Trump's climate denial puts Houston's massive recovery at risk

Jeremy Symons

As we watch the flooding tragedy in Houston – and now Louisiana – unfold we know this: The cost to rebuild will be massive and pressure on Congress to act quickly to approve funding will be intense.

President Trump, however, has already put the recovery project from Hurricane Harvey at risk. This requires lawmakers to step in – and fast.

A reckless move days before Harvey hit

Just 10 days prior to Harvey’s landfall, the president issued a reckless executive order that affects all federal agencies and contractors involved in the rebuilding effort.

As part of his agenda to impose climate denial throughout his administration, Trump rescinded a policy directing federal agencies to consider worsening future flood conditions when planning projects funded by American taxpayers.

The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, an order President Obama issued in 2015, sought to improve America’s preparedness and resilience against flooding, and make sure that public funds are used wisely.

The order required federal agencies to use the best and latest information available when they invest in federally-funded infrastructure to withstand floods, to avoid construction in floodplains whenever possible, and to preserve natural floodplains that can minimize the threat to surrounding communities.

Just a year earlier, then-business man Donald Trump had the exact same concerns, mind you. In 2014, he pushed Irish authorities to allow him to build a new sea wall to protect his golf course that, his filing stated, was necessary due to “predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events.”

Members of Congress must step up and rebuff Trump’s executive order when they take up disaster relief, which they should do swiftly. 

It is one thing to rebuild a home. It is quite another to rebuild homes in a community that will be safer going forward as our climate becomes increasingly chaotic and destructive. Whether Houston will have that assurance is now very much in question.

Members of Congress must therefore step up and rebuff Trump’s executive order when they take up disaster relief, which they should do swiftly. The legislation should include measures that ensure federal agencies plan for the real world – including the worsening flood events associated with climate change ― as they deploy disaster response funds.

Trump’s order fits his scorched-earth agenda

By rescinding the 2015 flood risk standard, Trump is in effect encouraging federal agencies to look backward at the world decades ago even though history is no longer an accurate guide of what to expect in the future when it comes to impacts from climate change. Instead of taking into account the best science and changes that are already observable in the real world, they’ll see nothing but the same backwards reflection.

This action is part of the president’s scorched-earth approach to anything the government does on climate change – censoring scientific websites and reports, pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, rolling back clean air rules and appointing a polluter ally to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into the ground.

What will he tell people in Houston?

In fact, whereas Trump’s agenda seems to have stalled on most fronts, his war against environmental protection has been a model of efficiency and zeal. His moves are deeply unpopular with the public, but he has been aided by Washington’s deep-pocketed lobbying organizations.

When Trump killed the flood plain standard, both the American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Home Builders vocally applauded.

How do they plan to explain this to suffering people in Houston, Beaumont and Porth Arthur who need responsible leaders – not reckless ideologues – to take their flooded communities forward?


Man can read the writing on the wall, only when his back is up against it! The time has come, the time is now. On this anniversary of Katrina, 12 yrs later, may we wake up in America and smell the hydrocarbons.

August 30, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Going forward, every hurricane disaster relief and reconstruction should, through penalties or incentives, not rebuild in low-lying or totally flooded areas. Further, where appropriate, coastal land should be bulldozed, plowed under, and returned to native wetlands. It would, long-term, be cheaper to move entire towns or cities inland and add rail connections to the coast, than to rebuild in the same location. Industrial operations on the coast would be OK [and] 80% of the wetlands could be re-established.

September 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm

I don't begrudge the flood victims the money to rebuild. I do, however, begrudge the money if their local governments refuse to enact and enforce building regulations to make the new replacements more hurricane and flood resistant. And I begrudge paying if the federal government fails to require better environmental and building standards. It's certain there will be future hurricanes and floods. They will be expecting future relief money. They must take precautions to keep future damage to a minimum.

Carol Boyle
September 2, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.