Carolina. “Representative Price is not sitting silently as this administration rips up protections for our rivers, our lakes and our drinking water and no member of Congress should.” “With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” said Early. “We’ll be calling on Congress and the courts to uphold the Clean Water Act.”
Beacon Article dated February 6

Previously reported –March 2020
More Heat, Floods, Storms ‘Virtually Certain’
North Carolina can expect large changes in climate by the end of the century, much larger than any time in the state’s history, and it’s very likely that temperatures here will increase substantially during all seasons unless the global increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is stopped. Temperatures warmer than historic norms, disruptive flooding from rising seas, increasingly intense and frequent rainstorms and more and more intense hurricanes are “virtually certain” in the next 80 years. That’s according to an independent, peer-reviewed report released Wednesday by North Carolina State University’s North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, or NCICS. As a result of hotter temperatures and increased humidity, the state can face public health risks, more frequent and more intense heavy rains from hurricanes and other weather systems, increased flooding in coastal and low-lying areas and severe droughts that are more intense and that will increase the risk of wildfires.
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Previously reported –May 2020
Global warming pushes April temperatures into record territory, as 2020 heads for disquieting milestone
Last month tied for the warmest April on record for the globe, as 2020 hurtles toward the warmest year milestone. New data, released Tuesday from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, lends further support to the prediction that 2020 will rank among the top two warmest years recorded. In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, using its own temperature monitoring data,
reported that there is a 75 percent chance that 2020 will become the planet’s warmest year since instrument records began in 1880, and very likely long before that. Human-caused climate change from increasing amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases is vaulting temperatures higher, making it easier for a given month or year to set a new warmth milestone. Carbon dioxide is the most important long-lived greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, released by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energy and transportation. Assuming NOAA ranks April as having global average temperatures above the 20th-century average, it would be the 424th straight month to have that distinction. In other words, those who are 35 years old and younger have never experienced a cooler-than-average month on Earth.
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Climate Change Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Researchers Find
An analysis of satellite imagery from the past four decades suggests that global warming has increased the chances of storms reaching Category 3 or higher.
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The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows
Researchers find, for the first time, a statistically significant global trend, especially in the Atlantic
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Previously reported – July 2020
Rising Seas Threaten an American Institution: The 30-Year Mortgage
Climate change is starting to transform the classic home loan, a fixture of the American experience and financial system that dates back generations.
Up and down the coastline, rising seas and climate change are transforming a fixture of American homeownership that dates back generations: the classic 30-year mortgage. Home buyers are increasingly using mortgages that make it easier for them to stop making their monthly payments and walk away from the loan if the home floods or becomes unsellable or unlivable. More banks are getting buyers in coastal areas to make bigger down payments — often as much as 40 percent of the purchase price, up from the traditional 20 percent — a sign that lenders have awakened to climate dangers and want to put less of their own money at risk. And in one of the clearest signs that banks are worried about global warming, they are increasingly getting these mortgages off their own books by selling them to government-backed buyers like Fannie Mae, where taxpayers would be on the hook financially if any of the loans fail. “Conventional mortgages have survived many financial crises, but they may not survive the climate crisis,” said Jesse Keenan, an associate professor at Tulane University. “This trend also reflects a systematic financial risk for banks and the U.S. taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.” The trends foreshadow a broader reckoning. The question that matters, according to researchers, isn’t whether the effects of climate change will start to ripple through the housing market. Rather, it’s how fast those effects will occur and what they will look like.
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Previously reported – January 2021
NASA says 2020 tied for the hottest year on record.

In a new study, NASA found that 2020 ranked right alongside 2016 as the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. Scientists said rising levels of carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere, contributed to the rise. At times last year, parts of the Arctic hit temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels dropped 7% in 2020, according to the Global Carbon project, a research consortium, largely because pandemic lockdowns reduced car and air travel. Still, the U.K.’s Met Office, which tracks climate change, has found the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years.

The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.
Over four years, the Trump administration dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife, and toxic chemicals. In all, a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts nearly 100 environmental rules officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back under Mr. Trump. More than a dozen other potential rollbacks remained in progress by the end but were not finalized by the end of the administration’s term.
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Previously reported – May 2021
The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof
Definitive answers to the big questions.

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U.S. has entered unprecedented climate territory, EPA warns
The Trump administration delayed the report, which cites urban heat waves and permafrost loss as signs of global warming, for three years

For years, President Donald Trump and his deputies played down the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and delayed the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report detailing climate-related damage. But on Wednesday, the EPA released a detailed and disturbing account of the startling changes that Earth’s warming had on parts of the United States during Trump’s presidency. The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying, the EPA said in its report. The assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming. As it launched an updated webpage to inform the public on how climate change is upending communities throughout the country, the Biden administration gave the agency’s imprimatur to a growing body of evidence that climate effects are happening faster and becoming more extreme than when EPA last published its “Climate Indicators” data in 2016.
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Previously reported – August 2021
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a new report, and the message is clear: Deadly and irreversible effects of climate change are already here. Unlike previous assessments, the report also concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis. It states the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders have agreed should represent the upper limit of global warming. Scientists say the only way to keep from reaching this point of no return and to prevent even more catastrophic damage is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero.


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has just proclaimed “a code red for humanity.” The unequivocal consensus of the world’s top climate scientists—unveiled in a landmark report Monday—is that not only are humans responsible for the catastrophes befalling the atmosphere, the oceans, the ice packs and the forests, but that without drastic moves by the planet’s leaders to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution, things are going to get a lot worse, and quite soon. The assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the crucial warming threshold of 2°C will be “exceeded during the 21st century” makes the Paris climate accord, its warnings and goals seem like sunny optimism by comparison. Other findings? The past decade was most likely hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years (when sea levels were up to 10 meters higher) and combustion and deforestation have raised CO2 in the atmosphere higher than it’s been in two million years. “This report,” Guterres warned the world, “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.”


  • IPCC report key points
      • Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
      • The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
      • The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
      • Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice
      • It is “virtually certain” that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe


Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory, landmark U.N. report finds
U.N. chief calls findings ‘a code red for humanity’ with worse climate impacts to come unless greenhouse gas pollution falls dramatically
More than three decades ago, a collection of scientists sanctioned by the United Nations first warned that humans were fueling a dangerous greenhouse effect and that if the world didn’t act collectively and deliberately to slow Earth’s warming, there could be “profound consequences” for people and nature alike. The scientists were right. On Monday, that same body — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — issued its latest and most dire assessment about the state of the planet, detailing how humans have altered the environment at an “unprecedented” pace and cautioning that the world risks increasingly catastrophic impacts in the absence of rapid greenhouse gas reductions. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called the findings “a code red for humanity” and said societies must find ways to embrace the transformational changes necessary to limit warming as much as possible. “We owe this to the entire human family,” he said in a statement. “There is no time for delay and no room for excuses.” But so far, the collective effort to slow climate change has proved gravely insufficient. Instead of the sort of emission cuts that scientists say must happen, global greenhouse gas pollution is still growing. Countries have failed to meet the targets they set under the 2015 Paris climate accord, and even the bolder pledges
some nations recently have embraced still leave the world on a perilous path. “What the world requires now is real action,” John F. Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, said in a statement about Monday’s findings. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.” It certainly is not, according to Monday’s report.
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Climate outlook grim but NC is inching toward resilience
The news on the climate front keeps getting worse. Regarding the report released Monday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the headlines paint a dire picture: “Code Red for humanity,” was CNN’s banner for its coverage, quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres; “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory,” was how The Washington Post topped its story; “A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us,” warned The New York Times’ analysis. All noted that even if nations of the world acted immediately to curb greenhouse gas emissions, enough damage is already done to guarantee a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. The consequences of not rapidly and permanently cutting emissions, as The Post reported, are “increasingly catastrophic impacts.” As we reported last year, North Carolina’s Climate Science Advisory Council’s 2020 assessment predicted warmer and wetter conditions with more flooding statewide and with coastal areas as risk from rising seas and increasingly frequent heavy downpours. At the time, our Kirk Ross interviewed State Climatologist Katie Dello about the report. She made it clear then that change was already happening. “We’re feeling climate change now, so we don’t get to the luxury of talking about this as a future problem anymore,” she said. “It’s here in North Carolina. It’s here in our backyard and we’re seeing it through the sea level rise and extreme downpours.” The IPCC’s summary of its findings for policymakers bears that out: “Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years.” Some of the changes already happening, including sea level rise, are irreversible. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, according to the summary, and concentrations of other greenhouse gases were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than during any century in at least the last 3,000 years. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. It is likely that human behavior contributed to changing rainfall patterns since the mid-20th century, and mid-latitude storm tracks have shifted toward the poles in both hemispheres since the 1980s. The scientists say it is virtually certain that oceans have warmed just since the 1970s and it is extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is also virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of ocean acidification. Coastal cities, towns, and villages “are particularly affected” by climatic factors that have already changed and will continue to change, whatever happens with regard to emissions. That means increases in extreme heat, flooding rainstorms, coastal erosion, and coastal flooding. Increasing relative sea levels are compounding the flood problems associated with storm surge and intense rainfall. There’s still much we can do to limit the damage. As the Times phrased it, “humanity can still prevent the planet from getting even hotter.” Doing so will require what the IPCC report describes as “strong and sustained reductions” in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And even then, it could take two to three decades before global temperatures stabilize. But we will have at least taken steps to lessen the damage that would otherwise only be worse for our children and grandchildren. And while there’s no silver lining, North Carolina, which still has a reputation for climate change denialism, has begun slowly moving in the right direction. As Coastal Review has reported in detail, debate here has shifted over the past decade from whether to do something to what should be done. Officials released in 2020 the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as a comprehensive guide for addressing the risks of climate change to the state’s infrastructure and economy. The plan was hailed for addressing both the causes and effects and providing planning tools for local governments. Also, the legislature has in recent sessions advanced bills that reflect a more comprehensive approach to flooding and stormwater management. The House’s proposed budget for the next two years would boost funding for the state’s Land and Water Fund and other conservation programs with nearly $2 billion for flood prevention, resiliency and stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Meanwhile, new federal infrastructure and climate initiatives promise an even larger flow of funds if the state has programs in place to take advantage of it. While these efforts offer numerous reasons for optimism, as the IPCC report states, the time to act on resiliency and the kind of carbon reductions that will truly make an impact for the next generation is now. As we look ahead to the prospects outlined in the report and the state’s risk assessment, we know that what we do in the immediate future will have an impact on what the next generations face. At Coastal Review, our role is not just to report on the impacts of the climate crisis, but to critically examine the plans, the science, and proposed solutions in detail and to take a clear-eyed approach to the decisions at the state, federal and local levels that will affect our region and, ultimately, our planet.
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Previously reported – August 2021
Climate outlook grim but NC is inching toward resilience
The news on the climate front keeps getting worse. Regarding the report released Monday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the headlines paint a dire picture: “Code Red for humanity,” was CNN’s banner for its coverage, quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres; “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory,” was how The Washington Post topped its story; “A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us,” warned The New York Times’ analysis. All noted that even if nations of the world acted immediately to curb greenhouse gas emissions, enough damage is already done to guarantee a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures, or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. The consequences of not rapidly and permanently cutting emissions, as The Post reported, are “increasingly catastrophic impacts.” As we reported last year, North Carolina’s Climate Science Advisory Council’s 2020 assessment predicted warmer and wetter conditions with more flooding statewide and with coastal areas as risk from rising seas and increasingly frequent heavy downpours. At the time, our Kirk Ross interviewed State Climatologist Katie Dello about the report. She made it clear then that change was already happening. “We’re feeling climate change now, so we don’t get to the luxury of talking about this as a future problem anymore,” she said. “It’s here in North Carolina. It’s here in our backyard and we’re seeing it through the sea level rise and extreme downpours.” The IPCC’s summary of its findings for policymakers bears that out: “Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years.” Some of the changes already happening, including sea level rise, are irreversible. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, according to the summary, and concentrations of other greenhouse gases were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than during any century in at least the last 3,000 years. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. It is likely that human behavior contributed to changing rainfall patterns since the mid-20th century, and mid-latitude storm tracks have shifted toward the poles in both hemispheres since the 1980s. The scientists say it is virtually certain that oceans have warmed just since the 1970s and it is extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is also virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of ocean acidification. Coastal cities, towns, and villages “are particularly affected” by climatic factors that have already changed and will continue to change, whatever happens with regard to emissions. That means increases in extreme heat, flooding rainstorms, coastal erosion, and coastal flooding. Increasing relative sea levels are compounding the flood problems associated with storm surge and intense rainfall. There’s still much we can do to limit the damage. As the Times phrased it, “humanity can still prevent the planet from getting even hotter.” Doing so will require what the IPCC report describes as “strong and sustained reductions” in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And even then, it could take two to three decades before global temperatures stabilize. But we will have at least taken steps to lessen the damage that would otherwise only be worse for our children and grandchildren. And while there’s no silver lining, North Carolina, which still has a reputation for climate change denialism, has begun slowly moving in the right direction. As Coastal Review has reported in detail, debate here has shifted over the past decade from whether to do something to what should be done. Officials released in 2020 the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as a comprehensive guide for addressing the risks of climate change to the state’s infrastructure and economy. The plan was hailed for addressing both the causes and effects and providing planning tools for local governments. Also, the legislature has in recent sessions advanced bills that reflect a more comprehensive approach to flooding and stormwater management. The House’s proposed budget for the next two years would boost funding for the state’s Land and Water Fund and other conservation programs with nearly $2 billion for flood prevention, resiliency and stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Meanwhile, new federal infrastructure and climate initiatives promise an even larger flow of funds if the state has programs in place to take advantage of it. While these efforts offer numerous reasons for optimism, as the IPCC report states, the time to act on resiliency and the kind of carbon reductions that will truly make an impact for the next generation is now. As we look ahead to the prospects outlined in the report and the state’s risk assessment, we know that what we do in the immediate future will have an impact on what the next generations face. At Coastal Review, our role is not just to report on the impacts of the climate crisis, but to critically examine the plans, the science, and proposed solutions in detail and to take a clear-eyed approach to the decisions at the state, federal and local levels that will affect our region and, ultimately, our planet.
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  • There’s something happening here

    What it is ain’t exactly clear

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 – June 2018
Hurricane Season Has Begun. Do You Need Flood Insurance?
The Atlantic hurricane season is here, and with it the threat of storm-related flooding. So, homeowners may want to buy flood insurance, if they don’t already have coverage. Hurricane season runs from June through November. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast a “near- or above-normal” hurricane season this year, with one to four “major” hurricanes expected. Standard homeowner policies typically don’t cover damage from floodwaters resulting from rising tides, flash floods or overflowing streams. To get flood coverage, you’ll need to buy a separate flood policy. Most flood insurance is sold through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and covers about five million policyholders. A few private companies also sell coverage.
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Previously reported – July 2018
Long-term NFIP reauthorization is essential
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)’s five-year authorization originally expired on September 30, 2017. Congress had not agreed to reforms in time for a reauthorization bill to be signed into law by its expiration date, so it was included in a short-term extension of federal government spending, an ominous sign for an already-troubled program. The program was then subjected to four additional short-term extensions between December and March. In March, during the debate over the omnibus appropriations package to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2018 (FY18), Congress decided to separate the NFIP from the appropriations process and extend it alone until July 31, 2018, while the rest of the government appropriations were made to last through the end of FY18.
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Previously reported – August 2018
Your flood insurance premium is going up again, and that’s only the beginning
The bottom line: your flood insurance premium is going up again — and under a policy change the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering, it could skyrocket even more in coming years.
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Previously reported – October 2018
With the NFIP underwater, expand private sector’s role
With each passing year of devastating storms and as Hurricane Michael leaves a path of destruction, the financial woes of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) deepen. But despite promising alternatives, until recently, U.S. policymakers have failed to act. However, Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-Calif.) recently introduced bill – The “Government Risk and Taxpayer Exposure Reduction Act of 2018” (GRATER Act or HR 5381) – provides a fresh approach that seeks to transfer federal risk to private capital and reinsurance markets. This legislation represents an important step in improving U.S. flood policy that will benefit both consumers and taxpayers.
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Previously reported – November 2018
Key Insurance Pool Needs More Than A Life Preserver
Congress should permanently fix the broken National Flood Insurance Program

Fifty years ago, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy, a monster storm that killed 76 people and flooded more than 164,000 homes in New Orleans. Since then, the program has provided flood insurance to homeowners and businesses where a private market did not exist.

The program is broken, however. It’s in debt, and there doesn’t seem to be any help on the way. Congress needs to make a long-term fix. Doing so will not only protect covered properties in flood-prone areas but will help stabilize a market for mortgage originators and others in the real estate industry.

Key Points
Reforms needed for National Flood Insurance Program        

* Make repetitive loss properties a priority.
* Require mitigation on every flooded property.
* Open up flood insurance to private insurers.
* FEMA should update flood maps quickly.
* Gradually right-size rates in flood-prone areas.
*  Run the National Flood Insurance Program as a business.

The goal of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is to reduce rising emergency disaster-relief payouts, map the flood risk of the entire country and cut down the risk of floods by working with communities on proactive flood-plain management.

Until 2005, the NFIP was largely self-sustaining, but Hurricane Katrina and a series of other hurricanes and storms have left the program nearly $20.5 billion in debt, and that’s before Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas.

Last fall, Congress forgave $16 billion in NFIP debt. NFIP’s fiscal lifeline has been extended by its overseers more than 75 times during its existence, including 41 times in the past 20 years. It’s due up for another congressional reauthorization later this year, on Nov. 30.

The program needs a long-term reauthorization to protect the vulnerable, improve the program’s financial soundness and promote private-market competition in the flood insurance market. Following are some common-sense reforms that Congress should consider.
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Fixing the National Flood Insurance Program
More than 5 million homeowners and businesses rely on the federally-run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for protection from flooding, but with each passing year, the program’s design flaws and mismanagement are nudging it closer to insolvency.

Despite repeated bailouts by Congress, the NFIP continues to lose an estimated $1.4 billion each year. The program’s debt to the U.S. Treasury now exceeds $20 billion, which no one expects it to ever pay back.

But the NFIP’s problems are largely self-inflicted.

The program’s fundamental flaw is that the premiums homeowners pay rarely reflect covered risk. Underpricing policies encourages over-development in areas vulnerable to flooding, while over-pricing deters property owners from purchasing coverage at all. In fact, recent estimates suggest that between 60 and 99 percent of Americans affected by recent disasters did not have flood insurance.

The NFIP recently announced that it plans to upgrade its rating methodology to more closely align premiums with risk, but it remains to be seen whether these measures will go far enough to stabilize its finances.

One major handicap to properly assessing the risk of flood damage is that many of the flood maps the NFIP uses to set premiums and allocate resources are decades out of date. Some communities rely on maps created in the 1970s, leaving policymakers and residents without the information needed to make informed decisions about their flooding risk.

But it’s not just the age of the NFIP’s maps; even newer maps are poor predictors of flood risk because they don’t take into account relevant factors like rapid rain accumulation, building codes, or expected population growth.

A recent Inspector General report found that only 42 percent of the NFIP’s maps “adequately identified the level of flood risk.” The report concluded, “Without accurate floodplain identification and mapping processes, management, and oversight, FEMA cannot provide members of the public with a reliable rendering of their true flood vulnerability or ensure that NFIP rates reflect the real risk of flooding.”

On top of inadequate mapping, the NFIP does not do enough to reduce flood losses and help communities become more resilient to flooding. Preparing for disasters is crucial – studies have shown that for every $1 invested in mitigation, society saves $6 in rebuilding costs.

Buildings that are damaged and rebuilt over and over again without adequate mitigation measures are a significant drain on the NFIP’s finances. A $70,000 home in Mississippi, for instance, filed 34 claims with the NFIP from 1978 to 2010 worth $663,000 – more than 9 times the value of the house. A $153,000 house in Alabama has received $2.3 million in claims (15 times its value). Years back, an investigation by USA Today found that owners of 19,600 homes and commercial buildings have collected insurance payments from the NFIP that exceed the value of their property.

Overall, properties like these, which represent about 1-2 percent of the NFIP’s total policies, have been responsible for 30 percent of claims since the program’s inception. The NFIP should end this wasteful practice.

Aligning premiums with risk, improving mapping procedures, and creating stronger incentives to make homes and businesses stronger and more resilient to floods would go a long way toward setting the NFIP of firm financial footing.

In addition, Congress should consider expanding the private sector’s role in flood protection, which the NFIP itself has acknowledged could be a fruitful path. Private market participation would give consumers a broader selection of coverage options, often at cheaper rates than what the NFIP offers, while reducing taxpayers’ exposure to flood losses. To this end, Representative Royce’s GRATER Act is a positive step in getting the private sector to assume these market risks.

Consumers and taxpayers deserve better. Congress shouldn’t wait to enact meaningful reform to a program millions of families count on when disaster strikes.
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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”

Background
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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Previously reported – May 2019
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.”

Previously reported – June 2019
House Panel Approves Bill Overhauling Federal Flood Insurance
Bipartisan bill aims to spur private flood insurance and lower costs for lower-income homeowners

Lawmakers in the House advanced a bipartisan plan to overhaul the federal flood-insurance program, which has struggled to keep pace with record disaster payouts in recent years.

The bill, approved unanimously Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee, aims to change the financial stakes that people in flood-prone areas face when shopping for insurance. The Midwest has been hit particularly hard by flooding this spring, as several states in the Farm Belt suffer from the wettest year on record. The legislation seeks to spur private flood insurance and reduce costs for lower-income policyholders. It also would require the government to make sure more properties that need coverage are identified on updated flood-zone maps. The plan backed by Democrats and Republicans on the committee would extend the National Flood Insurance Program for another five years. It now goes to the full House and must also pass the Senate. The program has operated since 2017 under a series of temporary extensions passed by Congress, the latest of which ends in September. “This has put our communities and housing market at risk,” House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) said. “We’ve worked very hard to give consideration to the concerns on both sides of the aisle.”

 Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.) said the bill will “not only provide long-term certainty to [federal flood insurance] but will modernize the program to ensure it has the tools it needs to perform its functions.” Federal flood insurance, offered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was created more than 50 years ago because private insurers were unwilling to risk catastrophic flood losses. Recent extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 put so much financial pressure on the program that Congress took the unprecedented step of canceling its debt, writing off $16 billion that year. The flood program had $20.5 billion in debt as of September 2018. The bill doesn’t forgive any additional debt, a move Ms. Waters had championed. But it could be the first step by Congress to overhaul flood insurance and provide a longer-term extension for the program—two measures that have eluded lawmakers since 2012. The deal would create a pilot program that provides discounts for premium rates paid by low-income households, ensuring they don’t exceed 2% of the local median income. The bill also would end surcharges enacted by Congress in 2014, including premium increases of $250 for vacation homes.

 It would appropriate $500 million in annual funding for flood-zone mapping and expand mapping to all areas of the U.S. FEMA would be required to use new mapping technologies, such as a pulsed laser-based method called Lidar, or light detection and ranging. In a move that could give private flood insurers a boost, the plan would allow property owners to switch between public and private flood insurance without losing subsidies available to them under the federal plan. For instance, property owners would be able to reinstate lower rates that were locked in when the government said they were subject to higher flood risk. They could also get reimbursed for overlapping public coverage held while they switch over to a private plan. The bill is the latest move by policy makers to jump start a private market for flood insurance. Banking regulators earlier this year said lenders as of July must accept private flood-insurance policies, in addition to the government-backed program. The bill’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats have panned it. Republican senators from Louisiana—Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy—said it doesn’t go far enough to cut costs for policyholders. Mr. Cassidy in a statement said it “lacks reforms needed to ensure the program is sustainable and that families won’t be hit with drastic premium increases.” . Read more » click here

FEMA looks at flood insurance program changes
With the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season officially underway as of June 1, coastal residents should be aware of updates to the National Flood Insurance Program that will change how the Federal Emergency Management Agency calculates flood risk and insurance policy pricing. FEMA announced in March it is redesigning its flood risk rating system to deliver insurance rates that more accurately reflect a property’s unique risk of flooding. The effort has been dubbed “Risk Rating 2.0,” and the new rates will be announced next April and go into effect Oct. 1, 2020. The change could lead to higher insurance rates for some policyholders and lower rates for others, depending on an individual property’s updated flood risk calculation. Under the new system, properties at the highest risk of flooding will generally see higher insurance rates and lower-risk properties may see a lower rate, but FEMA says it is too early in the process to know for certain which policyholders will see an increase and which will see a decrease. Under Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA will take data from a variety of sources to develop a comprehensive understanding of flood risk, according to the agency. Data sources include existing FEMA flood maps, National Flood Insurance Program policies and claims, U.S. Geographical Survey data, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea, Lake and Overhead Surges from Hurricanes model data, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data sets and information from third-party flood models. In addition to raw data, FEMA will take into account factors such as type of flood, distance away from the coast or other flooding source and cost to rebuild when determining new rates. By reflecting costs to rebuild, for example, owners of lower-valued properties will not pay as much for flood insurance as their higher-valued counterparts even if both properties have the same risk of flooding. With Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA also plans to offer mitigation credits to help incentivize risk reduction efforts and reduce the cost of future flooding events. The program will initially offer credits for three mitigation efforts: installing flood openings; elevating onto posts, piles and piers; or elevating equipment and machinery above the lowest floor.

FEMA says the risk calculation methodology currently in place was developed in the 1970s and has barely been updated over the years, even as technology has evolved to be more precise. Currently, insurance rates are based predominately on the Flood Insurance Rate Map and base flood elevations. The National Flood Insurance Program is federally-backed and administered by FEMA to provide flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners as most standard insurance policies do not cover losses from flood. According to FEMA, floods are the most common and most destructive type of natural disaster in the United States, but the majority of home and business owners do not possess flood insurance. In conjunction with the NFIP, FEMA maintains a database of community flood hazard maps that help inform floodplain management policies. The flood maps, which are updated periodically, will still be used to assess risk calculation, but they will no longer be the primary source of risk rating. Even as major changes are coming to the NFIP, there are some questions about the long-term viability of the program, which is about $20 billion in debt. On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed into law a $19.1 billion disaster aid package that includes a temporary extension of NFIP until the end of September as lawmakers deliberate how to reform the program. In addition, FEMA recently announced it will soon publicly release about 50 million NFIP records as part of an initiative known as OpenFEMA to improve transparency within the agency and the flood insurance program. The agency said those records will be available for viewing on the website fema.gov/openfema by mid-June. “We believe this will provide transparency, reduce complexity for public data requests, improve how our stakeholders interact with and understand our program, all without  consumer privacy,” FEMA chief executive David Maurstad said in a statement about the data. According to FEMA, flood insurance policyholders in North Carolina received average payments of $40,000 after Hurricane Florence for flood claims. The average annual cost of an NFIP policy for homeowners is about $700. A single-family home can be insured up to a maximum of $250,000, not including contents coverage, which can be purchased separately and covers up to $100,000. Renters can cover contents up to $100,000, and non-residential property owners can insure their structure up to $500,000 and contents up to $500,000. FEMA encourages home and business owners to purchase flood insurance before the hurricane season begins, or as soon as possible, because it takes 30 days for a policy to take effect.

 Now that the Atlantic hurricane season is underway, FEMA offers other tips to stay safe this year, including the following:
• Create an emergency communication plan with your family. This plan spells out how everyone will contact each other, where to go and how to get back together.
• Build an emergency kit. Keep it ready at home, at work and in the car.
• Know your community’s evacuation plan, evacuation routes and how to receive alerts.
• Stay informed about current conditions. Listen to local officials and evacuation orders.
• Download an emergency weather app on your phone.
• Have backup power for your phone. Purchase a weather radio.
• Keep all important documents in a waterproof container to take with you if you evacuate.

Ready.gov/hurricane and ReadyNC.org provide helpful information on how to plan.
For more information on the NFIP, visit FloodSmart.gov or call 800-427-4661.
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Previously reported – November 2019
FEMA postpones flood insurance rate revamp amid backlash
FEMA is delaying a sweeping overhaul of flood insurance rates by one year, after the planned changes sparked concerns in Congress about premium hikes. The agency said its Risk Rating 2.0 initiative will be implemented on Oct. 1, 2021, rather than Oct. 1, 2020 — a move that takes off the table a potential spike in rates for homeowners in the run-up to next November’s elections. Under the initiative, which FEMA announced in March, the Trump administration is seeking to modernize the system by which the National Flood Insurance Program assesses risks and sets insurance rates for millions of homeowners across the country. The revamp is intended to provide a more accurate picture of perils facing individual properties, meaning it would likely lead to higher flood insurance rates for some homeowners and lower rates for others. The potential for rising flood insurance costs has spurred coastal lawmakers over the last several months to push back on FEMA’s efforts. For them, the delay was a welcome development. “This should have been announced long ago,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said in an interview. “FEMA has been as clear as mud about what Risk Rating 2.0 actually is.” The delay underscored the struggle in modernizing the program, which is in debt to the Treasury after years of devastating hurricanes. Its approach to assessing risk has largely gone unchanged since the 1970s. “It’s complicated,” said Laura Lightbody, who directs the flood-prepared communities initiative at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “But the purpose of doing it is to make sure that rates better reflect today’s risk. Changing the date I don’t think should be the focus.”

FEMA said it was postponing the changeover because more time was needed for a comprehensive analysis of the proposed rating structure. FEMA’s goal as it conducts further review is “to protect policyholders and minimize any unintentional negative effects of the transition.” The extension, FEMA said, would also allow for all NFIP policies to change over to the new rating system at one time, rather than a phased approach as originally proposed. “Over the course of the next year, FEMA will continue to actively engage with Congress and other key stakeholders to ensure transparency and visibility as we work to transform the NFIP,” the agency said. The problem for many coastal lawmakers ahead of Thursday’s announcement was that FEMA had not conveyed what the potential impacts of Risk Rating 2.0 would be. That concern prompted 64 House members to demand last week that new caps on premium increases be included in a long-term flood insurance program reauthorization bill that is awaiting a vote on the House floor, as well as a delay of Risk Rating 2.0. “Republicans, Democrats, House, Senate, all of us have been pushing FEMA to provide some transparency, to open up the black box, to help us understand what they’re doing and how our reauthorization should take that into consideration,” Graves said. “It has been impossible to do so.” In the House and Senate, members on Thursday signaled they were undeterred in pushing for new affordability protections in upcoming flood insurance reauthorization bills. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement Thursday that a “strong premium cap” was needed in the flood insurance legislation to protect homeowners. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been leading the charge in the Senate, also viewed the delay as only a temporary fix. He planned to push for a “single-digit cap” on annual rate increases and a strong affordability program, a Menendez aide said. “A one-year delay does not alleviate the concern and likely pain for policyholders during a five-year reauthorization without meaningful caps and affordability built into the NFIP program,” he said.
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Previously reported – July 2020
Millions of American Homes at Greater Flood Risk Than Government Estimates, New Study Says
Nearly six million properties across the U.S. have a substantial risk of flooding that isn’t disclosed by federal flood maps, according to a nonprofit research firm
Nearly six million properties across the U.S. have a substantial risk of flooding that isn’t disclosed by federal flood maps, according to a nonprofit research firm that released its own U.S. flood maps Monday. The maps from nonprofit First Street Foundation highlight the widespread nature of flood risk. Flooding caused about $17 billion in property damage a year from 2010 to 2018, according to the Association of State Floodplain Managers. Homeowners, developers and city planners have long used the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps, which outline flood zones. FEMA’s maps label which properties have at least a 1% annual risk of flooding, also called a 100-year flood zone. The First Street analysis suggests that millions of American homeowners could be more vulnerable to flooding than they realize, and many may lack the resources to rebuild their homes in the event of severe flood damage. Mortgage lenders typically require buyers of homes in a 100-year flood zone to purchase flood insurance.
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New Data Reveals Hidden Flood Risk Across America
Nearly twice as many properties may be susceptible to flood damage than previously thought, according to a new effort to map the danger.
Across much of the United States, the flood risk is far greater than government estimates show, new calculations suggest, exposing millions of people to a hidden threat — and one that will only grow as climate change worsens. That new calculation, which takes into account sea-level rise, rainfall and flooding along smaller creeks not mapped federally, estimates that 14.6 million properties are at risk from what experts call a 100-year flood, far more than the 8.7 million properties shown on federal government flood maps. A 100-year flood is one with a 1 percent chance of striking in any given year. The federal government’s flood maps guide where and how to build, whether homeowners should buy flood insurance, and how much risk mortgage lenders take on. If the new estimates are broadly accurate, it would mean that homeowners, builders, banks, insurers, and government officials nationwide have been making decisions with information that understates their true physical and financial risks.
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on Tuesday that the U.S. has seen a major increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, damaging homes, inundating roads and imperiling the safety of drinking water. The trend is likely to accelerate. By 2030, the agency projected, the frequency of high-tide flooding could double or triple, and by 2050 that number could be five to 15 times as great.

New Data Shows an ‘Extraordinary’ Rise in U.S. Coastal Flooding
Rising seas are bringing water into communities at record rates, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.
Parts of the United States saw record levels of high-tide flooding last year as rising seas brought water further into coastal homes and infrastructure, government scientists reported Tuesday. The increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been “extraordinary,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported, with the frequency of flooding in some cities growing fivefold during that time. That shift is damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads, and otherwise hurting coastal communities, the agency said. “Conditions are changing, and not just in a few locations,” Nicole LeBoeuf, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, which compiled the report, said during a call with reporters. “Damaging floods that decades ago happened only during a storm now happen more regularly, even without severe weather.” NOAA defines high-tide flooding, also called sunny-day or nuisance flooding, as water rising more than half a meter, or about 20 inches, above the normal daily high-tide mark. The frequency of that flooding has increased because of rising sea levels, which were roughly 13 inches higher nationally last year than in 1920, the agency reported. The number of days with high-tide flooding set or tied records in 19 places around the country last year, including Corpus Christi, Texas, which recorded 18 days of flooding; Galveston, Texas (18 days); Annapolis, Md. (18 days); and Charleston, S.C. (13 days). The place with the greatest number of recorded flood days was Eagle Point, Texas, in Galveston Bay; it reported high-tide flooding on 64 days, or almost one day out of five. Those numbers represent huge jumps in a short period of time. In 2000, Corpus Christi had just three days of tidal flooding; Charleston had just two. The report notes that Charleston recorded just 13 days of high-tide flooding in the more than 50 years that measurements were first kept — the same number that occurred last year alone. That trend is likely to accelerate, the agency said. By 2030, NOAA projected, the frequency of high-tide flooding could double or triple. By 2050, it said, that number could be five to 15 times as great, with the typical coastal community flooding between 25 and 75 days a year. “You see where this is going,” Ms. LeBoeuf said. “We all need to pay attention.” The new data comes as the Trump administration continues to play down the threat of global warming, which is the driving factor behind sea-level rise. President Trump is pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, and his officials have cited the coronavirus pandemic in efforts to weaken crucial environmental provisions

  • In a separate report Tuesday, a government watchdog found that his administration was understating the cost of climate change in its regulations. NOAA, like other government scientific agencies, has been subject to political pressure. The White House pushed the agency to rebuke weather forecasters who contradicted Mr. Trump’s inaccurate claim last year that Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama, the agency’s inspector general reported last week. Still, the agency has mostly been allowed to continue gathering and releasing data showing the effects of climate change. Tuesday’s report opened with what amounted to a warning: “Sea level rise flooding of U.S. coastlines is happening now, and it is becoming more frequent each year.” Yet the report was silent on the cause of rising seas, containing no mention of climate change or global warming. “Climate change and carbon emissions are a factor at play when we look at how tides are rising,” Ms. LeBoeuf acknowledged in the call with reporters, adding the paper had not been reviewed or edited by political officials. But she emphasized that the report, strictly speaking, was limited to data collected from the tide gauges. The question of what is causing seas to rise is, she said, “a little different.”
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    Previously reported – October 2020
    National Flood Insurance Program: Reauthorization
    Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On October 1, 2020, the President signed legislation passed by Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to September 30, 2021.

    Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP by no later than 11:59 pm on September 30, 2021.

    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 recent catastrophic storms makes it clear that FEMA needs a holistic plan to ready the Nation for managing the cost of catastrophic flooding under the NFIP.

    Flood insurance – whether purchased from the NFIP or through private carriers – is the best way for homeowners, renters, business, and communities to financially protect themselves from losses caused by floods.
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    White House approves National Flood Insurance Program for another year
    The National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire Sept. 30, was signed into law Thursday, Oct. 1. Earlier last week, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted in favor of continuing NFIP. President Donald Trump signed approval on Thursday. “Since it was reauthorized it’s good news for homeowners,” said Holden Beach resident Louis Cutajar.  NFIP provides insurance to help reduce the socioeconomic impact of floods. The flood insurance program is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and delivered to the public by a network of approximately 60 insurance companies. “Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of the 23,000 participating NFIP communities,” FEMA posted on its website. “Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from government-backed lenders are required to have flood insurance.” According to St. George News, “Floods are the most common and expensive natural disaster in the U.S. Just an inch of water in an average-sized home can cause $25,000 in damage. However, unlike many causes of damage, flooding and mudflows are generally not covered by a homeowners’ policy. An uninsured flood loss can eat into your life’s savings.” In June, federal agencies collaborated to clarify rules related to flood insurance requirements. Comments were received regarding more guidance on renewal notices for forced-paned insurance policies, flood insurance amount requirements and requirements for tenant-owned buildings or detached structures. According to a DS News report, changes to the interagency document make it easier for lenders, servicers, regulators, and policyholders to find sections pertinent to them.
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    Community Rating System (CRS)
    The Town’s CRS rating is being lowered from eight (8) to seven (7) which will result in an additional downward adjustment to all property owners flood insurance premiums. That would be the third favorable adjustment, each with a 5% reduction of your flood insurance premiums.  To be clear, we will now enjoy a 15% reduction in flood insurance premiums due to the new lower CRS rating. Timbo has been the driving force in getting us to qualify for the lower rating allowing us to enjoy significant savings and is very much appreciated.  KUDOS!

    Previously reported – February 2021
    Flood-prone homeowners could see major rate hikes in FEMA flood insurance changes, new study finds
    With a major overhaul of the nation’s flood insurance program just months away, new data released Monday by the First Street Foundation suggests hundreds of thousands of homeowners in the riskiest locations across America could face massive rate hikes starting in October. The Brooklyn, New York-based research group estimates the average rate needs to more than quadruple on the nation’s most flood-prone homes under the ongoing effort to make the federal flood insurance program solvent and ensure homeowners most at risk are paying their fair share.

    First Street data projects that the majority of homeowners won’t see big rate changes, and others could see premiums decrease. But for some 265,000 properties, annual premiums would need to climb $10,000 or more to match the actual risk. Those with more expensive properties are estimated to see the biggest premium increases. Any actual rate hikes adopted by the federal government would be slowly phased in for existing policyholders.
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    Flood Insurance Costs Vastly Underrated by FEMA, New Report Says
    At a Glance

      • A new report takes into account the cost of damage.
      • FEMA doesn’t currently factor that in to flood insurance premiums.
      • The fee structure for the federal flood insurance program is set to change this year.

    Hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the U.S. would pay considerably more in federal subsidized flood insurance if rates accurately reflected the risk, according to a new report from research group First Street Foundation. The report comes at the same time the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to revise premiums for the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA says the new premiums will be more in line with real-life costs. If the First Street data is any indication, that could mean rates more than five times higher than what they currently are. First Street, a nonprofit research and technology group, identified 4.3 million residential properties as having substantial flood risk that would result in damage and financial losses. Under current FEMA rules, flood insurance rates are based mostly on whether or not a property is within a designated Special Flood Hazard Area, which requires flood insurance if a homeowner has a federally backed mortgage. The rates don’t take into account a home’s value, estimated cost of damages in the event of a flood and other factors, according to Matthew Eby, founder, and executive director of First Street. That means the cost of flood insurance for a $300,000 home could be the same as for a million-dollar home. “The rates are really low for some properties that have substantial risk,” Eby told weather.com in a recent interview. “And the reason for that is because FEMA does a zone-based approach to flood risk.” The foundation calculated annual estimated losses over a 30-year-period to determine what homeowners should be paying for flood insurance. About 2.7 million of the properties identified by First Street are outside of an SFHA. The foundation estimates that under the current system, flood insurance costs would need to increase by 5.2 times, which would bring annual premiums up to about $2,484 a year. Those inside an SFHA would face premium increases of 4.2 times, costing $7,895 a year. Costs would vary once other factors are thrown into the mix. And the prices would go up as climate change increases costs and makes flooding more likely, according to the report. The total expected loss from flooding this year is $20 billion. But that goes up to nearly $32.2 billion in 30 years. FEMA is expected to raise rates for flood insurance on Oct. 1. The agency says people should not assume that the First Street estimates are the same as the new NFIP rate structure, called Risk Rating 2.0. “Any entity claiming that they can provide insight or comparison to the Risk Rating 2.0 initiative, including premium amounts, is misinformed and setting public expectations that are not based in fact,” David I. Maurstad, who runs the flood insurance program for FEMA, said in a statement, according to the New York Times. The NFIP is operating under a loss of more than $36 billion, according to First Street. First Street introduced a new tool last year called Flood Factor, which is an interactive website that lets people look up flood risk by address. As part of its new report, the foundation added estimated costs of flood damage and losses over the course of 30 years to the tool.
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Previously reported – March 2021
Big flood insurance rate changes are coming to NC. Will they be fair?
Climate change denial isn’t just the domain of recalcitrant contrarians. It’s baked into the way the risks and costs of flooding are calculated in North Carolina and around the nation. Government-backed flood insurance – often the only option for homeowners along the coast and near rivers – is based on outdated flood maps that fail to reflect how climate change is increasing the regularity and scale of flooding. Those maps have skewed insurance rates downward and left wide swaths of land where properties should be insured against flooding but are not.

Fortunately, that’s about to change. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is preparing to unveil the sweeping changes in assessing flood risk and setting insurance rates. The new approach, called Risk Rating 2.0, will begin Oct. 1. In North Carolina, with its long coast and many flood-prone areas within its coastal plain and mountain region, the changes will have a major impact. There will be a shift in rates – higher for some, lower for others – and more accurate risk assessments could show more property owners that they need protection against flooding. NFIP rates will no longer be based on zones. Instead properties will be individually rated depending on updated weather patterns and individual aspects of a specific property. Amanda Bryant, director of the website myfloodrisk.org, said that will mean higher rates for more vulnerable homes. “The new risk assessment will show the majority of coastal properties in North Carolina are at more risk,” she said. Former North Carolina insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin said the rate increases come after Congress has long postponed setting premiums high enough to cover the actual risk. “The longer you wait to correct something, the greater the pain and that’s what’s happening here,” he said.

FEMA is not saying yet how much the new risk assessment will drive up rates and when. Annual premium increases are capped by law at 18 percent, but the escalation over time could change who can afford to live in coastal areas. An analysis by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that assesses flood risks, projects that some properties could face massive rate hikes. The predictions of rate shocks for expensive homes should not obscure that the changes will benefit owners of more modest homes, said Don Hornstein, a University of North Carolina law professor who specializes in insurance law. The current system sets rates too broadly, he said, and that leads to lower-income homeowners subsidizing the cost of flood insurance for higher-income homeowners. Hornstein said the rate changes are “going to fix that by eliminating these cross subsidies that go the wrong way.” As a result, he said, more homes will get price decreases than price increases. But also more homes should get flood insurance. “Climate change is indeed driving the flood risk up for everyone,” said Rick Luettich, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Resilience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Luettich, who develops flooding models, said the new risk assessments will be helpful to homebuyers. “There’s an aspect of it being good news if you have a better understanding of what the hazard level is and you can make a better decision about whether you want to live there,” he said. Meanwhile, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey sees an option to higher federal flood insurance rates. He is pushing to have private insurers get back into the flood insurance business they fled in the 1960s, necessitating the creation of the NFIP. Causey said during a meeting with Carteret County officials last year that private insurance policies could be “far superior to anything under the federal program.” He also wants more homeowners to buy flood insurance regardless of whether they are in a designated flood zone. “My message to everybody is if it rains where you live, you need flood insurance,” he said, “We’re all in a flood zone, it’s just a matter of whether you’re in a high-risk flood zone or low risk.”
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FEMA pauses flood insurance rate update after Schumer pushback: report
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has paused an impending update to flood insurance rates, aimed at making the country more prepared for risks of climate change, after objections from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), The New York Times reported Thursday. FEMA was reportedly set to announce new rates on April 1 to better factor in climate risks, a move that aimed to reduce construction in areas with significant threats but could have increased some costs for people who live in those areas. The Times reported, citing anonymous sources, that Schumer fought the changes, and that his efforts halted FEMA’s action. Neither FEMA nor a spokesperson for Schumer immediately responded to The Hill’s request for comment. Schumer spokesperson Alex Nguyen told the Times that the agency should consult Congress before taking action and called for “affordable protection.” “FEMA shouldn’t be rushing to overhaul their process and risk dramatically increasing premiums on middle-class and working-class families without first consulting with Congress and the communities at greatest risk to the effects of climate change,” Nguyen said. “Congress and the Biden administration must work together in a collaborative and transparent process.” An agency spokesperson told the newspaper that FEMA will continue to work with Congress to carry out the plan and its changes will “better reflect an individual property’s unique flood risk.” When he was on the campaign trail, President Biden’s climate plan included provisions saying he wanted to help make the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change. His plan also notes, however, that resilient efforts “must consciously protect low-income communities from ‘green gentrification’ ” in a section that noted that some mitigation efforts can raise property values. Schumer, meanwhile, publicly pushed back on proposed FEMA flood insurance changes in 2019, saying they “unfairly put a bullseye on the backs of Long Island and New York homeowners,” and that the agency should “halt.”
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Previously reported – April 2021
U.S. rolls out first update to flood insurance pricing in 50 years
Hundreds of thousands of Americans will pay significantly more to insure their homes in coastal areas and flood zones under new rules released on Thursday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the first major update to its pricing system in half a century. The agency said that, over the coming year, it will phase in a price-setting method that marks an epochal shift in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was set up in 1968 to cover property in flood-prone areas. New premiums will be based on a property’s value, risk of flooding and other factors, rather than simply on a property’s elevation in a flood zone. They will take effect on Oct. 1, 2021, for new policies and April 1, 2022, for the rest, FEMA said. The NFIP currently provides $1.3 trillion in coverage through more than 5 million policies in the U.S. but has been losing money for years and is currently $20.5 billion in debt. The new rules will mean hefty increases for expensive properties in wealthy coastal enclaves, said Jeremy Porter, head of research and development at First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-New York based nonprofit that studies flood risk. Current flood zone-based pricing was “basically a subsidy to people,” Porter said. Under FEMA’s new system, “pricing is based on your insurance risk.” FEMA said it expects 4%, or more than 200,000 policies, will see significant premium increases, while about 1.15 million will see decreases, noting the change makes prices “more equitable.” In a study released in February of flood-prone properties rather than policies, First Street determined that more than 4 million would face increases and the average premium in flood zones would be $7,895 a year. The numbers in First Street’s study are higher than FEMA’s because only about 30% of flood-prone properties carry NFIP coverage, Porter noted. The changes mark the first update to FEMA’s pricing methods in 50 years and are based on updated technology and FEMA’s evolving knowledge of flood risk, the agency said.
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Millions to see rate hikes under new flood insurance plan
More than 1 million people who buy flood insurance from the federal government will see their premiums drop next year under a new system that will end decades of overpayments by making insurance rates more accurately reflect a property’s flood risk, officials said yesterday. At the same time, premiums charged by the National Flood Insurance Program will rise sharply for about 200,000 policyholders, many of whom own expensive homes in high-risk flood zones and have been paying too little, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. The vast majority of NFIP policyholders — roughly 3.7 million people — will see moderate rate increases, according to FEMA projections released yesterday. “This will address inequity that has built up over time and must be corrected,” said David Maurstad, who runs the flood insurance program for FEMA. “Property owners with lower-value homes are paying more than they should, and those with higher-value homes are paying less.” Many owners of lower-valued homes have been “paying way more than their fair share,” Maurstad added. The NFIP is the nation’s main provider of flood insurance, which is not included in standard homeowners’ insurance policies. It insures 5 million properties, mostly along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The overhaul in FEMA’s flood insurance rates could generate opposition from some lawmakers, particularly those from the Northeast, where a large number of people will see rate hikes. A 2019 bill by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is now the Senate majority leader, would have barred FEMA from raising anyone’s insurance rate by more than 9% a year. New York and New Jersey will be two of the hardest-hit states under FEMA’s new system. In New York, 14% of the state’s NFIP policyholders will see their premiums increase by at least $120 a year, according to FEMA projections. In New Jersey, 15% of the policyholders will see premiums rise by $120 a year or more. “FEMA shouldn’t be rushing to overhaul their process and risk dramatically increasing premiums on middle-class and working-class families without first consulting with Congress and the communities at greatest risk to the effects of climate change,” Schumer spokesperson Alex Nguyen said in a recent statement. “Congress and the Biden administration must work together in a collaborative and transparent process.” By contrast, the percentage of policyholders facing at least a $120-a-year increase is 7% in Texas, 9% in Alabama and North Carolina, and 10% in Louisiana. In Florida, where more people buy NFIP coverage than any other state, 12% of the state’s policyholders will see a rate increase of at least $120 a year. Some policyholders will face the annual rate hikes for only a few years, while others who have been paying too little for insurance for a long time will see rate hikes for a decade or longer. The new rates will begin to take effect next April for people who are renewing policies. For new policyholders, the new premiums will take effect in October. FEMA’s announcement yesterday drew praise from environmental advocates. “This isn’t just a minor improvement but a quantitative and qualitative leap forward in more accurately pricing risk,” said Forbes Tompkins, head of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ resilient infrastructure program. Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said FEMA’s new insurance rates “could go a long way in helping homeowners better understand their risk, ensuring they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their property.” The new insurance rates are the result of a yearslong process FEMA has undertaken to refine its analysis of flood risk. Under the new system, called Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA uses the latest technology and data to estimate both the risk of an individual home being flooded and the cost to replace each home. For decades, FEMA has used a crude analysis that puts homes into large geographic groupings and charges the owners the same insurance premium, ignoring distinctions that make some of the homes riskier than others. “It’s like going from a standard-definition TV to HD-quality resolution,” Tompkins said. Incorporating replacement costs into insurance premiums would result in generally higher rates in regions such as the Northeast and the West Coast, where labor and materials are more expensive than in the rest of the country. Maurstad of FEMA said he expects the new pricing would increase the number of people who have flood insurance by making the rates fairer and easier for homeowners and insurance agents to understand. “It will result in greater value and trust in the program. As a result, folks that maybe didn’t think they were at much of a risk of flooding will now know that they are, and it will be harder for them to ignore it,” Maurstad said during a news briefing yesterday. Federal law requires people to have flood insurance if they own a property that is located in a flood zone and is secured by a federally backed mortgage. But millions of people ignore the requirement, and in some cases face financial ruin when their homes are flooded and they have no insurance.
E&E News

Previously reported – July 2021
Coastal Connection: Risk Rating 2.0 will change the entire flood industry
When FEMA announced the transformation of the National Flood Insurance Program with updated and modernized rating dubbed Risk Rating 2.0, questions and concerns were raised from various industries such as insurance agents and real estate professionals. As FEMA begins to release details around Risk Rating 2.0, it’s clear that the National Flood Insurance Program transformation will not just impact insurance rating, it will impact the entire flood industry. From private flood insurance companies to floodplain managers, each stakeholder will be influenced by Risk Rating 2.0’s implementation. FEMA has branded Risk Rating 2.0 as Equity in Action since the coming changes will make the National Flood Insurance Program rates more fair and easier to understand. Equity in Action replaces the current binary “in versus out” of a high-risk flood zone pricing methodology. Rather, it uses “graduated” rating, which is a pricing methodology based on factors such as distance to water, types of flood exposure, and other advanced elements. Equity in Action will also bring more equity to National Flood Insurance Program policyholders by basing rates off of the building’s replacement cost. The higher the building’s replacement cost, the more expensive the premium, and vice versa. In April, FEMA issued a press release on Equity in Action and state fact sheets showing projected rate changes:

    • 11% of NFIP policyholders will see a premium increase of over $120 per year.
    • 63% of policyholders will see premium increases of $0 to $100 a year.
    • 23% of NFIP policyholders will see a premium decrease.

The changes in the new National Flood Insurance Program rating methodology will have impacts throughout the entire insurance industry. For example, once Equity in Action takes effect, private flood insurers may find expanded or changed opportunities to sell policies that will close the insurance gap. Overall, what FEMA will accomplish in the transformation is making the National Flood Insurance Program part of a rapidly evolving and competitive flood insurance environment where insureds ask to see a quote from multiple carriers, one of them being the National Flood Insurance Program. Changes under Equity in Action are not limited to the world of insurance. The impacts and benefits of mitigation options, such as the elevation of a home, have been difficult to clearly communicate, and are not always viable. The coming changes to the National Flood Insurance Program bring better solutions and easier communication for mitigation options. Under Equity in Action, premium credits will now be given for the elevation of mechanical equipment, currently not a creditable mitigation activity under the National Flood Insurance Program. The NFIP is changing how home elevation premium reductions are calculated. Currently, premium discounts max out when a building is elevated 4 feet above the base flood elevation. But with Equity in Action, the higher you go, the less the premium will be. Importantly, mitigation credits will apply everywhere, not just for those properties in the high-risk flood zone. These changes will also enhance the flood resilience of our communities. As the financial benefit of mitigation grows, so will the elevation and mitigation of buildings. Essentially, the mitigation elements of Equity in Action will have a trickledown effect that benefits many other stakeholders. In April of this year, House Financial Services introduced a discussion draft of a National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization and reform bill. The bill, among its other elements, proposes to lower the annual increase cap on National Flood Insurance Program premiums from 18% to 9%. Since FEMA notes that policy premiums will increase up to the maximum statutory cap under Equity in Action, this was a clear reaction from Congress. While there are still legislative issues and priorities to tackle, Equity in Action will address long standing programmatic issues that Congress may no longer need to address in forthcoming flood reform such as using replacement cost when determining rates. In early 2021, a media storm followed the release of information about potential impacts of Risk Rating 2.0. For the first time, those who never heard of or cared about flood risk began to talk about the topic and Equity in Action will make flood risk easier to communicate. Equally important is to understand that the change that FEMA is planning will impact far more stakeholders than just those that interact with National Flood Insurance Program insurance. Equity in Action modernizes the National Flood Insurance Program in a way that has not been seen in the 53-year history of the program. Whether stakeholders involved appreciate the changes or not, Risk Rating 2.0 will change the landscape of insuring against and communicating flood risk.
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Previously reported – August 2021
FEMA overhauls the National Flood Insurance Program for climate change

    • Under the new model, FEMA will factor in the impacts and risks of climate change.
    • “No question that this is the most substantive change to the program going back to 1968,” said FEMA’s David Maurstad.

Climate change and it’s devastating impact are accelerating faster than ever, according to a new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Hurricanes are becoming stronger, rainfall heavier and flood risk higher. Yet, America’s National Flood Insurance Program hasn’t changed at all since its inception. But it is about to. Under the current program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides $1.3 trillion in coverage for more than 5 million policy holders in 23,500 communities nationwide. Homeowners in FEMA-designated flood zones are required to purchase flood insurance, but others do so voluntarily. Nearly one-third of NFIP policyholders are not mandated to carry it. Starting on Oct. 1, the program will undergo a complete overhaul to make insurance pricing more accurately reflect each property’s unique flood risk. Finally, climate change will be factored in. “No question that this is the most substantive change to the program going back to 1968,” said David Maurstad, deputy associate administrator for federal insurance and mitigation and senior executive of the flood insurance program. “What we found out was that many folks with lower-value homes were paying more than they should, and those that had higher-value homes were paying less than they should. And we have a responsibility to make sure that we have actuarily sound, fair, and equitable rates. And so that’s what’s driving the change.” Today, federal flood insurance is based on the property’s elevation and whether it has a 1% annual chance of flooding. Under the new model, FEMA will also look at the home’s replacement cost; whether the risk is rainfall, river, or coastal flooding; and how close the property is to the source of the potential flooding. Most important, FEMA will now factor in future catastrophic modeling from climate change, including sea level rise, drought, and wildfires. Right now, the owner of a $1 million Florida home and the owner of a $200,000 Montana home are paying the same rates for insurance, even though their risk levels are decidedly different. Under the new model, the Florida owner would almost certainly pay more. Maurstad says rates will go up for some and down for others. The majority of homeowners, however, will see rates go up about 10%, which is the normal annual increase. “It’s just important that we address that inequity that the lower-value homes shouldn’t be subsidizing the higher-value homes going forward,” he said. This shift will inevitably change the value of some homes. The costs incurred by any home are factored into its value, whether those costs are insurance, taxes, maintenance on an older home, or the home’s location. “You can think of it as revenue coming in and expenses going out,” said Matthew Eby, founder and executive director of First Street Foundation, which calculates flood risk scores for every home in America. Those scores are currently posted on some of the nation’s largest home listing sites, including Realtor.com and Redfin. “Depending on how much that insurance goes up is going to correlate perfectly to the value of that home for any new homebuyer who comes in and says, ‘This home looks great, but now I have to pay $6,000, $10,000,’ whatever it might be, a year in flood insurance, which is just going to take away from the value of the actual asset itself,” he said.
Covering rising costs
The change in the NFIP calculation is not just to bring better equality to the program but also to help sustain it. As storm damage increases, FEMA is increasingly paying billions of dollars out to homeowners who are uninsured.
Hurricane Harvey in Houston was a stark example. More than 200,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and three-quarters of them had no flood insurance, as many were outside FEMA flood zones. Flood zones are updated only every five years, by congressional mandate. During its reauthorization process this fall, FEMA will also put forward more proposals to make the program more fiscally stable. “No question we need to close the insurance gap. Not enough people in the high-risk area have the coverage they need to be able to be on the path to recovery after a flood event,” Maurstad said. “There’s just too much disaster, suffering, going on that we can minimize if we are able to have more people have the coverage they need.” He said FEMA has proposed a means-tested affordability program that will help low-to-moderate- income individuals pay for the flood insurance that they need. “There’s no question with climate change and the changing conditions that if we do nothing, the program is not going to be sustainable.”
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Previously reported – October 2021

New National Flood Insurance Program premiums coming Oct. 1.
Will yours increase?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s historic recalculation of flood insurance premiums will go into effect Oct. 1, and approximately 5 million policyholders nationwide will see changes in the coming year. FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 has been hailed as positive in that flood insurance premiums will now accurately reflect the real cost of flooding. For years, the National Flood Insurance Program has subsidized flood insurance by calculating premiums based on flood zone maps, and not individual, present-day structure risk. Some homeowners have been paying far less than their fair share, while others have been paying much more. Risk Rating 2.0 is meant to correct that by assessing a building’s actuarial flood risk. But there’s national concern that more than 3 million people will see their premiums increase as a result – and rightfully so based on the risk of flooding. Homeowners less likely to be able to weather an unexpected increase in their housing costs, like the middle class and low-income homeowners, could, in turn, be hurt by the policy change. More than 1.5 million will be lucky and see premium decreases. “Conscious of the far-reaching economic impacts COVID-19 has had on the nation and existing policyholders,” FEMA says, the agency is taking a phased approach to rolling out the new rates. New policies beginning Oct. 1 will be subject to the new methodology, and existing policyholders eligible for renewal will be able to take advantage of immediate decreases in their premiums. On April 1, 2022, all remaining policies renewed on that date or after will be subject to the new methodology. Risk Rating 2.0 will see FEMA incorporating factors like flood frequency, multiple flood types, distance to water and property characteristics to determine a structure’s insurance premium. The agency has released numbers showing how policyholders in each state will be impacted by Risk Rating 2.0. Federal law requires that most rates not increase more than 18% per year.
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If you have flood insurance, the price is likely going up.
What that means in NC
Starting this month , anyone buying a flood insurance policy will see a shift in prices due to a set of changes the Federal Emergency Management Agency has called Risk Rating 2.0. “The way that the rates are actually set is long overdue for an overhaul and has not been updated in decades, so Risk Rating 2.0 really brings the whole insurance system into the 21st century with updates that are based on more granular data about an individual property,” Laura Lightbody, director of The Pew Charitable Trust’s flood-prepared communities initiative, told The News & Observer. FEMA has touted Risk Rating 2.0 as marking a significant shift in how flood insurance premiums are set by accounting for a number of property-specific factors instead of setting prices solely based on the zone where a property sits. The federal agency oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, pricing flood insurance and also deciding which property owners need to purchase it in order to secure a federally backed mortgage. “Policyholders with lower-value homes that have been paying more than they should, they will no longer bear the cost for the policyholders with higher-value homes who have been paying less than they should. Risk Rating 2.0 fixes this injustice,” David Maurstad, the National Flood Insurance Program’s senior executive, said on a recent press call. The NFIP has historically been deeply in debt due to massive losses from storms like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. And losses are likely to mount as climate change continues to exacerbate natural hazards like hurricanes and heavy rainfall. Flood insurance is typically not covered by homeowners’ policies. New policies purchased after Oct. 1 are subject to the changes. Any existing policies renewing on or after April 1, 2022, will be impacted by the changes.
How is FEMA changing its formula?
Flood insurance rates have historically been based on whether a property sat in a specific zone. Rates were largely based on how flood-prone FEMA deemed that zone. Now, FEMA will consider such factors as the frequency of floods, how far a property is from water and how flooding is caused. The program will also consider information like whether a property is elevated and how much it would cost to rebuild. “Your policy is now going to be property specific. It’s going to be tailored exactly to the location and the characteristics of your house, and so the prices are going to change to reflect that additional information,” said Miyuki Hino, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor of land use and environmental planning. Steve Garrett, North Carolina’s National Flood Insurance Program coordinator, said that historically a property on the edge of a flood map would be paying the same rate as one that was much closer to a water source but in the same flood zone. Under Risk Rating 2.0, Garrett said, the pricing will be more “actuarial.” “It gives a more comprehensive picture of the flood risk of a structure but also individualizes that to that specific location,” Garrett said. Because the new formula considers replacement cost, he added, it better accounts for the actual risk posed by a specific property.
How will this impact what I’m paying for flood insurance?
The answer comes down to your specific property. There are 139,842 active flood insurance policies across North Carolina, according to data provided by FEMA. In the first year of Risk Rating 2.0, impact to premiums would include: In North Carolina, there are fifty (50) properties including two single-family homes that would see rate increases of at least $100 a month. Those properties are generally located in coastal areas like Brunswick and New Hanover counties, but there are five in Wake County and three in Haywood County. Congress has capped flood insurance rate increases at 18% per year, so it could take several years for Risk Rating 2.0’s change to become fully effective in the most flood-prone areas. While the caps could be helpful right now, Hino said, gradual increases could lead to problems for some property owners. “You might be living in a house where your insurance is affordable right now and it might be for another couple of years, but it’s quickly going to get more expensive than you can tolerate,” Hino said, adding that homeowners need to know what their final cost of insurance will be once the full increases have taken effect. During the FEMA press call, Maurstad said premiums nationwide have been rising by about 10% annually for “a number of years.” In addition to offering the NFIP’s first-ever decreases, he said, premiums will stop increasing once the true risk level has been reached — a process he acknowledged could
take five or 10 years in some cases. Flood insurance premiums for single-family homes will be capped at $12,125 annually, he added.
Is Risk Rating 2.0 more equitable?
According to FEMA, policyholders in less expensive homes have historically paid an out-sized portion of flood insurance policies. By considering the cost of rebuilding a home, FEMA hopes not only to better price risk but also shift the burden of premiums to the people who are more likely to submit high claims. “It’s aimed at fixing a longstanding imbalance in the program where because it was based on this antiquated system, many lower-value, lower-risk homes were paying too much and many higher-risk, higher-value homes were paying not enough,” Lightbody said. Risk Rating 2.0 also does away with a discount for insurance that FEMA offered after the first $60,000 of coverage was purchased. Hino, of UNC, said that discount historically meant that people with more expensive homes were paying lower rates for more coverage. “That’s no longer the case,” Hino said, “and so it’s less likely to be the case that the owner of a comparatively lower-value property would be paying more to insure than the owner of a higher-value property.”
Will this change who needs to buy flood insurance?
No. Under Risk Rating 2.0, owners of any buildings that stand within a FEMA-mapped special flood hazard area will still need to purchase flood insurance in order to secure a federally backed mortgage. Special hazard areas are defined as places that have at least a 1% chance of flooding in a given year. “The in-or-out determination will still be important for the lending institutions to determine which structures are required to have flood insurance under the current regulations, and it’s also still going to be used for floodplain management,” Garrett said.
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Previously reported – October 2021FEMA seeks comment on National Flood Insurance Program
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are calling for feedback on the National Flood Insurance Program. The National Flood Insurance Program provides flood insurance to property owners, renters and businesses as well as works with communities required to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that help mitigate flooding effects, according to FEMA. FEMA is hosting two, 90-minute virtual meetings when the public can comment. The first meeting is 2:30-4 p.m. Thursday. Participants must register in advance on the webpage. The second meeting is from 3:30-5 p.m. Nov. 15. Register in advance online to attend or speak. The meetings will look at the program’s floodplain management standards for land management and use and an assess the program’s impact on threatened and endangered species and their habitats, FEMA officials said. Floodplain management is a community-based effort to prevent or reduce the risk of flooding. Published Oct. 12 in the Federal Register, the notice says FEMA officials want to hear from the public what updates are needed for the program’s minimum floodplain management standards to help communities become safer, stronger and more resilient, according to the agency. The agency also seeks input on minimum floodplain management standards to promote conservation of threatened and endangered species and their habitats, as consistent with the Endangered Species Act. In addition to providing verbal comments at the meetings, written comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal using Docket ID: FEMA-2021-2024. Click on the “Comment” button and complete the form. The comment period closes Dec. 13.

FEMA officials said that the type of feedback that is most useful to the agency:

    • Identifies opportunities for the agency to improve the minimum floodplain management standards for land management and use.
    • Identifies specific program components that promote conservation of threatened and endangered species and their habitats.
    • Refers to specific barriers to community participation.
    • Aligns the program with the improved understanding of flood risk and flood risk reduction approaches.
    • Identifies better incentives for communities and policyholders, particularly for Endangered Species Act-listed species and critical habitats.
    • Offers actionable data.
    • Specifies viable alternatives to existing approaches that meet statutory obligations.

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National Flood Insurance Rates: the Tide Is Changing
Flood Insurance Presentation
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Gen X

GenX

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 www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx. 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.

10.31.2017
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 – January 2018
Top Story of 2017: GenX revelation leads to outrage, action
Discovery of toxic contaminant in region’s drinking water raises host of questions, concerns and prompts calls for statewide rules
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GenX update: So where do things stand now?
Much of the talk over the toxic contaminant and other emerging compounds might have moved to Raleigh, but there are still plenty of unresolved issues outside of the General Assembly
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Previously reported – February 2018
Lawmakers: Chemours should pay for NC GenX efforts
Many agree companies such as Chemours should pay to deal with problems caused by their pollution. But, actually getting money from polluters and providing it to state regulators, particularly for day-to-day costs such as staff and equipment, might be more difficult than it first appears. Earlier this month, the N.C. House unanimously passed a bill that would have provided $2.3 million in state funds, largely for equipment and personnel, to address emerging contaminants such as GenX. The state Senate promptly declined to take it up. Explaining his colleagues’ move, Senate President Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in part that the bill “leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution.”
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Previously reported – April 2018
Wilmington officials ask NC to shut down GenX production
County officials are asking that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) shut down operations that result in the production of chemicals like GenX, which have been discharged into the Cape Fear River and discovered in Wilmington-area drinking water systems.
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Previously reported – June 2018
EPA to set GenX toxicity value
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will develop a toxicity value for the potential carcinogen GenX and related compounds, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced at a national leadership summit in Washington Tuesday.
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NC tells Chemours to keep GenX out of air, groundwater
DEQ filed proposed court order Monday that would require Chemours to reduce air emissions and address contamination caused by GenX around the Fayetteville Works facility
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Previously reported – July 2018
NC tells Chemours to keep GenX out of air, groundwater
DEQ filed proposed court order Monday that would require Chemours to reduce air emissions and address contamination caused by GenX around the Fayetteville Works facility
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Southern Environmental Law Center files lawsuit calling for DEQ action on GenX
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in New Hanover County Superior Court calling on the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to use its authority to require the Chemours Company to immediately stop all discharge of GenX and other chemically related compounds from its Fayetteville Works facility.

“The state needs to stop immediately Chemours’ toxic pollution of the air and water that families and communities from Fayetteville to Wilmington depend on,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with the SELC. “Every day that goes by, Chemours puts more toxic pollution into the air and water that accumulates in our rivers, land, and groundwater. Chemours’ harmful pollution must end now.”

According to a Friday afternoon news release from the SELC, on June 15, DEQ denied a request from Cape Fear River Watch asking DEQ to require Chemours to stop pollution at its Fayetteville facility.     

 SELC argues in the lawsuit that DEQ has the authority and obligation to force Chemours to stop releasing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances into the water and air. “The people of North Carolina depend on DEQ to protect our health and safety in times of emergency,” said Cape Fear River Watch Board of Directors President Dana Sargent. “This is one of those times.”
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Previously reported – August 2018
CFPUA: Filtering GenX can be done, but will cost customers
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) may move to spend $46 million to upgrade the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant to filter — as much as possible — contaminants like GenX and other material that the Wilmington plant can’t filter from water drawn from the Cape Fear River.
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Previously reported – September 2018
Lawyers file suit against Chemours over GenX
Southern Environmental Law Center lawyers are suing The Chemours Co. on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch.

Chemours is the maker of GenX, the contaminant found in the Cape Fear River, which provides the raw water the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and the Brunswick County Utilities Department use for drinking water. The lawsuit was filed in Wilmington’s U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina Southern Division against Chemours for air and water pollution with toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), including GenX, from the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility in violation of the Clean Water Act and Toxic Substances Control Act. “Chemours’ decades-long contamination of North Carolina’s environment must stop to prevent more harm. The families and communities who drink from, swim in and fish on the Cape Fear River deserve healthy, clean water,” Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler said.
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Previously reported – October 2018
CFPUA forges ahead with GenX solutions
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) moved forward Tuesday with both short- and long-term plans to remove chemicals such as GenX from its customers’ drinking water.
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Previously reported – November 2018
Chemours to pay $12 million fine as part of GenX agreement
Proposed consent order requires Chemours to limit emissions at Fayetteville Works while also conducting studies

 If approved by a Bladen County Superior Court Judge, the agreement would require the company to limit the discharges of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) such as GenX, while simultaneously providing water or treatment equipment to residents whose water shows high levels of PFAS. Chemours also agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty that, if unaltered, would be the highest fine ever collected by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The company will also pay $1 million in investigative costs, with additional fees built into the agreement such as $200,000 if it fails to reduce annual emissions by 82 percent from 2017 levels beginning Oct. 6, $350,000 if it fails to reduce emissions by 92 percent from 2017 levels beginning Dec. 31 and $1 million if it fails to reduce emissions by 99 percent from 2017 levels from 2020 on. In a statement, Michael Regan, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, said, “People deserve access to clean drinking water, and this order is a significant step in our ongoing effort to protect North Carolina communities and the environment.”
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Previously reported – December 2018
NCDEQ does all it plans to do on lower Cape Fear GenX contaminants
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has done all it intends to do to address GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) in the lower Cape Fear River, based on answers provided in a Nov. 29 media conference call. The agency agreed Nov. 21 with The Chemours Co. and Cape Fear River Watch on a proposed consent order to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), including GenX, that contaminated wells and the Cape Fear River, the source of drinking water for Brunswick County, from Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility. The proposal would require Chemours to continue capturing all process wastewater from operations at the Fayetteville Works facility for off-site disposal until a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is issued that authorizes wastewater discharge. It focuses on addressing contamination of well water and GenX compound air emissions near the plant, with Chemours required to connect well owners to water systems or install and maintain under-sink reverse osmosis drinking water systems if they have combined PFAs levels above 70 parts per trillion or any individual PFAs compound above 10 parts per trillion.

DEQ Secretary for Environment Sheila Holman was asked why no other equipment or resources were made available to residents in the lower Cape Fear area. She said the DEQ and public pressure already forced Chemours to take steps to keep GenX out of the Cape Fear River and then the company stopped all wastewater discharge. “We will continue to monitor it,” Holman said. Holman said the proposed consent order was informed by the original investigation into GenX in the Cape Fear River from the Chemours discharge site at its Fayetteville Works plant. From there the DEQ further investigated PFAs in the groundwater, wells and air emissions. When asked about concerns the consent order doesn’t help residents downstream of the plant, Holman said the DEQ addressed those communities when it began requiring Chemours to collect wastewater and emissions to stop PFAs from entering the wastewater stream. “A lot has been geared to address the release of PFAs into the environment to protect those near the facility as well as downstream,” she said, adding the company took steps to stop Gen X from entering the Cape Fear River through other means like air emissions and groundwater. “We’ve tried to close these loops. We have Chemours monitoring the outfall. We worked hard to address all the ways (PFAS) get into the surface water. They are still trucking the wastewater out.”
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Why did CFPUA blast a proposed consent order between N.C. DEQ, Chemours and Cape Fear River Watch?
State regulators are not looking out for the needs of residents or utilities downstream of Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) alleged in a pair of motions filed Thursday in Bladen County Superior Court.
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Previously reported – January 2019
Chemours promises to reduce pollutants, but concerns persist downstream
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Previously reported – February 2019
EPA hits Chemours with notice of violation at Fayetteville Works
Chemours failed in several instances to inform federal regulators what chemicals it was using at its Fayetteville Works facility and what they were being used for, violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), according to a notice of violation the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued Wednesday. The notice stemmed from an inspection that a team of EPA staff and contractors conducted at Chemours’ site June 28 and 29, 2017, weeks after the StarNews first reported researchers had discovered GenX chemicals emanating from the Fayetteville Works facility in Wilmington’s finished drinking water. The EPA also wants to know when Chemours became aware that GenX was being released into the environment.
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Updated consent order requires Chemours to consider GenX in river
Chemours would have to analyze GenX and other chemicals in the Cape Fear River sediment and measure chemicals’ levels at raw water intakes, according to a revised consent order between the chemical giant, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Cape Fear River Watch. In Wilmington, officials and utilities expressed concerns that the original agreement — released Thanksgiving eve — required Chemours to provide water treatment technology to homes around the Fayetteville Works plant while leaving downstream utilities to foot the bill for ongoing contamination. Both the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) and New Hanover County passed resolutions calling for the order to provide additional protections for downstream residents. According to a document prepared by DEQ, changes to the order include requiring Chemours to provide an “accelerated” plan reducing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the Cape Fear River, to submit monthly reports to regulators about PFAS emissions at the plant, and to update the corrective plan as new technology becomes available.
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Previously reported – March 2019
Judge signs GenX consent order
Agreement with DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch means Chemours will need to meet PFAS emissions and water contamination benchmarks
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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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Previously reported – June 2019
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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Brunswick County sees spike in ‘forever chemical,’ GenX still below ‘health goal’
Brunswick County’s raw water saw a spike in the level of one member of the PFAS family in its raw water, while the levels of other related chemicals – including GenX – remain under state and federal ‘health advisories.’ PFAS are a family of chemicals sharing similar carbon-fluorine bonds; they are used in a host of industrial and commercial applications including non-stick cookware, fire-fighting agents, and food packaging, capitalizing on their ability to repel grease and water. There are over 4,700 members of the family and only limited testing has been done on a few PFAS chemicals, including GenX. However, several PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer. According to Brunswick County, the most recent results of PFAS testing in the raw water from the county’s water treatment plant show elevated levels of one main PFAS chemical, known as PFMOAA (Perfluoro-2-methoxyacetic acid). The testing, performed by the North Carolina Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Testing (PFAST) Network, was done on a sample taken from Brunswick County’s Leland plant on May 29, 2019.
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Previously reported – October 2019
Chemours vows to become ‘best in the world’ at controlling PFAS
During a tour of Chemours last week, plant manager Brian Long stopped near a maze of pipes to explain new carbon adsorption systems that the company says are reducing airborne emissions of GenX and other potentially harmful fluorochemicals by 92 percent from 2017 levels. A few minutes later, Long stopped again, this time at a construction site surrounding a giant metal tower of pipes, chambers and supports that, by year’s end, is anticipated to become an operable, $100 million thermal oxidizer. Long said the oxidizer will destroy 99 percent of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS — keeping them from becoming airborne and leaving the plant’s boundaries.

Chemours has no choice but to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. It’s specified in a consent order entered in February between the company, the state and the environmental group Cape Fear River Watch. Construction crews are now working in two shifts to meet the deadline, Long said. Chemours has been under fire since June 2017, when the Wilmington Star-News reported that a potentially cancer-causing PFAS chemical called GenX had fouled the drinking water for an estimated 250,000 people who draw their water from the Cape Fear River downstream of the Chemours plant in Bladen County.
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Previously reported – October 2019
Chemours vows to become ‘best in the world’ at controlling PFAS
During a tour of Chemours last week, plant manager Brian Long stopped near a maze of pipes to explain new carbon adsorption systems that the company says are reducing airborne emissions of GenX and other potentially harmful fluorochemicals by 92 percent from 2017 levels. A few minutes later, Long stopped again, this time at a construction site surrounding a giant metal tower of pipes, chambers and supports that, by year’s end, is anticipated to become an operable, $100 million thermal oxidizer. Long said the oxidizer will destroy 99 percent of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS — keeping them from becoming airborne and leaving the plant’s boundaries.

Chemours has no choice but to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. It’s specified in a consent order entered in February between the company, the state and the environmental group Cape Fear River Watch. Construction crews are now working in two shifts to meet the deadline, Long said. Chemours has been under fire since June 2017, when the Wilmington Star-News reported that a potentially cancer-causing PFAS chemical called GenX had fouled the drinking water for an estimated 250,000 people who draw their water from the Cape Fear River downstream of the Chemours plant in Bladen County.
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Report: Pre-2017 Cape Fear River highly polluted with PFAS
Analysis of water samples showed contaminant levels at 1,000s of times NC’s health goal
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Action Alert:
Two Opportunities to Make Your Voice Heard on Emerging Contaminants
With the recent news that combined PFAS levels in the Cape Fear River were as high as 130,000 parts per trillion in 2015 – orders of magnitude higher than acceptable health standards – it is more important than ever to take a stance for clean water.

Two upcoming local events organized by Clean Cape Fear and North Carolina Stop GenX in Our Water provide opportunities for you to do just that.

Your help is needed to encourage Congress to urgently address this public health crisis, and/or to join your fellow community members at a demonstration at the Chemours plant in Bladen County.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation has been actively involved in all aspects of the emerging contaminant issue and we remain fully committed to informing and engaging impacted communities so that elected officials and regulators can make informed decisions that will restore and protect the health of our citizens and the environment.

Details of these pressing needs are provided below, along with contact information for joining the efforts.

For more information on the GenX issue, visit our webpage at nccoast.org/genx, and/or contact Kerri Allen at kerria@nccoast.org or (910) 509-2838 if you have questions.

Action Item #1: Call your Senator
Contact: Emily Donovan, Clean Cape Fear

We just learned three critical pieces of PFAS legislation in Congress are hanging in the balance as we speak. Now is the time to act! Please help us call Sen. Burr & Sen. Tillis’s offices. Your phone calls do work. They get recorded every day. A tally is taken and shared with both senators. This is how we let them know these PFAS amendments are vital to healing our communities.

We need both senators to use their influence and persuade Sen. McConnell and Sen. Barrasso to add PFAS *as a class* to the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and the Toxic Release Inventory as part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)–otherwise known as the annual federal defense spending bill.

Congress has the power to take a good first step in addressing the nation’s growing PFAS public health crisis. This week is critical as Sen. McConnell and Sen. Barrasso will decide if these PFAS provisions are included in the annual defense spending bill.

Why is this important:

  1. Adding PFAS, as a class, to the Clean Water Act empowers the EPA to set discharge limits on PFAS into surface waters–like the Cape Fear and Haw rivers–which over 1.5 million residents rely on as their primary source for drinking water. This allows states, like NC, to regulate the presence of PFAS through discharge permits. Without this addition, states are left guessing where PFAS is being used and released.2. Adding PFAS, as a class, to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) empowers the EPA to unlock Superfund law. This will allow states, like NC, to force the polluter to pay. Companies, like Chemours, should pay for the mess they made. This addition would allow that to happen. Without it we are left paying for someone else’s mess.3. Adding PFAS, as a class, to the Toxic Release Inventory will allow states, like NC, to monitor where PFAS are being used and released within the state. Currently, NC’s DEQ is having to guess where PFAS chemicals are used.

Call script:
“Hi! My name is [your name], My zip code is [your zip code]. I’m calling to encourage Senator [Burr/Tillis] use their influence and persuade Sen. McConnell and Sen. Barrasso to add PFAS *as a class* to the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and the Toxic Release Inventory as part of the fiscal year 2020 NDAA. This issue is very important to me. Thank you for your time!”

Sen. Burr: 202.224.3154
Sen. Tillis: 202.224.6342

Please call every day and get at least 5 friends or family members to call with you. This issue is too important to our health and our future health.

Action Item #2: Demonstration at Chemours
Contact: Beth Markesino, North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water

On Saturday, Oct. 26, local residents can ride for free to a gathering at the Chemours Fayetteville Works Plant in Bladen County to protest GenX contamination of the Cape Fear River. Demonstrators will meet at County Line Road at N.C. 87 at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The event is part of a global day of action. Protests will also take place at Chemours operations in Italy and Mexico. Demonstrators at this event in Fayetteville will include members of the Tuscarora tribe. The event is being organized by two organizations, North Carolina Stop GenX in Our Water and Gray’s Creek Residents United Against PFAS in Our Wells and Rivers.

Thanks to the generosity of Cape Fear Coach Lines, free transportation is available for Wilmington residents wishing to attend. Pick up is at 9:30 a.m. at Independence Mall near Belk’s shopping center. Those wishing to reserve a seat for the ride to the Chemours Plant should email Beth Markesino, President of North Carolina Stop GenX in Our Water at bethamarkesino@yahoo.com.

Previously reported – November 2019

EPA moves forward with plan to address PFAS in drinking water
The EPA is inching forward with their plan to address forever chemicals in our water. The agency announced forward momentum this week on efforts to eventually put a legal limit on how much PFOA and PFOS is allowed in drinking water, give the government authority to investigate spills and make companies pay if the chemicals are discharged into the environment. All of this comes months after the EPA announced a historic plan to regulate the chemicals in February of this year. When the plan was announced last winter, leaders said they expected a “regulatory determination” to come down by the end of the year. On Wednesday, the agency delivered on that promise. PFOA and PFOS are man-made substances often released through industrial manufacturing that do not degrade in the environment. Those chemicals are part of a larger set of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS have been linked to developmental issues, cancer and problems with the thyroid and liver.
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Previously reported – December 2019
EPA moves forward with plan to address PFAS in drinking water
The EPA is inching forward with their plan to address forever chemicals in our water. The agency announced forward momentum this week on efforts to eventually put a legal limit on how much PFOA and PFOS is allowed in drinking water, give the government authority to investigate spills and make companies pay if the chemicals are discharged into the environment. All of this comes months after the EPA announced a historic plan to regulate the chemicals in February of this year. When the plan was announced last winter, leaders said they expected a “regulatory determination” to come down by the end of the year. On Wednesday, the agency delivered on that promise. PFOA and PFOS are man-made substances often released through industrial manufacturing that do not degrade in the environment. Those chemicals are part of a larger set of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS have been linked to developmental issues, cancer and problems with the thyroid and liver.
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Previously reported – February 2020
Brunswick County tops national list for PFAS contamination
A study from the Environmental Working Group tested tap water samples from 44 sites across the county in 2019. The results of that study, fully released at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, found Brunswick County had the highest level of PFAS contamination at 185.9 parts per trillion. Wilmington, at 50.5 ppt, was also in the top five on the list that ranks 31 states and the District of Columbia for presence of these per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and more than 600 others.
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Public Notice
Brunswick County statement in response to Environmental Working Group
January 2020 report
Brunswick County began an extensive testing program for PFAS contaminants when academic studies revealed the presence of multiple PFAS in its drinking water, testing a suite of PFAS contaminants on a weekly basis. Brunswick County’s water samples have continuously remained below the EPA’s established health advisory levels for PFOA + PFOS and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ established provisional health goal for GenX, however the combined levels of all PFAS is concerning and the County continues to test and monitor for most known PFAS compounds and GenX during its routine testing.

At this time, the EPA does not have an established health goal for several of the other compounds listed in this report that are contributing to the overall 185.9 ppt sample level, however the PFOA + PFOS and GenX sample levels in this report are also below the provisional health goals mentioned above. Due to the fact that little or no study has been done on the health effects of combined PFAS or many of these individual PFAS found in the source water, Brunswick County has taken a proactive approach to install the most protective water treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant to remove these contaminants.

Brunswick County’s leadership recognizes that high quality water is of paramount importance to our customers and residents and agree that reverse osmosis is the most effective PFAS removal technology, which is why the Board of Commissioners and county administration are embarking on a project to install an advanced low-pressure reverse osmosis treatment system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant, as well as increase capacity at the plant to support the county’s growth. Brunswick County Public Utilities has been working diligently with engineers at CDM-Smith and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to design, permit and build an economical low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the plant for the benefit of all Brunswick County water users.

Low-pressure reverse osmosis is considered one of the most advanced and effective methods to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated materials from drinking water, including GenX, 1,4-dioxane and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In April 2018, the County conducted two rounds of testing on a pilot low-pressure reverse osmosis system at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. The results showed that low-pressure reverse osmosis reduced most PFAS including GenX to undetectable levels, essentially removing all the components.

Not only do pilot studies indicate that low-pressure reverse osmosis is the most effective advanced treatment method for PFAS removal, but they also indicate that it is the most economical advanced treatment option for the removal of high percentages of PFAS at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Most previous studies focus on the high-energy cost when using reverse osmosis for the treatment of saline or brackish water, but the cost is considerably less when used to treat fresh water for PFAS contaminants, especially short-chain PFAS.

All of the County’s water sample test reports are available to the public at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx/


Previously reported – March 2020
CFPUA: Chemours’ vague and inadequate corrective plan ‘falls far short’
The company responsible for the contamination of the Cape Fear River with the chemical known as GenX has proposed a ‘corrective action plan’ to the state — a plan that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority says falls short. “Chemours’ proposed corrective action plan (CAP) to address decades of PFAS releases from its chemical plant on the Cape Fear River consists largely of vague promises of PFAS reductions to be realized years into the future and is inadequate to protect downstream water users, CFPUA wrote in comments submitted today to state regulators,” according to a CFPUA press release.
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NCDEQ requiring Chemours to make extensive changes to Corrective Action Plan
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced Tuesday that it is requiring Chemours to make extensive revisions to the proposed Corrective Action Plan the company submitted in December. “The proposed plan is clearly deficient and fails to address the fundamental purposes of a corrective action plan,” said Michael S. Regan, DEQ Secretary. “Chemours will not receive approval from this department until they address appropriate clean up measures for the communities impacted by the contamination and meet the terms of the Consent Order.” DEQ officials say that based on their initial review the proposed Corrective Action Plan “lacks a thorough technical basis, including an adequate assessment of human exposure to PFAS compounds and a thorough evaluation of on- and off-site groundwater contamination.” State officials also said that the plan does not provide for appropriate remediation of on-site groundwater or off-site contamination. The DEQ received more than 1,240 public comments on the plan. “The vast majority of the commenters believe the proposed plan from Chemours is not sufficient to address community concerns, the requirements of state law and the Consent Order,” the NCDEQ stated in a news release. The public comments can be seen here. The February 2019 Consent Order and related documents are available online at https://deq.nc.gov/ChemoursConsentOrder.
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Previously reported – March 2020
EPA failed to monitor GenX chemical for eight years
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement to allow DuPont to manufacture its GenX chemical at its plant in Bladen County near Fayetteville as long as it captured and destroyed or recycled 99% of the GenX the plant would otherwise emit into the air and water. But from 2009 to the end of June 2017, the EPA made no inspections to make sure the plant, now operated by Chemours Co., was in compliance with the agreement, says a report issued Thursday by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General. Until June 2017, the EPA relied on information provided to it by Chemours to verify that the plant was in compliance with the agreement, the report says. The first inspections were done after the StarNews of Wilmington reported there was GenX in drinking water supplies of communities along the Cape Fear River downstream of the factory.
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Previously reported – July 2020
NCDEQ Public Participation Forum on PFAS Contamination at the Chemours Facility on the Cape Fear River
The public will have a chance at 6:00 p.m. August 4 to hear how the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) is working to prevent and remediate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contamination at the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility.

NCDEQ and the state Department of Health and Human Services’ staff will review updates on actions pertaining to the February 2019 Consent Order, drinking water well sampling results, the Community Involvement Plan and updates from Waste Management, Air Quality and Water Resources divisions.

The public is invited to participate by phone or online during the web conference. Call 1-415-655-0003, access code: 161 074 7124 or through WebEx. Event password is GenX804.

Those interested in commenting or asking questions during the meeting will need to preregister by completing the online form, https://bit.ly/32HIRmE, by email to comments.chemours@ncdenr.gov with your name and “Aug. 4 public information meeting” in the subject line or by leaving a voicemail with your name and phone number at 919-707-8233.

Following the presentations by state representatives, community members who preregistered will have an opportunity to ask questions. The public can also ask questions through a chat feature in the web conferencing software.

This is an important topic for our residents to keep informed on. Brunswick County is in the process of upgrading its water treatment system to ensure the wholesale provision of safe potable water to the Town of Holden Beach. This is very important to the Town not only from the obvious public health perspective, but also as potentially impacting the as yet to be determined water rate agreement between the Town and county which will have to be determined very soon as our existing 40-year wholesale water contract expires in the very near future

Previously reported – August 2020
Deal reached for Chemours to stop remaining GenX chemical pollution of Cape Fear River
While the parties praise the proposed lawsuit settlement, the water utility in Wilmington says it and its customers were left out of the negotiations.
North Carolina regulators and an environmental group reached a tentative agreement in their lawsuit with the Chemours Co. on how Chemours will curb its remaining PFAS and GenX “forever chemicals” contamination of the Cape Fear River, the parties announced Thursday afternoon. The main supplier of drinking water in the Wilmington area, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, said late Thursday it was not included in the negotiations, and it is unhappy that it knew nothing of the proposed deal until it was contacted by the state earlier in the day. The utility gets its water from the river. The parties are the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the Cape Fear River Watch environmental organization and Chemours. The proposed deal would be an amendment to the terms of a previous lawsuit settlement regarding Chemours’ long discharge of PFAS chemicals into the river and the air from its plant on the Cape Fear River south of Fayetteville. “Today’s actions lay out exactly how Chemours will clean up the residual contamination they’ve caused that continues to impact communities along the Cape Fear River,” DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan said in a news release. The amendment would address pollution getting into the Cape Fear River from contaminated groundwater on Chemours’ property, from contaminated surface waters there and from rainwater that picks up PFAS chemicals when it lands on the site. The DEQ said it will take public comment on the settlement’s proposed addendum for 30 days and consider those comments before submitting it to a judge in Bladen County Superior Court. Under the original agreement, Chemours stopped the intentional discharge of the PFAS pollutants into the water and spent $100 million to build a system to remove PFAS from the air emissions at its Fayetteville Works plant. These remedies did not address the groundwater and surface waters. The settlement amendment announced Thursday spells out goals and deadlines for Chemours to install additional equipment and infrastructure to filter and treat the groundwater and surface waters. The company is to remove 99% of the PFAS contamination.
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DEQ, Chemours reach agreement to further reduce PFAS pollution
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours have reached another agreement that will reduce PFAS pollution from entering the Cape Fear River through groundwater. Since 2017, DEQ actions and the Consent Order have stopped the process wastewater discharge from the facility and drastically reduced air emissions of PFAS by 99.9%. The additional actions presented Thursday in the Addendum to the Consent Order will further reduce the PFAS contamination to the Cape Fear River and improve water quality for downstream communities. These additional actions address more than 90% of the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River through groundwater from the residual contamination on the site. “We have already issued significant penalties and ordered Chemours to stop actively polluting. Today’s actions lay out exactly how Chemours will clean up the residual contamination they’ve caused that continues to impact communities along the Cape Fear River,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This level of action is unprecedented and continues to build a foundation for the Attorney General’s broader investigation of PFAS in North Carolina. As a state, we will not wait for action from the federal government to provide relief for our communities and protect our natural resources.”

Moving forward, Chemours is required to treat four identified ‘seeps’ which account for more than half of the contaminated groundwater reaching the river in two phases.

  • The interim measures to filter PFAS at an efficiency of at least 80% from the first of the four seeps will go into effect starting by Mid-November – with all four completed by April 2021.
  • The permanent measure is the construction of a subsurface barrier wall approximately 1.5 miles long and groundwater extraction system that will remove at least 99% of PFAS to be completed by March 2023.

Chemours is also required to treat on-site stormwater that is adding residual pollution to the river with a capture and treatment system that must remove at least 99% of PFAS.

  • Failure to meet the schedules or achieve the removal goals will result in financial penalties, including:
  • Failure to meet the construction schedule for the interim measures will result in fines of $5,000 per day for the first 14 days and $10,000/day until construction is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall installation schedule results in a $150,000 fine followed by $20,000 per week until installation is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall’s 95% mass loading goal in the initial demonstration results in a $500,000 fine, with a $100,000 fine for failure to meet any of the four subsequent demonstrations.

“We believe this commitment is significant and meaningful; it aligns to our Chemours Corporate Responsibility Commitments to reduce the emissions of PFAS by at least 99% at all Chemours manufacturing sites worldwide,” Chemours said in a news release. “These actions are in addition to the successful installation of over $100 million in emissions control technology, including a state-of-the art thermal oxidizer, that are controlling over 99% of all PFAS emissions from our manufacturing processes, a treatment system for the historic discharge channel at the site that is under construction and scheduled to be commissioned in late September pending NC DEQs issuance of a permit, and the extensive actions to provide a permanent drinking water source for private well owners whose wells tested above PFAS levels as provided in the Consent Order Agreement.” However, CFPUA was surprised by the Chemours Consent Order addendum. CFPUA said it was not provided with an advanced copy of the addendum.

“It is disappointing that we and our customers have once again been excluded by the State from these discussions about a subject that is of vital interest to our community,” said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner. “We have seen no evidence this or any of the steps proposed so far by Chemours will sufficiently improve water quality to the same level that the State has set as the standard for private well owners around Chemours’ site,” Flechtner said. “We continue to be frustrated that our customers continue to be treated differently than people near the plant.” The Addendum to the Consent Order with the additional requirements and penalties will be provided for public comment for 30 days. The comment period will be announced next week. DEQ will consider the public comments before the Addendum is presented for entry by the Bladen County Superior Court. The Addendum is available here.
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Previously reported – August 2021
GenX and your health:
What we know 4 years after the toxin was found in Wilmington’s drinking water
Scientists have established that people in the Cape Fear region have extremely high amounts of PFAS in their blood, but little is known about these compounds
For decades, thousands of North Carolinians drank contaminated water from the Cape Fear River. The pollution has been brought under control, but in the aftermath, fear over what the toxins have done to people’s bodies has arisen. Unknown to most until 2017, Chemours and before them DuPont, two chemical manufacturers, polluted the Cape Fear River with harmful chemicals for more than 30 years. Since the 1980s, dangerously high levels of PFAS, including one called GenX, leaked uncontrollably into the river, which serves as the drinking water source to more than 300,000 people. In 2017, a StarNews investigation identified the Fayetteville Works plant outside Fayetteville as the primary source, but Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear River riverkeeper, said there are many more PFAS polluters out there. All this pollution has a human cost. For decades, Burdette, his family and hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians drank the water from their facets, unaware of the risk. Now many are left wondering what will happen to them. “You talk to people in Wilmington and everybody knows somebody that has died of kidney cancer, liver cancer, has thyroid issues or any number of things that are very definitely linked to PFAS,” Burdette said. Scientists are trying to provide answers, but various challenges are creating roadblocks. Scientists in North Carolina have established that the populations in the Cape Fear region have extremely high amounts of PFAS in their blood, but little is known about these compounds and researching them is complex and takes time. Jane Hoppin and her colleagues at the GenX Exposure Study have been studying PFAS in North Carolina since the crisis began four years ago. The group has taken blood samples from affected residents and is now embarking on a larger five-year study to examine the long-term health effects of exposure to PFAS, which is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. In Wilmington, researchers estimate residents ingested approximately 700 parts per trillion of PFAS every day for more than 30 years, said Hoppin, who’s the principal investigator of the project. That exposure is five times the exposure goal set by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “We still don’t know whether there’s a unique fingerprint to health risks for people who live in Wilmington (and Fayetteville),” said Hoppin, a professor at North Carolina State University. “We may never know because the kinds of things that PFAS are most strongly related to in animal studies aren’t super unique.” Animal testing done on PFAS in general reveals the chemicals can cause liver damage that could lead to cancer or tumors, according to Jamie DeWitt, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. PFAS exposure can also lead to kidney, testicular and other cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute, however it’s unknown if the types of PFAS North Carolinians were exposed to cause the same illnesses. “There’s several reasons toxicologists like me are concerned about PFAS,” DeWitt said. “One of the main reasons is that they’re persistent. They last for an indefinite period of time in the environment, which means that living organisms are going to be continually exposed for generations.”
What more do we know?
Since 2017, the GenX Exposure Study has collected blood samples from more than 300 people in the Cape Fear region to measure how much of the chemicals have been absorbed into people’s bodies. The results took researchers by surprise, Hoppin said. The team found numerous types of PFAS in participants’ blood, including legacy PFAS at levels above the 95th percentile compared to the U.S. population. Studying PFAS is a challenge, partly because there’s no “charismatic tragic illness” felt by the masses to inspire action, Hoppin said. Also, many of the potential health outcomes, such as cancer, can be caused by a multitude of factors, complicating the job of trying to identify how the toxin affects people. Researchers are making some progress, but traditionally scientists study one compound individually, which can be very time and labor intensive, said Carrie McDonough, an assistant professor and environmental chemist at Stony Brook University. “You can imagine when we have thousands of these compounds, we have new ones all the time that are getting discovered. It’s really hard to keep up with these kinds of toxicological studies,” McDonough said. Scientists have few human population studies to judge the effects of PFAS, according to Alan Ducatman, professor emeritus at West Virginia University. The few population studies out there also might not be relevant to North Carolina because compounds are distinct, meaning outcomes could be different. Ducatman served as principal investigator for the C8 Health Project, a population study convened after DuPont released a PFAS called C8, the precursor to GenX, into the mid-Ohio Valley contaminating the drinking water of more than 80,000 people. After decades of polluting the valley, DuPont paid out hundreds of millions to affected residents and later decided to replace C8 with a new substance called GenX. That new compound was supposed to be safer and would be manufactured by a spinoff business named Chemours outside Fayetteville.
In your blood
While the bloodwork done by the GenX Exposure Study found new PFAS in North Carolinians’ blood, it’s not getting a complete picture about how many manmade chemicals are in a person’s body, DeWitt said. Researchers only measured the blood, which excludes any buildup in a person’s organs where there could be more. The chemicals measured in participants’ blood four years ago are likely still there, DeWitt said. Depending on the half-life of the specific compound, it could take years or even a lifetime for the chemical to breakdown and exit the body, and that’s if new exposure ends. Measurable amounts of GenX, PFOA and PFOS, all PFAS compounds, continue to be found in the Cape Fear River both leaving the Fayetteville Works Plant and entering the drinking water source of Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, according to water sampling done by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. While the amounts are below state recommended health levels, North Carolinians continue to be exposed to the PFAS chemicals. “You never are really going to fully get rid of what you have in your body because you have continuous exposure,” DeWitt said. “What little bit gets left behind gets added to by the new amounts that you take into your body.” It’s likely nearly everyone who drank the contaminated water in the Cape Fear region will have detectable levels of PFAS in their bodies, DeWitt said. Detectable levels don’t mean a person will develop cancer or another disease linked to PFAS, it just means that they are at an increased risk. Scientists still have a lot to learn about how PFAS interact in the bloodstream, but from what they know now, it’s clear the chemicals behave differently than other toxins, McDonough said. Because the chemicals behave differently and are novel substances there’s a steep learning curve for researchers, McDonough said, but from what scientists already understand the news doesn’t seem encouraging.
What happens from here?
From what Ducatman observed in West Virginia with C8, it didn’t take long for signs of exposure to start showing up in the community. Scientists could quickly see some of the effects in children. By adolescence, scientists could measure a noticeable difference in lipids between children exposed to high levels of C8 and those who weren’t, Ducatman said. Researchers also found children who were exposed to C8 had vaccine uptake issues, meaning their bodies didn’t fully absorb immunizations as well as those who weren’t affected by the manmade compounds. Much of the research on the populations affected by the C8 contamination, including the C8 Science Panel, were carried out as part of the legal settlement between DuPont and the victims of the exposure. Scientists, as part of the C8 Science Panel, would go on to establish probable links between C8 and kidney and testicular cancer, pregnancy induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis and thyroid disease. No such agreement exists in North Carolina, and thus Hoppin’s team is being supported by grant funding, making it harder to gather as much data as what was achieved in West Virginia. Nonetheless, the five-year study being conducted by Hoppin and others will build off what was learned in West Virginia, Hoppin said. The study is currently recruiting participants in the Fayetteville area, but will start looking for Wilmington residents this fall, Hoppin said. Hoppin hopes to have between 1,200-1,400 participants. Because taxpayers are paying for the study, the examination will focus on health outcomes that will impact people over the course of their lifetimes, Hoppin said. Hoppin added it’s hard for researchers to examine cancer in relation to PFAS in North Carolina because Wilmington’s population has grown so quickly, and the disease generally has a 20-year latency period, meaning it can take up to 20 years for cancer to form as a result of PFAS exposure. “There are a million questions out there that people want to know the answers to, and I think that as researchers we need to focus on the ones that we are skilled to answer,” Hoppin said.

Chemours’ proximity to Cape Fear, Wilmington
Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant is located along the Cape Fear River approximately 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville and roughly 100 miles upstream from Wilmington.
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GenX water crisis: Could we face another toxic water disaster? Experts say danger is still there
Some positive steps have been taken in the past four years since the GenX crisis began, but experts say residents remain at risk of another disaster happening
In 2017, more than 300,000 people found out they had been drinking toxic water for decades, all stemming from a chemical manufacturing plant almost 100 miles up the Cape Fear River. Positive steps have been taken in the aftermath, and yet nothing stops the same disaster from happening again tomorrow. In critical areas, such as regulations governing chemical dumping and enforcement of those rules, experts say nothing has changed, meaning residents in Wilmington, Fayetteville and beyond face a very real chance of enduring the same disaster all over again. In the four years since the crisis began, PFAS levels in the drinking water around the Wilmington area and in Brunswick and Pender counties have come down dramatically, more than 99%, according to Detlef Knappe, a professor focused on drinking water quality and treatment at North Carolina State University. The crisis in North Carolina has brought a lot of attention to the larger issue of PFAS, though no amount of progress can make up for the 30-plus years of pollution and exposure thousands had to experience, Knappe added. “The concern I have is really there’s nothing in our regulatory system now to prevent something similar with a pollutant that we don’t yet know about,” Knappe said. “In my view, we need to really rethink the way we regulate industries and especially industries that produce high volumes of chemicals.” For more than 30 years, PFAS, including GenX, leaked into the Cape Fear River from a chemical plant owned by DuPont until 2015, when it was taken over by Chemours. The Cape Fear River is the main drinking water source to more than 300,000 people in southeastern North Carolina. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of thousands of chemical compounds that are largely toxic to humans. Chemours has made a “sizable investment” at its Fayetteville Works plant since 2017 to eliminate 97% of its PFAS and GenX emissions, according to a statement from the company. Chemours has installed GAC (granular activated carbon) filters, an emissions control facility, water treatment center and is planning to build an underground barrier wall around its property to contain the remaining 3% of PFAS emissions. “Chemours has made significant investments in emissions control technology and remediation activity at its Fayetteville Works site,” according to the statement. “The company has taken numerous actions over the past four years that have dramatically decreased emissions of PFAS and loading to the Cape Fear River.” While quite a lot of progress has been made, scientists are also finding that the disaster is larger than previously thought, said Dana Sargent, executive director of Cape Fear River Watch, who along with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, is supervising Chemours’ cleanup activities. As part of a court order reached in 2019, Chemours funded water sampling tests around the region, Sargent said. Those tests found that there were an additional 257 types of PFAS leaking from Chemours’ facility into the Cape Fear River that weren’t previously known about. “Chemours and its predecessor had more than 40 years to show honorable commitment to the community and the environment,” Sargent said. “They chose profit instead. Their so-called ‘commitment’ to reducing PFAS in the environment began in 2019 – by court order.” The consent order was an excellent step forward to preventing the disaster from getting worse, but it took several years to negotiate, said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. The SELC represented Cape Fear River Watch during negotiations with the state and Chemours. Beyond the consent order, little else in terms of regulations has changed since the crisis began, Gisler said. More frustrating than that, Gisler said, is that the regulatory tools that could’ve prevented the contamination in the first place have existed for 50 years. The state and federal government just aren’t using them, he said. “This situation was not a failure of the law,” Gisler said. “The way the law is written is good enough to prevent this. It’s a failure of the agencies that we trust to enforce the law.
What progress has been made?
In Wilmington, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, the primary water provider in the area, immediately instituted interim solutions to filter out the PFAS while it constructs a $46 million filtration system at its Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, said Carel Vandermeyden, CFPUA’s deputy executive director. CFPUA is using its 14 existing filters at Sweeney to filter out PFAS, Vandermeyden said. The solution isn’t meant to work long-term, but on average it removes 30% to 40% of the toxic chemicals. The public utility’s testing capabilities for PFAS have come a long way since 2017, Vandermeyden said. Four years ago, the utility tested for approximately 20 compounds, but now it looks for more than 50. At least half of the PFAS chemicals CFPUA looks for today, it didn’t know about in 2017, Vandermeyden said. The utility continues to add more compounds to its list as testing methods are created for the massive class of chemicals. Statewide, the North Carolina legislature formed the North Carolina PFAS Testing Network, a consortium of researchers, in 2018 as a result of the ongoing contamination, according to Lee Ferguson, a professor at Duke University and co-chair of the Network’s executive advisory committee. The program and state have become a national leader in terms of monitoring programs related to PFAS, Ferguson said. Few other states have programs made up of academic researchers using cutting-edge technology to find PFAS compounds in drinking water. Ferguson and Knappe are part of a team within the PFAS Testing Network that’s assessing every municipal drinking water source in North Carolina for PFAS contamination. The researchers were surprised by just how much PFAS there is in the water across North Carolina and the various sources it comes from, Ferguson said. In Southeastern North Carolina, the primary source is Chemours, but in the central part of the state the team found high concentrations of legacy PFAS. The issue will continue to jeopardize people’s safety because “we live in a universe of chemistry,” Ferguson said. With tens of thousands of different chemical compounds, and more being created every year, no monitoring network can possibly keep up. “We’re left with these problems of unregulated and unmonitored emerging contaminants, which come to our attention only when a researcher either thinks to look for them, or the problem becomes so acute downstream that people have health impacts,” Ferguson said.
Being proactive, not reactive to PFAS

Right now, the United States takes a reactive approach to PFAS chemicals rather than a proactive one, Sargent said. Manufacturers create the substances, discharge it into the environment and if people start to get sick then maybe the government will monitor it and possibly regulate it years after it became a problem. “I have a brother who is a Chicago firefighter and a U.S. Marine. He was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in the winter of 2017 just a few months after we found out about our contamination here,” Sargent said. “He died in the winter of 2019 at 47 years old. We don’t know if his exposure to PFAS, which was excessive because of his career, was what caused his death. That’s completely unacceptable.” The government should do more to protect Americans and stop these industries and companies such as Chemours or DuPont from creating toxic messes that can cause serious health issues, Sargent said. If a chemical isn’t regulated in the U.S., like most PFAS, there’s very little any entity can do to stop industries or companies from discharging it into the environment, Knappe said. The U.S. needs a new framework on how it regulates chemicals, Knappe said. There are thousands of PFAS compounds, new ones being invented all the time and there’s no realistic way for any regulatory agency to keep up. The weak links in this situation, according to Knappe, are the policy and enforcement. It’s one thing to create a standard to limit a chemical, but it’s a totally different thing to put that regulation into practice. Every few years the EPA surveys drinking water across the country for 30 unregulated contaminants, Knappe said. It’s a “very, very small drop in the bucket” compared to the number of chemicals on the market, Knappe admitted. The science surrounding PFAS has “progressed rapidly” in the past few years and the EPA is using that new understanding to create new actions, according to an emailed statement from an EPA spokesperson. “Under the Biden-Harris administration, EPA has made addressing PFAS a top priority and is working together with communities across the country to effectively address these dangerous chemicals and protect public health,” according to the statement. EPA is in the midst of developing a multi-year strategy to create more public health protections around PFAS, according to the statement. The spokesperson added, “Our goal is to move as expeditiously as possible, while grounding all of our decisions in the law and a strong scientific foundation.”
A failure of government, not regulations
Regulatory change could be on the horizon after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act on July 21. The legislation would address PFAS on several levels by introducing new regulations and safeguards. The bill would require the EPA to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which is a federal law that governs how the EPA responds to environmental contaminations. The act would also propose national drinking water standards for PFAS, create clearer penalties for violations, create grant programs to help communities affected by PFAS contamination, designate PFAS as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and numerous other actions. Despite the bill’s new protections against PFAS, six out of 13 members of North Carolina’s delegation to the House voted against the legislation, including six of the state’s eight Republican representatives. Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC07) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC08), who represent the areas affected, voted in favor of the bill in addition to their Democratic colleagues. The baseline rule in the Clean Water Act is unless a group gets permission to dump substances into waterways, it’s illegal, Gisler said. Yet companies get around this rule bcause states and the EPA don’t enforce it. Companies come up with a new chemical, don’t tell anyone about it and simply start dumping it into waterways, Gisler said. If regulatory agencies don’t enforce the rules, then it doesn’t matter what regulations are passed. “If there were no police, then what would stop bank robbers? Nothing,” Gisler said. “Here we have laws, and we have the system. What we don’t have are agencies that are willing to enforce it.” The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has taken “proactive steps” to address the impacts of PFAS contamination across the state, according to a statement from the agency in response to Gisler and others’ comments.
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The GenX water crisis began 4 years ago.
Here’s a recap of the key moments so far
For more than 30 years, an untold amount of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals entered the Cape Fear River and private residents’ drinking wells from a chemical manufacturing plant outside Fayetteville, North Carolina. The chemicals that leaked from the plant are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, and their manufacturers have allegedly known for decades that they are dangerous to humans. Yet Chemours and DuPont, the two manufacturers who owned the Fayetteville Works plant, contaminated the drinking water for more than 300,000 North Carolinians since as early as 1980. It wasn’t until 2017 when the StarNews broke the story, that the public became aware they were consuming toxic chemicals in dangerously high amounts. In the four years since the crisis began, Chemours has had to pay a $12 million fine to the state of North Carolina, and is now required by legal agreement to clean up its manufacturing facility and help some of the thousands of affected residents. But a vast majority of the 300,000 people affected by the GenX water crisis have yet to receive any assistance from Chemours or DuPont, and major questions remain over how many will ever get any help, what the chemicals will do to people long term and what stops the same crisis from happening again.
4 years later; Chemours, DuPont face 1,000+ lawsuits for part in GenX water crisis
In the four years since the GenX water crisis began, a vast majority of those affected haven’t gotten any assistance from Chemours or DuPont. Many have decided to sue as a result. Chemours and DuPont face more than 1,000 lawsuits for their part in the GenX water crisis, but North Carolina is just the tip of the iceberg for the two chemical makers when it comes to water contamination lawsuits.
4 years later; what stops the GenX crisis from happening again? Nothing, experts say
The field of chemistry, especially for commercial purposes, is a quickly expanding area, and there’s no realistic way for scientists or regulators to keep track of all the compounds companies come up with. While some progress has been made in terms of monitoring, environmentalists and experts say little has changed in terms of regulations that could prevent a similar crisis from happening.
4 years later; health impacts of GenX crisis remain a mystery

In the four years since the GenX crisis began in the Cape Fear region, scientists have established that North Carolinians who drank the water from the Cape Fear River had higher amounts of PFAS in their bodies compared to the average American. Yet little is known about what high amounts of PFAS exposure will do to people. Scientists have established some compounds such as PFOA, also known as C8, are possible human carcinogens, but other chemicals leaked into the river by Chemours aren’t as well understood by scientists. Scientists, including many in North Carolina, are making progress in determining the health impacts of PFAS on humans, but they say progress is slow and ultimately understanding the true effects of the crisis might never be possible.
Chemours, North Carolina and Cape Fear River Watch enter into consent order
In February 2019, Chemours, the state of North Carolina and Cape Fear River Watch entered into a consent order requiring the chemical manufacturer to reduce its chemical emissions and clean up its manufacturing facility outside Fayetteville. As part of the agreement, Chemours agreed to pay a $12 million fine to the state and make a $100 million investment in its operation to reduce PFAS emissions. The consent order also mandated Chemours help those around the Fayetteville Works site by installing filters in their homes if their drinking water wells were contaminated.
Chemours admits to polluting Cape Fear River since 1980s
In a public meeting with local and state officials, Chemours said it had been dumping unregulated chemicals into the Cape Fear River since as early as 1980. Despite the admission, Chemours didn’t commit to ceasing its chemical discharges into the public waterway. Chemours officials believed GenX ended up in the Cape Fear River as a result of a vinyl ether process that takes place on the massive industrial site.
StarNews breaks story on PFAS contamination
In June 2017, a StarNews investigation revealed that a chemical known commercially as GenX had been identified in the drinking water system of Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, which provides drinking water to approximately 200,000 people. The discovery of the PFAS compound, which at the time CFPUA couldn’t filter out, came after years of researchers finding the toxins in the Cape Fear River flowing down from the Fayetteville Works plant approximately 100 miles upstream from Wilmington. At the time, scientists had only tested CFPUA for the compound, but expected the contamination zone to spread as more areas were tested.
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Previously reported – October 2021

State to host PFAS, GenX remediation update
Residents can learn from the state next month the current actions underway to prevent and remediate per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contamination at the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is hosting a remote community information session 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16. The public is invited to participate by phone or online. During the information session, there will be updates from NCDEQ’s air, water and waste management divisions about emission reduction requirements, upcoming permit actions, drinking water well sampling results and replacement water updates, according to the state. Officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will provide an overview of knowledge about potential health effects and how to reduce exposure. To dial in, call 1-415-655-0003 and use access code 2427 524 0753. To view the meeting online through WebEx at https://ncdenrits.webex.com/ncdenrits/j.php?MTID=m20e1854b10e617d07b77546e228cf776.
Event password is 1234. After the presentations by state representatives, community members who registered online before the meeting will have an opportunity to ask questions. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions through a chat feature in the web conferencing software. More information about the state’s investigation can be found at https://deq.nc.gov/news/hot-topics/genx-investigation. Information for residents can be found at https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation/genx-information-residents.
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EPA to list PFAS as hazardous as part of new approach
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday an approach to address pollution nationwide from the types of toxic “forever chemicals” that have been plaguing southeastern North Carolina for decades, a plan that includes listing certain of these substances as hazardous under the Superfund Act. EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the three-year “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024”
Monday to a handful gathered at North Carolina State University’s Lake Raleigh Fishing Pier in Raleigh. Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser and Congresswoman Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, joined Regan for the announcement. The event was streamed live on YouTube, but technical issues frequently interrupted the program for viewers. The strategic roadmap, the result of work by the EPA Council on PFAS that Regan put in place in April, focuses on three strategies: increase investments in research, leverage authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination, EPA officials said. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, including GenX, are a group of man-made chemicals used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. Research suggests that PFAS breaks down slowly and can accumulate in people, animals and the environment, which can lead to adverse health outcomes, according to the EPA. Regan has long been entrenched in managing PFAS. He was serving as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality secretary when news broke June 7, 2017, that the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility had for years released PFAS into the Cape Fear River, the drinking water source for the Wilmington area. President Joe Biden selected Regan earlier this year to serve as the EPA administrator. Regan said that moving to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund program would allow the agency to clean up contaminated sites and hold the responsible parties accountable by either having them perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. “The Superfund program has successfully protected American communities by requiring polluters to pay to clean up the hazardous waste and pollution that they themselves have released in our environment,” he explained. “This strategy will leverage EPA existing authority to take bold action to restrict chemicals from entering the land, the air, the water, and land at all levels that are harmful to public health and the environment.” Regan said that the EPA will immediately broaden and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination. When the agency becomes aware of a situation where PFAS poses a serious threat to the health of a community, “we will not hesitate to take swift action, strong enforcement to address the threat and hold polluters accountable, all across the country.” This strategy means EPA will work with other agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department to identify facilities where PFAS have been used and are known to be a source of contamination. Other actions include a final toxicity assessment of the substance known as GenX, “which will ensure that no other community has to go through what the Cape Fear River communities had to endure,” Regan said. Biden has called for more than $10 billion in funding to help address PFAS contamination through the Build Back Better Agenda. “These critical resources will enable EPA and other federal agencies to scale up the research and work, so that they’re commiserate with the scale of the challenges that we all face together,” Regan said. Regan highlighted work taking place in North Carolina, noting that Biser, the DEQ secretary, had recently issued a $300,000 fine to Chemours for failing to meet its obligation to protect state residents. “Secretary Biser is setting the standard, this is the kind of accountability that we want to see all over the country, and that we will work with states to achieve,” Regan said. He noted that across the country, lessons have been learned that can be shared and that every level of government will need to step up to protect the public. He also highlighted the need for continued partnerships with advocacy groups and community activists. Regan said that some may question trust in the EPA because “so many communities have been let down before, time and time again,” adding that the public needs to see action. “I believe that the national strategy that we’re laying out shows and demonstrates strong and forceful action from EPA, a willingness to use all of our authority, all of our tools, all of our talent to tackle PFAS.” He said the EPA pledges to “hold the polluters accountable for the decades of unchecked devastation that they’ve caused.”

According to the EPA, the roadmap also includes the following:

    • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
    • A hazardous substance designation under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as Superfund, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
    • Timelines for action, whether it is data collection or rulemaking, on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
    • A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
    • Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
    • A final toxicity assessment for GenX, which can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
    • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.

Cooper introduced Regan Monday afternoon, highlighting North Carolina’s and the nation’s need for the plan. “This roadmap commits the EPA to quickly setting enforceable drinking water limits for these chemicals, as well as giving us stronger tools, and giving them to communities, to protect people’s health and our environment. As we continue partnering with EPA on this and other important efforts. It’s critical that Congress pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal, and the larger budget resolution that includes funding to tackle PFAS contamination,” Cooper said. Biser pledged state cooperation. “We all have a lot of work ahead but with coordination at all levels of government, with our elected officials and our public servants, we can protect the communities and the residents throughout North Carolina, and across the nation,” she said.
Advocates react
The Southern Environmental Law Center has been at the forefront of litigation on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch against Chemours in North Carolina to stop GenX and other PFAS pollution. “SELC’s litigation under existing laws led to a consent order among Cape Fear River Watch, the state and Chemours to stop at least 99% of PFAS pollution that contaminated drinking water supplies for about 300,000 people in communities along the Cape Fear River,” the law center said in a statement. Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney with the law center and leader of its Clean Water Program, said in a statement that the roadmap charts a course to important new protections while using existing authority to protect families and communities plagued by PFAS pollution. “We have seen in North Carolina that when permitting agencies require industrial polluters to comply with existing laws, PFAS water pollution can be stopped at the source. EPA’s Roadmap pairs a plan for the future with the tools it currently has to stop ongoing contamination as the agency develops new standards,” Gisler said. “This roadmap, when fully implemented, could change the landscape in our efforts to protect communities from PFAS pollution. On this anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we’re a step closer to achieving its goals. While the roads to standards identified by EPA are necessarily long; the route to stopping ongoing pollution of our streams and rivers can and should be short.” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del, issued a statement that he was encouraged by the EPA’s urgency in dealing with a public health threat. “This is truly a soup-to-nuts plan — one that commits to cleaning up PFAS in our environment while also putting protections in place to prevent more of these forever chemicals from finding their way into our lives. After the previous administration failed to follow through on its plan to address PFAS contamination, EPA’s new leadership promised action. I look forward to working with them on living up to this commitment.” Ken Cook, president of the national nonprofit Environmental Working Group, said that communities contaminated by PFAS had waited decades for action. “So, it’s good news that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to take quick action to reduce PFOA and PFOS in tap water, to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances to hold polluters accountable,” Cook said in a statement. “It’s been more than 20 years since EPA and EWG first learned that these toxic forever chemicals were building up in our blood and increasing our likelihood of cancer and other health harms. It’s time for action, not more plans, and that’s what this Administrator will deliver. As significant as these actions are, they are just the first of many actions needed to protect us from PFAS, as the Administrator has said.” Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber said that no one should have to worry about toxic chemicals in their tap water. “We’re grateful that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to address PFOA and PFOS in our tap water and will begin to turn off the tap of industrial PFAS pollution.” The Environmental Protection Network is an organization composed of nearly 550 former EPA career staff and political appointees from across the country. The organization’s Betsy Southerland, former director of the Office of Science and Technology in EPA’s Office of Water, called EPA’s approach to restrict or ban current PFAS uses a critical piece of the plan. “The actions detailed in the roadmap are essential first steps in reducing people’s exposure to these extremely dangerous chemicals, especially in communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution,” Southerland said. “While EPA will identify initial PFAS classes in the National Testing Strategy, the agency set tight deadlines for regulating individual PFAS chemicals in air, water, and waste, which will begin to drive stringent treatment requirements. EPA’s success in turning the roadmap into action will require the swift passage of a robust budget to give the agency adequate funding and staffing to get the job done.”
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EPA to publish toxicity assessment, set health advisories for GenX.
Here’s what it means.
The federal government plans to take steps to help public health officials determine the risks associated with a compound that has contaminated hundreds of wells around a Bladen County chemical plant and drinking water in Wilmington and other communities downstream from the facility. The Environmental Protection Agency will release a toxicity assessment “in the coming days” for GenX, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said Monday at an event in Raleigh. The announcement was part of a broader move by EPA to develop a “strategic roadmap” on how to deal with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). GenX belongs to the PFAS family of compounds, which are sometimes known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily. State officials have been investigating GenX since 2017, when the Wilmington Star-News reported that researchers had found the chemical and similar compounds in the Cape Fear River, downstream from the Chemours plant. The company agreed to a consent order that requires it to drastically reduce the amount of GenX it emits into the air. The Chemours plant in Bladen County makes GenX. The compound also is a byproduct of other processes there. GenX and similar compounds have been found in hundreds of wells around the Chemours facility, which is off N.C. 87 near the Cumberland County line. Lisa Randall, a Chemours spokeswoman, said in a statement that company officials have reviewed the EPA roadmap and commend the agency for “compiling a comprehensive, science-based approach.” “While additional detail is needed for many of the initiatives, Chemours is supportive of the framework approach and looks forward to engaging in the process moving forward,” she said. “We believe the voluntary stewardship program recommended by the agency could help achieve meaningful progress in reducing emissions while several of the initiatives work their way through the regulatory process.” Regan said on Monday that the toxicity assessment will help make sure other communities don’t have to go through what those in North Carolina have gone through.
Assessment intended to help health officials
A statement released by EPA officials said the assessment “can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.” The EPA plan says it will publish assessments on hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt, which the plan calls “GenX chemicals.” The compounds have been found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rainwater, and air emissions, and are known to impact human health and ecosystems, it says. “Scientists have observed liver and kidney toxicity, immune effects, hematological effects, reproductive and developmental effects, and cancer in animals exposed to GenX chemicals,” the EPA plan says. “Completing a toxicity assessment for GenX is essential to better understanding its effects on people and the environment. EPA can use this information to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.” Chemours officials have said that the amount of GenX in wells around the plant is not harmful. Scott Faber is senior vice president for government affairs with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. He said he will be interested to see if the toxicity assessment causes the EPA to set a lifetime health advisory for GenX. The EPA has issued such advisories for two other PFAS compounds. They are perfluorooctanoic acid, which is known as PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS. PFOA, which also is called C8, was made at the Bladen County facility when it was owned by DuPont. Chemours is a spinoff from DuPont. The EPA could go further by setting mandatory drinking water standards for PFAS, Faber said. North Carolina also could set its own standards as some other states have done, he said. “That might be the quickest way to get GenX out of drinking water,” he said. The EPA plan also says toxicity assessments will be issued for five other PFAS compounds — PFBA, PFHxA, PFHxS, PFNA, and PFDA. Three of those compounds — PFHxA, PFNA, and PFDA — and PFOS were found in foam in a Cumberland County stream by state regulators this year. A Chemours spokeswoman said none of those compounds are associated with the plant’s processes. The EPA plan said that the agency expects to issue health advisories for GenX and another PFAS compound called PFBS next year. EPA published a toxicity assessment for PFBS in April. The health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory but will help state and local officials determine if they need to take actions to address public health impacts, the plan said. “Health advisories offer a margin of protection by defining a level of drinking water concentration at or below which lifetime exposure is not anticipated to lead to adverse health effects,” it said. “They include information on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies and are designed to protect all life stages.”
EPA roadmap sets timelines
The EPA plan also sets up timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act, strengthens the ability to hold polluters accountable, and reviews previous actions by the agency regarding PFAS, according to the statement. The plan also calls for increased monitoring, data collection and research, it said. Faber said the plan represents the first time the administration of a president of either political party has set up timelines for which it can be held accountable. U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s 8th District, released a statement about the EPA roadmap. “I’m glad to see the EPA give these toxic forever chemicals the attention they deserve,” he said. “We need a comprehensive and reasonable approach to combat PFAS and I look forward to reviewing the EPA’s Roadmap.” Hudson thanked Regan for developing the initiative. “I will continue to work with the Administrator and my colleagues in Congress to make sure citizens near the Cape Fear River and throughout our region have access to safe drinking water,” he said. State Sen. Kirk deViere represents Cumberland County, which he called “ground zero for GenX contamination.” He said in a statement released Monday that he applauds the EPA action, but more must be done. “While this announcement provides a roadmap, we need timely action to provide clean water now to the thousands of residents of Cumberland County who have contaminated wells,” he said. “The ultimate solution cannot be simply offering bottles of water to residents or installing under-the-sink filters.” Bold leadership is needed by state officials and Chemours to be sure residents get clean water, deViere said. “This is a public health crisis and the time for drastic immediate improvement is now,” he said.
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How Chemical Companies Avoid Paying for Pollution
DuPont factories pumped dangerous substances into the environment. The company and its offspring have gone to great lengths to dodge responsibility.
One humid day this summer, Brian Long, a senior executive at the chemical company Chemours, took a reporter on a tour of the Fayetteville Works factory. Mr. Long showed off the plant’s new antipollution technologies, designed to stop a chemical called GenX from pouring into the Cape Fear River, escaping into the air and seeping into the ground water. There was a new high-tech filtration system. And a new thermal oxidizer, which heats waste to 2,000 degrees. And an underground wall — still under construction — to keep the chemicals out of the river. And more. “They’re not Band-Aids,” Mr. Long said. “They’re long-term, robust solutions.” Yet weeks later, North Carolina officials announced that Chemours had exceeded limits on how much GenX its Fayetteville factory was emitting. This month, the state fined the company $300,000 for the violations — the second time this year the company has been penalized by the state’s environmental regulator. GenX is part of a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They allow everyday items — frying pans, rain jackets, face masks, pizza boxes — to repel water, grease and stains. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems. To avoid responsibility for what many experts believe is a public health crisis, leading chemical companies like Chemours, DuPont and 3M have deployed a potent mix of tactics. They have used public charm offensives to persuade regulators and lawmakers to back off. They have engineered complex corporate transactions to shield themselves from legal liability. And they have rolled out a conveyor belt of scantly tested substitute chemicals that sometimes turn out to be just as dangerous as their predecessors. “You don’t have to live near Chemours or DuPont or 3M to have exposure to these things,” said Linda S. Birnbaum, the former head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “It is in the water. It is in our food. It’s in our homes and in our house dust. And depending on where you live, it may be in our air.” PFAS substances are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down and can accumulate in the environment and in the blood and organs of people and animals. When the compounds get into water supplies, the effects can be devastating. Around Madison, Wis., residents are advised not to eat the fish from nearby lakes. In Wayland, Mass., residents are drinking bottled water because the tap water is contaminated. In northern Michigan, scientists found unsafe levels of PFAS in the rain. Most Americans have been exposed to at least trace amounts of the chemicals and have them in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research by chemical companies and academics has shown that exposure to PFAS has been linked to cancer, liver damage, birth defects and other health problems. GenX was supposed to be a safer alternative to earlier generations of the chemicals, but new studies are discovering similar health hazards. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was going to start requiring companies to test and publicly report the amount of PFAS in the products they make. It is an early step toward regulating the chemicals, though the E.P.A. has not set limits on their production or discharge. The E.P.A. administrator, Michael S. Regan, who announced the new rules, previously was the top environmental regulator in North Carolina, where he clashed with Chemours over its GenX pollution. “PFAS contamination has been devastating communities for decades,” Mr. Regan said. “I saw this firsthand in North Carolina.” The situation in Fayetteville is in many ways emblematic of the battles being waged in communities nationwide. Pollution from Fayetteville Works has shown up in drinking water as far as 90 miles away from the plant. Chemours argues that most of the pollution in North Carolina occurred long before it owned Fayetteville Works. DuPont, which built the factory in the 1960s, claims it can’t be held liable because of a corporate reorganization that took place several years ago. DuPont “does not produce” the chemicals in question, “and we are not in a position to comment on products that are owned by other independent, publicly traded companies,” said a DuPont spokesman, Daniel A. Turner. Both companies have downplayed the dangers of their chemicals and opted for occasional piecemeal fixes rather than comprehensive but costly solutions that would have protected the environment, according to interviews with scientists, lawyers, regulators, company officials and residents and a review of previously unreported documents detailing the industry’s tactics.
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Previously reported – November 2021

EPA assessment: GenX more toxic than thought; health effects might include liver, immune system
The Environmental Protection Agency released an assessment Monday showing that GenX, a chemical made at a Bladen County plant, is more toxic than previously believed. The toxicity assessment for hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt, which the EPA calls GenX chemicals, determined a daily ingestion level at which a person is unlikely to face adverse health effects, according to the EPA website. During a similar review in 2018, agency officials set that chronic “reference dose” at a level more than 26 times this year’s assessment. The EPA’s review talked about possible health effects. “Animal studies following oral exposure have shown health effects including on the liver, kidneys, the immune system, development of offspring, and an association with cancer,” it said. “Based on available information across studies of different sexes, life stages, and durations of exposure, the liver appears to be particularly sensitive from oral exposure to GenX chemicals.” EPA officials say the assessment will help public health officials determine the risks associated with GenX. The Chemours company manufactures GenX at its plant in Bladen County. The chemical also is a byproduct of other processes there. GenX belongs to a family of compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The compounds are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily. The Chemours company manufactures GenX at its plant in Bladen County. The chemical also is a byproduct of other processes there. GenX belongs to a family of compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The compounds are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily. State officials have been investigating GenX since 2017, when the Wilmington Star-News reported that researchers had discovered the chemical and similar compounds in the Cape Fear River, downstream from the Chemours plant. The company agreed to a consent order that requires it to drastically reduce the amount of GenX it is emitting into the air.
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EPA releases final GenX human health toxicity assessment
The release Monday of the Environmental Protection Agency’s final human health toxicity assessment for GenX chemicals represents a key step in advancing the scientific understanding of these toxins and their effects on human health, officials said Monday. Across the country, including in southeastern North Carolina, GenX chemicals, part of the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance, or PFAS, group, have been found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rainwater, and the air. The final GenX chemicals toxicity assessment is a step closer to developing a national drinking water health advisory for GenX chemicals, which the agency committed to publishing in Spring 2022 as part of the PFAS Roadmap that EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan’s announced the PFAS Roadmap last week. The roadmap details the whole-of-agency approach to addressing PFAS. During his announcement Oct. 19 he said to expect the release of this final assessment. “Research establishes a foundation for informed decision making and it is one of the central strategies of EPA’s PFAS Roadmap,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox in a statement. “This science-based final assessment marks a critical step in the process of establishing a national drinking water health advisory for GenX chemicals and provides important information to our partners that can be used to protect communities where these chemicals are found.” The final assessment for GenX chemicals looks at the potential human health effects associated with oral exposure. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents Cape Fear River Watch in litigation to stop pollution into the Cape Fear River from the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility in North Carolina. News broke of the pollution in June 2017, while Regan was North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality’s secretary. The final human health toxicity assessment for GenX underscores the importance of regulating PFAS as a class of chemicals and the need to stop harmful pollution at its source under existing laws, according to the center. “Today’s toxicity assessment is further confirmation that the more we learn about these chemicals, the more we learn that they must be treated as a class; no community should have to suffer from harmful PFAS as we wait for research to confirm their toxicity,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney and leader of the Clean Water Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center who led litigation against Chemours in North Carolina. “This more stringent GenX toxicity assessment is why it’s so vital to our families and communities that DEQ, and state agencies nationwide, must impose stringent limits on PFAS using existing authority when issuing water permits to polluters.” The law center’s litigation led to a consent order among Cape Fear River Watch, the state and Chemours to stop at least 99% of PFAS pollution at its source that contaminated the Cape Fear River, according to the release.
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Chemours responsible for New Hanover contamination, NC DEQ says

State officials have determined Chemours is responsible for contaminating New Hanover County’s water supply. The company, which has a plant on the Cape Fear River, also is responsible for contaminating groundwater monitoring wells in New Hanover County and also might be responsible for contaminations in Pender, Columbus and Brunswick counties, according to a statement released Wednesday by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ is requiring Chemours to “assess the extent of contamination in downstream communities to include well sampling and provision of replacement drinking water supplies,” according to the statement. DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser said contamination from Chemours extends to multiple communities down the Cape Fear River. The company’s actions to address the communication must reach those communities, she said. “DEQ will continue to take the necessary steps to provide relief to affected North Carolinians as the science and regulations require,” she said.
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State to force Chemours to test downstream wells for PFAS

The state is requiring Chemours to take more action to address GenX and PFAS contamination into the Cape Fear River from the Fayetteville Works facility, especially that affecting private well owners. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which includes GenX, are widely used, man-made toxins often called “forever chemicals” that break down very slowly over time and build up in humans, animals and the environment, according to the EPA. Studies show that exposure to some of these chemicals may be linked to harmful health effects. First, Chemours must assess the extent of contamination in communities downstream, to include well sampling and provision of replacement drinking water supplies, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality officials said Wednesday. Second, Chemours is required to review existing well sampling in communities surrounding the Fayetteville Works facility to determine additional eligibility for whole-house filtration and public water, in light of the revised Toxicity Assessment for GenX from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The contamination from Chemours extends down the Cape Fear River into multiple communities and Chemours’ actions to address that contamination must reach those communities as well,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser in a statement. “DEQ will continue to take the necessary steps to provide relief to affected North Carolinians as the science and regulations require.” Copies of the notifications to Chemours are online. DEQ officials said the department has determined that Chemours is responsible for contamination of groundwater monitoring wells and water supply wells in New Hanover County and possibly Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties. “Chemours is required to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination. Chemours must also conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies. Chemours must submit plans to DEQ for approval,” officials said. Regarding the second action, officials said Chemours had been advised that the EPA will be releasing a federal drinking water health advisory level for GenX in the coming months. The 2019 Consent Order requires Chemours to provide replacement permanent drinking water to private wells with “detections of GenX compounds in exceedance of 140 ng/L (nanogram per liter), or any applicable health advisory, whichever is lower.” In advance of a likely EPA health advisory level below 140 nanogram per liter, DEQ is requiring Chemours to review existing well sampling data to identify residents who would be entitled to public water or whole house filtration under a revised health advisory level. Chemours must revise the assessment of public water feasibility for all affected residents under a lower health advisory level. DEQ is also requiring Chemours to create a plan to transition residents who have previously received reverse osmosis systems based on GenX results to either public water or whole-house filtrations systems as appropriate under a lower GenX health advisory level. “I want to thank DEQ and Secretary Biser for taking these steps to require action from Chemours, so they take responsibility for the PFAS contamination they have caused in our community,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman in a statement.
“It is important for our residents to be provided with the same protections as those who are close to the Chemours plant, and that means testing and monitoring the groundwater wells in our county and providing bottled water and then a permanent filtration or connection to a public water supply if elevated PFAS are detected,” she said. “New Hanover County has advocated to be included in the Consent Order, and today’s actions are a positive step towards that. We will continue to do all we can to support DEQ’s efforts and ensure our residents have access to safe drinking water.” Lisa Randall, regional communications lead for Chemours, provided the following statement on behalf of the company: “Chemours is a part of the solution to addressing PFAS contamination in North Carolina, and we will continue working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), as we have been for several years, to move forward with efforts to address PFAS found in the environment related to our Fayetteville Works manufacturing site. We have worked closely with NCDEQ on implementation of on-site and off-site programs, including a private well sampling program, as part of the consent order agreement between Chemours, Cape Fear River Watch and the state of North Carolina. “We are continuing to review the NCDEQ correspondence we just received and will follow-up with the agency for further clarification of their correspondence.”
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Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners Insurance Policy

Previously reported – January 2020
Coastal insurance rates soar again. Is system broken?
If you own a home in coastal North Carolina but don’t live in it, you will likely see an increase in the premium you pay for wind insurance beginning July 1. The group that represents insurance companies recently struck a deal with the N.C. Department of Insurance that will result in a statewide average 5.3% increase for wind coverage for non-owner-occupied residences. The N.C. Rate Bureau, a state-mandated group that represents insurance companies, had requested a 24.3% increase in wind-coverage premiums and a 4.6% hike in fire coverage. No increase in fire premiums was allowed. Although the 5.3% average increase in wind coverage is a far cry from the original request, it falls almost completely on coastal areas, where it’s more in the 10%-and-above range. The Insurance Department stressed that the settlement does not affect homeowner policies. “Dwelling policies are offered to non-owner-occupied residences of no more than four units, including rental properties, investment properties and other properties that are not occupied full time by the property owner,” the department stated in a news release. In September, the Department of Insurance reached a similar deal with the Rate Bureau on homeowners’ policies. The bureau had proposed a 17.4% statewide overall increase. The settlement approved a 4% average increase, but, as with the dwelling agreement, most of the increase was felt at the coast.
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Previously reported – February 2021
Insurance companies request rate increase for homeowners
The North Carolina Rate Bureau (NCRB) has requested a 24.5 percent statewide average increase in homeowners’ insurance rates to take effect August 2021, according to a news release issued Nov. 10 by state insurance commissioner Mike Causey. The NCRB is not part of the N.C. Department of Insurance but represents companies that write insurance policies in the state. The department can either agree with the rates as filed or negotiate a settlement with the NCRB on a lower rate. If a settlement cannot be reached within 50 days, Causey will call for a hearing. Two years ago, in December 2018, the NCRB requested a statewide average increase of 17.4 percent. Causey negotiated a rate 13.4 percentage points lower and settled with a statewide aver-age rate increase of 4 percent. One of the drivers behind this requested increase is that North Carolina has experienced increased wind and hail losses stemming from damaging storms. A public comment period is required by law to give the public time to address the NCRB’s proposed rate increase.
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  • To see a table of proposed homeowners’ rate increases go to: click here
  • Territory 120 / Beach areas in Brunswick County / NCRB proposed increase 25%

  • Insurance commissioner sets hearing date in dwelling insurance rate hike case
    North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has set Jan. 18, 2022, as the hearing date for the North Carolina Rate Bureau’s proposed 18.7% dwelling insurance rate increase. “We are not in agreement with the Rate Bureau’s proposed increase filed in December,” Commissioner Causey said. “I want to make sure that the process is transparent, and that consumers’ interests are protected while making sure our insurance companies remain healthy so they can pay claims.” The Rate Bureau is not part of the Department of Insurance. It represents all companies writing property insurance in the state. The notice of hearing said that some of the data included in the Rate Bureau’s Dec. 14, 2020, filing contained a lack of documentation, explanation, and justification of both the data used as well as the procedures and methodologies used. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, 2022, in the second-floor hearing room in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh. The hearing will take place unless the N.C. Department of Insurance and the N.C. Rate Bureau are able to negotiate a settlement before that date. State law gives the Insurance Commissioner 45 days to issue an order once the hearing concludes. Once the order is issued, the NCRB has the right to appeal the decision before the N.C. Court of Appeals. A Court of Appeals order could then be appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court. The NCRB and DOI can settle the proposed rate increase at any time during the process. Dwelling insurance policies are not homeowners’ insurance policies. Dwelling policies are offered to non-owner-occupied residences of no more than four units, including rental properties, investment properties and other properties that are not occupied full time by the property owner. The filing covers insurance for fire and extended coverage at varying rates around the state. Under the NCRB proposal, the increases would be felt statewide with most consumers seeing a double-digit increase. The last NCRB dwelling rate increase filing was in 2019 that resulted in a settlement of 4%, which took effect July 1, 2020.
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Causey sets hearing date in dwelling insurance rate hike case
North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has set Jan. 18, 2022, as the hearing date for the North Carolina Rate Bureau’s (NCRB) proposed 18.7% dwelling insurance rate increase. We are not in agreement with the Rate Bureau’s proposed increase filed in December, Commissioner Causey said. “I want to make sure that the process is transparent, and that consumers’ interests are protected while making sure our insurance companies remain healthy so they can pay claims. The Rate Bureau is not part of the Department of Insurance. It represents all companies writing property insurance in the state. The notice of hearing said that some of the data included in the Rate Bureau’s Dec. 14, 2020, filing contained a lack of documentation, explanation, and justification of both the data used, as well as the procedures and methodologies used. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 18, 2022, in the second-floor hearing room in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh. The hearing will take place unless the N.C. Department of Insurance and the N.C. Rate Bureau are able to negotiate a settlement before that date. State law gives the Insurance Commissioner 45 days to is-sue an order once the hearing concludes. Once the order is issued, the NCRB has the right to appeal the decision before the N.C. Court of Appeals. A Court of Appeals order could then be appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court. The NCRB and DOI can settle the proposed rate in-crease at any time during the process. Dwelling insurance policies are not homeowners’ insurance policies. Dwelling policies are offered to non-owner-occupied residences of no more than four units, including rental properties, investment properties and other properties that are not occupied full-time by the property owner. The filing covers insurance for ire and extended coverage at varying rates around the state. Under the NCRB proposal, the increases would be felt statewide with most consumers seeing a double-digit increase. The last NCRB dwelling rate increase filing was in 2019 that resulted in a settlement of 4%, which took effect July 1, 2020.
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Beacon

Previously reported – November 2021

NC DOI Again Postpones Hearing on 25% Homeowners Rate Hike
A hearing set for today on a proposed 24.5% average increase in homeowners’ insurance rates has been postponed until Jan. 3, the North Carolina Department of Insurance announced. The rate increase was recommended by the North Carolina Rate Bureau one year ago and has met with stiff opposition from realtors and homeowner groups since then. The Rate Bureau is not part of the insurance department but represents insurers in the state. Insurers have said that increased wind and hail losses from storms are the main drivers behind the requested increase. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said in a news release that the January hearing will proceed if the department and the rate bureau cannot negotiate a settlement for a lower rate increase. This is the second time the hearing has been postponed. A Sept. 20 meeting was rescheduled for today, Nov. 1. The recommended increase follows one in 2018, in which the bureau asked for a statewide average hike of 17.4%, but later settled for a 4% increase. In April of this year, the bureau had proposed an 18.7% average increase in dwelling insurance, for rental and investment properties, but settled for a 7.6% rise after negotiating with the department. If the two sides do not reach a compromise, the hearing on the latest proposed increase will be Jan. 3 at 10 a.m. in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St., in Raleigh.
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Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a hurricane as “an intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.”

Be prepared – have a plan!

For assistance with making an emergency plan read more here »
. 1) FEMA Ready
. 2) American Red Cross Disaster and Safety Library
. 3) ReadyNC
. 4) Town Emergency Information
. 5) HBPOIN Hurricane Emergency Plan

THB – EVACUATION, CURFEW & VEHICLE DECALS
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If the Town declares a mandatory evacuation, PLEASE LEAVE
General Assembly during the 2012 Session, specifically authorizes both voluntary and mandatory evacuations, and increases the penalty for violating any local emergency restriction or prohibition from a Class 3 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Given the broad authority granted to the governor and city and county officials under the North Carolina Emergency Management Act (G.S. Chapter 166A) to take measures necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare during a disaster, it is reasonable to interpret the authority to “direct and compel” evacuations to mean ordering “mandatory” evacuations. Those who choose to not comply with official warnings to get out of harm’s way, or are unable to, should prepare themselves to be fully self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after the storm.

No matter what a storm outlook is for a given year,

vigilance and preparedness is urged.


Previously reported – November 2020
A hurricane season for the record books
Starting with the first storm, which struck two weeks before the official start of the Atlantic season on June 1, this year has now seen 30 named storms — 13 of them hurricanes — breaking a record set in 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to be named. This is only the second time — after 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — that meteorologists have exhausted the list of storm names in alphabetical order and moved on to the 24-letter Greek alphabet.

Previously reported – March 2021
Hurricane season start date could shift earlier because of a surge in May storms

Story Highlights

    • According to NOAA, May storms have formed in each of the past six years.
    • Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not.
    • There will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year.

Because of a surge in May storms, meteorologists are considering moving the start date of the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to May 15. The hurricane season has started on June 1 for more than five decades. The discussion on changing the start date began in December at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) hurricane conference, which followed the most active hurricane season on record, when 30 named storms formed. Storms have formed in May in each of the past six years, according to NOAA. In 2020, Tropical Storm Arthur came to life on May 16, followed by Tropical Storm Bertha on May 27. Since the late 1960s, when satellites began identifying tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, 19 named storms have formed before June 1, Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach said. Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not: “At least 20 deaths have occurred from late May storms since 2012, with about $200 million in total damage, and one of these systems was a 60-knot (70 mph) tropical storm at landfall,” according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The most recent confirmed hurricane during the month of May dates back to May 20, 1970 – Hurricane Alma, which reached maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, AccuWeather said. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph. Klotzbach worries about moving the start date to May 15 since the most dangerous storms typically don’t occur until the height of the season from late August through mid-October. “If you extend the season another 15 days, you could basically have three months with very little storm activity,” Klotzbach said. “People can only prepare for things for so long before they just say, ‘forget it.’” The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, but Klotzbach said the Atlantic basin has a much more peaked season. The World Meteorological Organization and NOAA will have meetings this spring to discuss moving the date of the hurricane season. The WMO has the final say on any potential date change. “An examination would need to take place regarding the need for, and potential ramifications of, potentially moving the beginning of the hurricane season to May 15,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Regardless, there will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year, he said. Although the start date of the basin’s hurricane season has traditionally begun on June 1, the end date has a history of being pushed back, first from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 to Nov. 30, where it is today, AccuWeather said.
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New climate ‘normal’ for Atlantic hurricanes shows more frequent and intense storms
The past 30 years have seen record levels of hurricane activity.
Every 10 years, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration revises the baseline of what weather and climate conditions are considered “normal.” The most recent normals for Atlantic hurricane activity will soon be released, and a preview reveals a spike in storm frequency and intensity. During the most recent 30-year period, which spans 1991 to 2020, there has been an uptick in the number of named storms and an increase in the frequency of major hurricanes of category 3 intensity or greater in the Atlantic. That comes as no surprise amid a spate of extreme hurricane activity that has featured seven Category 5 storms swirling across Atlantic waters in just the past five years. The newly revised climate normals aren’t a forecast of upcoming activity, nor are they necessarily illustrative of any one particular climate or meteorological trend. They’re simply benchmark values. The National Weather Service calculates new climate normals each decade for all major U.S. cities with sufficient historical data. When you hear your local television meteorologist describe a day as “10 degrees above average,” for instance, this data is where that comes from. The new hurricane normals are not official yet, though available data clearly shows an uptick in storm frequency and intensity, likely related to a combination of climate change, natural variability, and improved storm detection.
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Previously reported – April 2021
‘It only takes one storm’: AccuWeather predicts above-average 2021 hurricane season for NC
AccuWeather is predicting an above-average Atlantic hurricane season for 2021.  In a report released Wednesday, AccuWeather’s team of tropical weather experts said 2021 is predicted to bring 16-20 named storms, with seven-to-10 becoming hurricanes and three-to-five major hurricanes expected to impact the United States. A normal season, according to their report, is 14 storms. In 2020, there were 13 storms with six becoming major hurricanes. In the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Pfaff said they use predictions given by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which won’t be out until May.  Right now, NOAA forecasters are still looking at all the moving pieces that help create a hurricane season prediction, Pfaff said. That includes everything from expected rainfall trends in Africa, which could impact the number of tropical waves, to temperatures in the Caribbean and wind patterns that could move Saharan dust into the Atlantic basin.  “These predictions are not simple,” Pfaff explained. The more important thing about these annual season predictions, Pfaff said, is that it gets communities talking. North Carolina is “rapidly approaching hurricane season,” which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, Pfaff said.  “Regardless of what the prediction is, it only takes one storm to define a region,” he added. Even if the NOAA forecast predicts a lower-than-average season, Pfaff said the level of preparedness shouldn’t change. “All it takes is that one,” Pfaff said. “People unfortunately equate the number to impact. That’s not a good way to think about these.”  Pfaff has spent 26 years with the National Weather Service, and over that time he’s seen more and more category 4 storms, which is why he stresses the importance of being prepared no matter what predictions show. The numbers are just that – purely numbers – and don’t specify who has a higher chance of being hit. On top of that, several hurricanes in recent years have led to significant flooding events. “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme circumstances. Meteorologists are also considering a change in the timeline for hurricane season, potentially moving the date two weeks earlier to mid-May due to an increase in May storms. That discussion is still ongoing and would require worldwide coordination. While most May storms tend to be tropical storms or low-category hurricanes due to there being less warm water to feed off than during the summer, Pfaff said, he recommends having kits ready to go in early May.
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2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Expected to Be More Active Than Normal

At a Glance

  • A total of 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.
  • This is above the 30-year average of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
  • The forecast was released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual, according to an outlook released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project. The group led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach calls for 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or higher (115-plus-mph winds) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This forecast is above the 30-year average (1991 to 2020) of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. “We anticipate that the 2021 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity,” Klotzbach wrote in the outlook. Though the official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, storms can occasionally develop outside those months, as was the case in the previous six seasons and 10 of the past 18 seasons since 2003. In 2020, Tropical storms Arthur and Bertha each formed in mid- to late May. The CSU outlook is based on roughly 40 years of statistical factors combined with data from seasons exhibiting similar features of sea-level pressure and sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans.

What Does This Mean for the United States?
A record 11 storms made landfall in the U.S. in 2020, including six hurricanes: Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, and Zeta. That’s well above the average of one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division. “We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” Klotzbach said. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Despite the 2020 season, there isn’t necessarily a strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the 17 named storms predicted to develop this season could hit the U.S. or none at all. Some past hurricane seasons have been inactive but included at least one notable landfall. The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. In 1983, there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there – 21 – as Andrew did in South Florida – 26. On the other hand, the 2010 Atlantic season was very active, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. Despite the high number of storms that year, no hurricanes and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. In other words, a season can deliver many storms but have little impact or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact. The bottom line is it’s impossible to know for certain if a U.S. hurricane strike will occur this season. Keep in mind that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly and rainfall triggers flooding.
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‘Average’ Atlantic hurricane season to reflect more storms
Higher averages based on most recent 30-year climate record
Beginning with this year’s hurricane season outlooks, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will use 1991-2020 as the new 30-year period of record. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. NOAA is updating the set of statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the climate record. This update process occurs once every decade.  “This update allows our meteorologists to make forecasts for the hurricane season with the most relevant climate statistics taken into consideration,” said Michael Farrar, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction. “Our work illustrates the value of NOAA’s investments in next-generation technologies to capture the data that underpins our outlooks and other forecast products. These products are essential to providing the public and local emergency managers with advance information to prepare for storms, and achieving NOAA’s mission of protecting life and property.” 

 This graphic captures the changes in Atlantic hurricane season averages from the last three-decade period of 1981-2010 to the most current such period, 1991-2020. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

The increase in the averages may be attributed to the overall improvement in observing platforms, including NOAA’s fleet of next-generation environmental satellites and continued hurricane reconnaissance. It may also be due to the warming ocean and atmosphere which are influenced by climate change. The update also reflects a very busy period over the last 30 years, which includes many years of a positive Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, which can increase Atlantic hurricane activity. “These updated averages better reflect our collective experience of the past 10 years, which included some very active hurricane seasons,” said Matt Rosencrans, seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “NOAA scientists have evaluated the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclones and determined that it can influence storm intensity. Further research is needed to better understand and attribute the impacts of anthropogenic forcings and natural variability on tropical storm activity.” For the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins the averages over the 1991 – 2020 period do not change. The Eastern Pacific basin will remain at 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. The Central Pacific basin will maintain an average of 4 named storms, 3 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. NOAA will issue its initial seasonal outlook for the 2021 hurricane season in late May. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30.
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Previously reported –
April
2021
2020 tied a record for the most major hurricanes in the Atlantic, after further review
The National Hurricane Center retroactively upgraded Zeta to a Category 3 at landfall
After each hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center pens detailed write-ups that require them to meticulously review each storm that formed. Once in a while, they encounter new data that changes how they categorize storms. A report released Tuesday on Hurricane Zeta, which struck Louisiana in October, suggests the storm was at Category 3 strength at landfall in late October. Five fatalities have been attributed to the storm, which made landfall in Cocodrie, on the Louisiana Delta. That upgrade means the 2020 hurricane season had seven major hurricanes, rated Category 3 or higher, swirling through the Atlantic, tying 2005s record for the most such storms. The record 2020 season featured an unheard-of 30 named storms, exhausting the conventional alphabetized list of storms, while dipping farther into the supplementary Greek alphabet list than ever before. With its revised rating, Zeta becomes the latest-landfalling major hurricane to ever hit the contiguous United States. According to the National Hurricane Center, the old record was set by the Tampa Bay Hurricane on Oct. 25, 1921. Five of the last six storms in the 2020 Atlantic season reached Category 3 or higher. The season ended with a bang when Category 5 Hurricane Iota struck the coast of Nicaragua barely 15 miles from where the devastating Hurricane Eta hit with Category 4 winds just two weeks before.
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Get Ready: It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week
Gov. Roy Cooper has joined the national effort to make people more aware of the dangers of hurricanes by declaring this week Hurricane Preparedness Week. Hurricane Preparedness Week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday, is to remind residents to prepare for severe tropical weather common in North Carolina during hurricane season, which is June 1 through Nov. 30. “All North Carolinians should take this time to prepare for the possible impacts of a hurricane or other severe weather by updating their family emergency plans and supply kits,” Cooper said. “Having a plan and supplies will help you to survive through a hurricane and to recover faster should one adversely affect your home.” The state is currently recovering from the devastating effects of multiple storms including Hurricane Isaias and the remnants of Hurricane Eta in 2020, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Hurricane Florence as well as Tropical Storms Michael and Alberto in 2018, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. “There are things everyone can do to prepare for severe weather long before it hits, such as having flood insurance and knowing if you live in a coastal evacuation zone,” said Mike Sprayberry, executive director of the state Emergency Management and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The 20 North Carolina coastal counties have established predetermined evacuation zones, based on the threats of storm surge and river flooding. Residents can find out if they live in one of these zones by visiting KnowYourZone.nc.gov. Residents should learn their zone and watch or listen for it if evacuations are ordered before or after a storm. “I also encourage everyone to lookout for one another, especially for those who may be more vulnerable such as the elderly,” said Sprayberry. “It is easier get through a disaster by helping your friends and neighbors and working together.”

An emergency plan should include details on a meeting place and family phone numbers. Officials recommend writing down the emergency plan and gathering important documents, such as copy of driver’s license, insurance policies, medical records, and prescriptions, and make sure they’re quickly accessible in case of emergency.

Officials also encourage residents to review and update homeowners or renters’ insurance policies to ensure they are current and include adequate coverage for your current situation. Assemble an emergency supplies kit that includes enough nonperishable food and water to last each family member three to seven days. Other essential items include the following:

    • First-aid kit
    • Weather radio and batteries
    • Prescription medicines
    • Sleeping bag or blankets
    • Changes of clothes
    • Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant
    • Cash
    • Pet supplies including food, water, bedding, leashes, muzzle, and vaccination records
    • Face masks and hand-sanitizer

Residents should pay attention to weather and evacuation information on local media stations and have a battery-powered radio in case there is a power outage. If asked to evacuate, residents should follow evacuation instructions. To help mitigate damage from severe weather, residents can trim trees, cover windows and secure loose outdoor items before severe weather strikes. More information on hurricanes and overall emergency preparedness is online at ReadyNC.org. Read the governor’s proclamation.
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NOAA predicts 6th consecutive above-average hurricane season
The Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially begin for another 12 days, but the early signs are it may end up being yet another very busy one. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued it’s seasonal Atlantic hurricane forecast Thursday afternoon. The forecast calls for 13-20 total named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). All of those categories are above the average of 14 total named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and NOAA is just one of more than a dozen academic institutions, government agencies and private forecasting companies that put out seasonal projections. “Seasonal forecasts from nearly all universities and private agencies are predicting that 2021 will be an above-average season once again,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. Another highly respected forecaster is Colorado State University, which was the first entity to issue a seasonal tropical forecast. Experts there issued their forecast back on April 8 indicating 17 total named storms, eight of which are expected to be hurricanes. “There aren’t any big outliers this year, while the (European model) was pretty low last year,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at CSU. Klotzbach noted that the strong consensus between seasonal forecast groups is likely due to the shared observation of features that usually trigger a very active season.
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Previously reported – May 2021
Ana forms in the Atlanic, becoming the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season
Subtropical Storm Ana formed early Saturday morning, becoming the first named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. This now marks the seventh year in a row in which at least one named storm has formed prior to the start of Atlantic hurricane season which officially begins June 1.
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NOAA predicts another active Atlantic hurricane season
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected. NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The experts at NOAA are poised to deliver life-saving early warnings and forecasts to communities, which will also help minimize the economic impacts of storms.”

Last month, NOAA updated the statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the latest climate record. Based on this update an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which 7 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. [Watch this video summary of the Outlook.]

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are currently in the neutral phase, with the possibility of the return of La Nina later in the hurricane season. “ENSO-neutral and La Nina support the conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Predicted warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon will likely be factors in this year’s overall activity.” Scientists at NOAA also continue to study how climate change is impacting the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones.

Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “The forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are well-prepared with significant upgrades to our computer models, emerging observation techniques, and the expertise to deliver the life-saving forecasts that we all depend on during this, and every, hurricane season.”

In an effort to continuously enhance hurricane forecasting, NOAA made several updates to products and services that will improve hurricane forecasting during the 2021 season.

Last year’s record-breaking season serves as a reminder to all residents in coastal regions or areas prone to inland flooding from rainfall to be prepared for the 2021 hurricane season.

“With hurricane season starting on June 1, now is the time to get ready and advance disaster resilience in our communities,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Visit Ready.gov and Listo.gov to learn and take the steps to prepare yourself and others in your household. Download the FEMA app to sign-up for a variety of alerts and to access preparedness information. Purchase flood insurance to protect your greatest asset, your home. And, please encourage your neighbors, friends and coworkers to also get ready for the upcoming season.”

NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the Eastern and Central Pacific basins, and will provide an update to the Atlantic outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

Visit FEMA’s Ready.gov to be prepared for the start of hurricane season and the National Hurricane Center’s website at hurricanes.gov throughout the season to stay current on watches and warnings.
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Previously reported – August 2021

NOAA updates its hurricane season outlook
The tropical Atlantic has been quiet for the past few weeks, but don’t expect that to last, according to forecasters. NOAA issued a mid-season update for the Atlantic on Wednesday and said forecasters are still expecting another above-average season when it comes to the number of named storms. The updated outlook suggests there could be 15-21 named storms, seven to 10 hurricane and three to five major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or stronger storms. That’s a slight uptick from its May outlook, which had 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. An average season, according to NOAA, has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. According to NOAA there is a 65 percent chance of an above-average season, a 25 percent chance for an average season and a 10 percent chance of a below-average season. So far this season there have been five named storms. One of those, Elsa, briefly became a Category 1 hurricane. Elsa also made history as the earliest fifth named storm on record. Three of the five storms (Claudette, Danny, and Elsa) made landfall in the U.S. One of the reasons forecasters think it will be another busy year is the possible return of La Nina in the fall. La Nina typically translates into above-average activity in the Atlantic. NOAA issued a La Nina watch last month and said there is a greater than 50 percent chance it will materialize later this fall. Other indicators of what could be a busy season are warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic (though not as warm as during last year’s record-breaking season), reduced wind shear (which can tear storms apart) and a more active monsoon season in west Africa, which can send more disturbances spinning into the eastern Atlantic that can eventually intensify into tropical storms. The hurricne forecast shows how busy forecasters think the season can be, but what it can’t do is predict if or where storms will make landfall. “The seasonal outlook from NOAA is not a landfall forecast as landfalls are typically only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline,” NOAA said. Forecasters continued to warn those along the coast that it only takes one storm to make it a devastating season for them and to make sure they have all their preparations in place. The Atlantic is showing indications things could get busier soon. The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday was tracking three tropical waves, two of which have low chances of becoming tropical depressions. None of those systems is an immediate threat to the U.S. The Atlantic hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.
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Atlantic hurricane season is about to ramp up dramatically, as NOAA boosts forecast
The Atlantic has been quiet lately. That’s about to change. NOAA is calling for 15 to 21 named storms this season.
After a record start to Atlantic hurricane season in May and June, tropical storminess shut down in mid-July. But signs point to a dramatic ramp-up in activity in the next two weeks, with a number of named storms likely to develop in August and an increasing potential for U.S. impacts. Already, meteorologists are monitoring three tropical waves over the Atlantic that are exhibiting some low-end potential for development. But they may just mark the start of what looks to be a jam-packed peak season ahead. On Wednesday morning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their latest hurricane outlook calling for even greater odds of an above-average season, which runs through November. That would make 2021 the sixth consecutive year to feature above-average tropical storm activity. “NOAA’s updated outlook … indicates an above average season is likely,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in a news conference Wednesday. “The number of named storms is likely to be 15 to 21, [which includes] seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.” That’s an increase from its May prediction for 13 to 20 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes; its forecast for the number of major hurricanes was unchanged. In recent weeks, the Atlantic has been virtually silent, without any named systems present anywhere in the ocean basin since the dissipation of Elsa on July 9. Elsa brought heavy rain and tornadoes to parts of the East Coast. “Given an increase in predicted number of named storms and hurricanes, there is now a 65 percent chance of an above-average season … and only a 10 percent chance of a below-average season,” Rosencrans said. Driving the predictions are a number of factors that take into consideration large-scale features of both the atmosphere and ocean. In the short term, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring three disturbances that it says has low chances, 30 percent or less, to develop. The three systems point to the awakening of the Atlantic’s MDR, or Main Development Region. This imaginary box stretches through roughly the eastern two-thirds of the tropical North Atlantic several degrees north of the equator and encompasses the more classic formation locations for tropical systems that compose the bulk of long-track, long-lived Atlantic hurricanes. At present, hurricanes are hard to come by because of widespread sinking air over the Atlantic. That has suppressed upward motion and inhibited updrafts, preventing the type of clustered thunderstorm activity that occasionally self-aggregates into a fledgling storm. Moreover, intrusions of the SAL, or Saharan Air Layer, draped a layer of hot, dry air over much of the eastern Atlantic, capping the vertical development of thunderstorms in the MDR. That all looks to change in the coming weeks thanks to the combined effects of several large-scale overturning circulations that will bring lift, or foster rising air, over the Atlantic. The Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, can be envisioned as a large wave that sweeps around the global tropics every 30 to 60 days. Air rises on the leading edge of the waves, which is characterized by a packet of unsettled weather and widespread thunderstorm activity, while sinking air on the back side marks the “suppressed phase” of the wave. Similar, albeit smaller, features known as “convectively coupled Kelvin waves” will periodically overlap with the MJO to bring occasional enhancements or temporary lulls in the season. It’s ordinarily possible to predict these sub seasonal upticks about a month in advance before a swarm of storms brew. All indications are that beginning around Aug. 10 to 14, the Atlantic will awaken. Later in the month, the tropics could become quite busy as rising motion really takes hold of the Atlantic Basin. It’s a time of year when hurricane activity generally ramps up anyway, so there’s every reason to believe that the latter two weeks of August and the start of September will be busy. Moreover, the Atlantic has warmed significantly in the past couple of weeks. Previously, waters off the Gulf of Mexico coastline were running about a degree or two below average. Now the entire gulf is a degree or two above average. That bolsters the odds of tropical cyclones, which feed off warm water, rapidly intensifying assuming they enter the gulf. Ocean waters over the open Atlantic have also experienced a warming trend across the tropical belt, save for immediately surrounding the Cabo Verde islands. Rosencrans did note that sea surface temperatures, while anomalously warm, are not as hot as in 2020, meaning the season, though anticipated to be active, is not expected to rival the hyperactivity of 2020. In addition, some semblance of a La Niña pattern — the opposite of the more well-known El Niño — could begin to develop as we head deeper into the autumn. That would mean cooler waters over the east equatorial Pacific, fostering sinking there. That would trigger an opposite reaction over the Atlantic, reinforcing rising motion and, in turn, favoring hurricanes. (That can also sometimes weaken high altitude winds over the Atlantic, making it easier for storms to form.) If La Niña does develop, it could extend the end of hurricane season later, potentially keeping activity going into November. Upper-level steering currents could be more supportive of hurricanes affecting the East Coast this year, too, thanks to a swath of blocking high pressure that may become established over the Canadian Maritimes later in August and into September. It’s important to remember that, even though forecasts like this are generally reliable across the entire Atlantic, hurricane season’s impacts are manifest on an individual storm level. In other words, it only takes one storm. Hurricane Andrew formed in 1992, and put an end to what, until that point, had been a cakewalk of an early season. The Category 5 storm leveled entire communities in south Florida. Preparing ahead of time, rather than scrambling when a storm develops and warnings are issued, is the best way to make sure you’re ready for whatever this hurricane season holds.
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Previously reported – October 2021

Goodbye hurricane season? With 6 weeks to go, it may be all but over
While the Atlantic hurricane season does not officially end until Nov. 30, AccuWeather forecasters believe that the odds of any additional tropical storm formation in the near future are low. After a frenetic pace around the peak of hurricane season, there is now just one name left on the 2021 list of storm names: Wanda. Might that name go unused? The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a <emnderline;” href=”https://www.accuweather.com/en/hurricane/goodbye-hurricane-season-with-6-weeks-to-go-it-may-be-all-but-over/1033623″ target=”_blank” rel=”noope>record-fast start, with five storms forming by July 1, surpassing a record set just a year ago. The season continued at a fast pace, with development kicking off again in mid-August and continuing through mid-September. By the end of the period of rapid activity, eight storms had made landfall in the United States. But now, the tropics sit dormant.
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