Olson Urges Obama Transparency on Federal Flood Rule
WASHINGTON, DC â€“ Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) today joined with Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) and 53 other House colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama requesting information on public input that was included in the decision making process when issuing Executive Order 13690, "Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard." Olson and many others have expressed concern about a lack of transparency during the process of developing this order.
"Many folks in the 22nd Congressional District and the greater Houston area will be heavily impacted by these new federal flood requirements," Rep. Pete Olson said. "Issuing an executive order with such sweeping impacts on millions of American home and business owners who live in flood plains is a massive undertaking and requires thoughtful input from those directly impacted. I urge President Obama to provide details of how he and his advisors came to the specific requirements in this order and all relevant details as required by law. Americans deserve transparency from their government."
Signers of the letter include: Reps. John Ratcliffe, Pete Sessions, Steve Scalise, Steven Palazzo, Michael McCaul, Ralph Abraham, Bill Flores, Kay Granger, Andy Harris, Bruce Westerman, Steve Womack, Ted Poe, Scott Tipton, Vicky Hartzler, Mark Walker, John Culberson, Steve King, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Sam Johnson, Rick Crawford, Doug Lamalfa, Brian Babin, Jason Smith, Walter Jones, Daniel Newhouse, David Rouzer, Mike Kelly, Mike Bost, Charles Boustany, Randy Weber, Rodney Davis, French Hill, Sam Graves, Gregg Harper, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, Tom Rice, J. Randy Forbes, John Fleming, Rodney Blum, Bob Gibbs, Brad Wenstrup, Ryan Zinke, Earl "Buddy" Carter, Garret Graves, Blake Farenthold, Steve Chabot, Bill Johnson, Ann Wagner, Will Hurd, Stephen Fincher, Kevin Cramer, Tim Murphy, and Roger Williams.
Dear President Obama,
We are writing concerning Executive Order 13690, â€œEstablishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Inputâ€ (FFRMS), which you issued on January 30, 2015.
As you know, millions of Americans live in floodplains and low-lying areas across the country. Due to its far reaching application, FFRMS would substantially increase what constitutes a floodplain and could devastate these communities. The affected communities would be ineligible for many federal programs, including port development projects, hazard mitigation grants, flood control projects, Brownfields redevelopment, Community Development Block Grants, federally-backed mortgages, and federal transportation projects, unless they include expensive structural alternatives. This negative impact would likely dry up economic investment in these areas.
In addition, notwithstanding the clearly erroneous assertions by FEMA in its recent series of listening sessions that the FFRMS does not apply to private investments, this executive order would in fact substantially limit private development across America. Due to its applicability to a wide array of federal permits, licenses, and approvals, including Clean Water Act permits, and its effect on federally supported housing, FFRMS is expected to dramatically increase the cost of construction and labor in low-lying communities, and in some cases would halt economic development activities altogether.
Public input is vital to ensure that the impact of these changes is fully understood. Congress included language in FY2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-235) requiring transparency and consultation with stakeholders. Title VII, Section 749 states: â€œNone of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to implement a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard until the Administration has solicited and considered input from Governors, mayors, and other stakeholders.â€ The clear intent behind that provision was to solicit input on the alternatives established in the executive order to comply with the FFRMS, rather than simply seeking comment on how to implement those alternatives.
Regrettably, the Administration ignored this provision of law by issuing the FFRMS. To date, there has been no public disclosure of the basis of the alternatives included in EO 13690, how they were developed and decided upon, or a cost-benefit analysis of them.
In view of the widespread negative impacts that would result from FFRMS, the lack of transparency through the process of its development, and concerns over its legality, we request that you provide the following information by May 18, 2015:
1. A list of governors, mayors, and other stakeholders whose input was solicited in developing the FFRMS including those who provided specific information on the alternatives established to comply with the standard.
2. A full explanation of how the federal agencies intend to fund the directives in the FFRMS, given that no appropriations have been provided by Congress, nor has any such request been made in your FY16 budget, for any activities or operations.
3. A complete description of the activities of the Water Resources Council, including a list of meetings and the notices issued to announce such meetings; a list of all attendees at any such meetings, including the principals, staff and any non-government attendees; minutes of all meetings, and a full description of how any activities related to the Water Resources Council have been funded, including which agencies funded staff activities.
4. A full explanation of how the alternatives in the standard were developed, including the scientific basis in support of those alternatives, as well as a list of federal and non-federal organizations and individuals involved in the scientific research upon which the standard is based.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation on this matter and we look forward to your response.