Beach News


Beach News is a courtesy service provided by the Carteret County Shore Protection Office that furnishes on-line news relevant to the beaches of North Carolina with special emphasis to Carteret County.  Please visit if you wish to be added to or removed from the "Beach News" distribution list.   Recent "Beach News" is provided below.

BEACH NEWS for 2017

CoastLine: Flood Mapping And The Future Of Flood Insurance

Dune Restoration Project in North Myrtle Beach

Work begins on dune restoration project in Cherry Grove 

Want to fix Charleston flooding? Grab a bucket - and fill it with cash

Rising Sea Levels Complicate Flooding Issues

Bill could make drilling off N.C. coast more likely 

A suit over a Sunset Beach project is on hold. Will the Bird Island walk stay pristine?
Flood Insurance - Deal elusive as Congress eyes recess
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, 12/5/17
With Congress poised to approve another short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, advocates eager for a long-term solution are left wondering whether history will repeat itself.
Over the weekend, House appropriators released a continuing resolution to extend programs set to expire Friday — including NFIP — until Dec. 22.  While the extension means the program would be able to accept new customers during the next three weeks, it still doesn't leave much time for Congress to finish a long-awaited reauthorization and reform bill before Christmas.  The House has already passed legislation to tweak the program and extend it for five years, but the Senate Banking Committee has yet to hold a hearing on any legislation.  Steve Ellis, vice president of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense and a member of the coalition, which is advocating for a wide range of flood insurance reforms, said his group was disappointed, but not surprised, that Congress has yet to pass a compromise.
He noted that when NFIP expired in 2008, Congress passed 17 short-term extensions, and allowed the program to lapse four times, before finalizing a long-term bill in 2012.  "As they say, past is prologue," said Ellis.  If the program were to lapse, NFIP would still be able to pay out claims resulting from Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, but would not be able to accept new customers.  Ellis said he blamed the delay on the Senate "twiddling thumbs," noting that the Banking Committee does not have jurisdiction over the tax reform or other high-profile legislation taking lawmakers' time.  "This is just something where it is not a high enough priority to get it done," Ellis said, "and that's a real shame."  Some advocates, however, want Congress to hold off on reforms. Chad Berginnis, executive director for the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said he was pleased the Senate is biding its time.  The association teamed with seven environmental and financial groups in sending Senate leaders a letter with key requests.  They want the legislation to take into account "potential lessons learned from recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate which cumulatively led to one of the largest flood insurance claims events in the history of NFIP and taxpayer funded disaster events in the U.S."
Berginnis noted that the true impacts of the 2017 hurricane season might not be felt until next year, when private insurers start renewing policies, and that he would prefer Congress pass a one-year extension of the program before moving forward with reforms.  Berginnis noted that Irma was the first major hurricane to hit Florida since 2014, when the state took steps to expand its private flood insurance market (E&E Daily, Oct. 25).  "We want to make sure that reforms are informed by what is going to be the NFIP's biggest loss year, and want time to see how the private sector handles high amounts of flood claims," he said. "The private industry may have had lots of big losses, and that won't play out until policy renewals happen next year."

Privatization push
Even if Congress gives itself more time on NFIP reform, it's unclear what sorts of solutions the two chambers could eventually agree on.  In their "21st Century Flood Reform Act," H.R. 2874, House Republicans proposed expanding the private flood insurance market in order to relieve some of NFIP's $16 billion debt.  The measure attempts to change a 2012 law that says homeowners in 100-year floodplains can have access to private policies as long as they are "substantially similar" to ones offered by the federal government.  Because banking regulators have been skittish about defining that term, the House bill is more direct in saying private insurance fulfills federal requirements.  It would empower state insurance commissioners to decide when private policies are "substantially similar" until banking regulators come up with their own definition.  The House bill would also eliminate a provision requiring private policies be "at least as broad" as NFIP ones, a step consumer advocates fear could put homeowners at risk.  This fall, House Republicans tried to get the privatization language passed independent of other NFIP reforms, tagging it onto a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.  The language died when it reached the Senate, with Democrats and Republicans there expressing concern about the impact privatizing flood insurance could have on NFIP (E&E News PM, Sept. 28).  Berginnis said he hopes the House has learned its lesson, and that when Congress does move forward on flood insurance reform, it tackles the issue with "a comprehensive bill," not by "breaking out bits and pieces to attach to other legislation."  Ellis, on the other hand, remains hopeful the privatization language could survive, saying he thought senators could be just opposing the language for show.  "Maybe they see it as a bargaining chip in the overall negotiation," he said. "I have a hard time believing that something that passes with such ease in the House has that much trouble in the Senate."

Jones calls for Corps to reassess

Bald Head asks to dredge offshore shoal for beach sand

Sunset Beach, Developers Reach Agreement 

Fixing the broken National Flood Insurance Program 

Here’s what the possible purchase of Ted Turner’s island means for Hunting Island

Would the Atlantic Coast Pipeline increase the threat of sea level rise in Hampton Roads?

Editorial: Beach needs input on sea-level rise

Shore Protection Office Newsletter (as presented to the Island Review)

Dump trucks filled with sand set to roll into North Myrtle Beach

Media giant Ted Turner agrees to sell island to South Carolina Parks 

DeBordieu renews plan for groins with renourishment (SC)

Petition seeks more input on beach project (SC) 

Have an idea to fix flooding? Virginia Beach and ODU want to hear it. 

U.S. flood program misses 23% of risky buildings — report
Daniel Cusick, E&E News, December 1, 2017
Nearly 30 million U.S. residential and commercial properties that are at "high" or "moderate" risk of flooding based on their proximity to oceans or rivers are outside federally designated "special flood hazard areas," a new analysis from the consulting firm CoreLogic Inc. shows.  That means those property owners are not required to carry flood insurance, even if they have a federally backed mortgage, according to CoreLogic's review of more than 126 million properties from all 50 states.  "Many property owners choose not to carry flood insurance if it is not required even though their property may still be at risk of flood," a research brief published by the Seattle-based real estate analytics firm said.
The findings, coming one week before Congress faces a deadline to renew the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), reveal just how vulnerable millions of U.S. property owners are to heavy rainfall and storm surge, even in parts of the country that are not traditionally considered high-risk.  For example, in Arizona, more than 1.7 million homes deemed by CoreLogic to be at "high" or "moderate" risk to flooding are outside special flood hazard areas, or SFHAs. That accounts for 68 percent of all properties in the state, according to the research brief.  The numbers are only marginally better for two of the nation's primary hurricane states, Florida and Louisiana, where roughly half of all properties — 54 percent in Florida and 49 percent in Louisiana — were deemed to be at high or moderate risk of flooding, yet have no requirement to carry flood insurance.   Florida has the largest number of at-risk properties outside SFHAs, at just over 5 million, according to CoreLogic. It was followed by Texas, at 3.2 million properties (31 percent of all properties in the state), and California, at 3.1 million properties (29 percent of all properties).  Other states where at least a quarter of all high- and moderate-risk properties are outside SFHAs include New Mexico (37 percent), Nevada (30 percent), Illinois (26 percent), Kansas (26 percent) and Mississippi (25 percent), according to the analysis.
Across all states, CoreLogic determined that 23 percent of the nation's high- and moderate-risk properties — 29.4 million addresses — lie outside SFHAs, compared with just over 8 million properties that are within such areas.  The findings, first reported yesterday by The Wall Street Journal, show how climate, geography and landscape features have as much to do with a property's flood risk as proximity to an ocean, tidal bay or major river.  CoreLogic chief scientist Howard Botts told the Journal that in Arizona, the risk calculation is accentuated by the Phoenix metropolitan area's proximity to the Salt River, which has a very wide floodplain. The city is also canvassed with irrigation canals that may overflow into surrounding neighborhoods during heavy rain events, Botts told the newspaper.  CoreLogic maintains one of the nation's largest databases containing detailed information on U.S. residential and commercial properties, including elevations, flood histories and other real estate characteristics.  Such information is important, Botts noted, because "flooding is the most granular hazard event, where literally one property to another can have a different flood rating."

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
December 4, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

In the Outer Banks, Officials and Property Owners Battle to Keep the Ocean at Bay

Bigger flood insurance bills likely on the way

Willis: Climate Change Threatens Economy

How do new Beaufort County flood maps affect you? Here's how to find out (SC)

Waterways Commission Tackles Island Access Issues, Anchored Boats in Harbor 

Right whales migrating to SC could ‘go extinct within our lifetime.’ Here’s why. 

Floods are OK. Soaking taxpayers isn’t

County looking at longer-lasting fix to Lockwood Folly Inlet shoaling problem

Litchfield Beach: Storms open window on ancient shoreline

Legislators prepare to deal with shifting jurisdiction lines

Brunswick County eliminated plans to address rising sea levels. Apparently, no one knows why 

First inland South Carolina tract purchased in Cape Romain effort to save habitat as seas rise

Why are North Atlantic right whale numbers declining?

Great Lakes Takes Delivery of Ellis Island, Largest Hopper Dredge in United States Market

Combative hearing precedes OK of new beach driving rules

Financing Agreed for Nags Head Beach Nourishment Project 

Editorial: FEMA funds can improve Oceanfront flood control 

PUBLIC NOTICE – The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers, received a modification request from the Village of Bald Head Island to dredge Jay Bird Shoals and discharge the dredged material along the shoreline of Bald Head Island, updrift of and east of the terminal groin for groin fillet maintenance and beach nourishment. 

Nags Head plans 2018 beach nourishment after Hurricane Matthew took a third of its sand

Red tape complicates plan for more sand on Nags Head beach

What Can be Done with Dredged Material from Hatteras Inlet?

How the Wilmington area deals with rising seas and an increasing number of floods

Onslow County to N. Topsail: Focus on Inlet

Carolina Beach homes being updated against floods after receiving long-awaited FEMA funding 

Mark Sanford leading effort to oppose energy bill championed by GOP leaders

Oak Island finalizing plans to place sand from multiple projects on full length of beach

Looking for a better beach? This popular one has been approved for some TLC 

South Island Emergency Beach Fill Project Complete

Listen to the forum 'Rising Seas: How will climate change affect the NC Coast?'

County floats groin, jetty idea 

Aerial wildlife surveys begin soon of offshore wind farm site 

Hicks column: It's time to pump some water out of West Ashley, pronto 

Our view: Protect our coast

House passes 'revolutionary' reform bill
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News,  November 15, 2017
The House easily approved legislation yesterday that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program for five years.  The bill passed 237-189, despite bipartisan objections over provisions that would boost the private flood insurance market and allow some NFIP rates to increase.  "There are a lot of good reforms in this bill for both taxpayers and ratepayers," House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said in a statement. "It is an absolutely revolutionary reform that we can break open the government monopoly and bring in market competition, innovation, and more affordable rates for so many."  In floor speeches, however, Democrats complained that Republicans on the Financial Services Committee had not worked with them to create a bipartisan proposal.  In particular, they slammed the majority party for rejecting ideas to cap premiums at $5,000 or create exemptions to premium increases for low-income homeowners.  "Are you really willing to vote for this bill that will drastically raise premiums on your constituents without putting the necessary guardrails in place so those who can't afford the high costs buy flood insurance?" asked Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). "There is no affordability in here."  Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she would vote against the bill even though it included a provision she co-authored to give homeowners mitigation credits for moving boilers and other mechanical equipment to higher stories of tall buildings.  "There are too many provisions that would make flood insurance in my district unavailable or unaffordable," she explained.  Bill sponsor Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) disputed claims that Republicans didn't cooperate with Democrats, saying he spoke with Financial Services ranking member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) so many times in drafting the bill she gave him her cellphone number.  "She left me at the dance, though, because before this was done, she walked away," he said.  Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) argued that a provision he authored in the bill to open the insurance market to private companies would actually result in more affordable options.  "Giving consumers choice in a competitive marketplace will not only drive down costs, but also help us reduce the unacceptable number of homes that are not protected by flood insurance," he said.

Crossing party lines; eyes on Senate
Dispute over the bill did not only fall along party lines. Some New Jersey Republicans supported Democrats' claims that Republicans on the Financial Services Committee had rebuffed efforts to keep flood insurance affordable.  Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) noted that New Jersey victims of Superstorm Sandy were not afforded the same tax breaks as victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irene and Maria, and said that other Republicans' reluctance to include considerations for low-income families continued a trend of him "having to defend the people in my district and the people in New England from policies that do the right thing for us."  Rep. Peter King (R-N.J.) agreed, saying other Republicans would not listen to his concerns that premium increases would "wreak havoc" on his district.  "Maybe they don't need my vote," he said. "They're not getting my vote today."  By contrast, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) broke with his party to support the bill for its investment in mitigation and treatment of repetitive-loss properties, even though he agreed with some of the Democrats' concerns.  "It's not perfect, there are changes I would make, especially with regard to low income," he said. "But the answer is not to continue to keep people in harm's way. It is not to build people right back up where their families will be at risk. It is not to continue to resist reform."  With passage of the House bill, eyes now turn to the Senate.  The NFIP is currently set to expire Dec. 8, meaning the Senate will have to work quickly to pass a bill reauthorizing the program. While numerous reauthorization and reform proposals have been introduced in the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has yet to consider any of them.  The bill passed by the House will likely face strong disagreement in the Senate. Last month, the House tacked language onto a hurricane aid bill that would have boosted the private insurance market. The Senate removed the provision, which is also included in the insurance reform bill, over concerns about consumer fairness.

Beach nourishment could return during short session

Port of Virginia's vision of 55-foot-deep channels takes another step forward 

Church Creek flooding may mean buying out hundreds of residences, consultant says 

White House supports reform deal
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, November 14, 2017
The White House is backing a flood insurance reform bill headed to the House floor.  While the "21st Century Flood Reform Act" does not include as many reforms as the president would like, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administrative policy last night that the House should pass it.  The statement came as the Rules Committee advanced a pair of amendments to weaken reforms in the bill passed by the House Financial Services Committee in June.  The two amendments are the result of a deal between Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) over how the National Flood Insurance Program should handle houses that have suffered multiple losses.  The original bill would have phased out subsidies for "extreme repetitive-loss properties," raising rates at 15 percent per year. The bill would have also changed the definition of "extreme repetitive loss" to make it more strict.  Under the amendments, prior claims would not count against repetitive-loss properties. Instead, once a subsidized property has two new claims, its annual premium will increase by 10 percent. If a third claim is filed, there will be a 15 percent annual increase until a full risk-based rate is reached. The amendments also weaken language that would have kicked extreme repetitive-loss properties out of the federal flood insurance program. Now, properties would only become ineligible for NFIP once paid claims total more than three times the structure's value, with only claims filed after the bill passes counting against the property. The Scalise-Hensarling deal rejects OMB's October request for further reforms to NFIP following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In its statement, OMB said it "continues to support more immediate accounting for past repeated flood claims," along with other reforms requested by the White House but not included in the bill.  But the administration ultimately concluded that passing an amended bill would be a good first step to more reforms.  "To avoid future taxpayer bailouts of the NFIP, the Administration urges the Congress to pass the substitute amendment to H.R. 2874 and to continue pursuing reforms that will put the program on a more sound and sustainable financial footing," the statement says.  While the amended bill has the White House's support, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concerns during the Rules Committee meeting.  Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) argued that there are better ways to stabilize NFIP's finances than raising rates. He noted that while all property owners in the 100-year floodplain are required to purchase flood insurance from NFIP, many of them don't.  "Some states like Minnesota have only a 10 percent compliance rate with having flood insurance when  required," he said.  Graves, along with Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), also criticized a provision of the bill aimed at opening up the private insurance market that also would eliminate a requirement for private coverage to be "at least as broad" as NFIP's.  "I agree with more privatization, but not under this," Graves said.  The Rules Committee rejected 16 out of 18 amendments proposed to the bill, only allowing language from Financial Services member Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) to codify the Hensarling-Scalise deal.

Study: NC should spend more improving current beach accesses 

Study: Build more access amenities

Are critical Navy ranges "on the table" for offshore oil, gas development?

No 'magic bullet' to fix West Ashley Flooding, engineer to tell Charleston City Council

With delay in new lines, hopes for return to 2011 boundaries (SC)

House vote set on reform, reauthorization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, November 13, 2017
Legislation to reauthorize and reform flood insurance is back on track this week after a Congressional Budget Office scoring issue delayed action.  The House Rules Committee will consider the "21st Century Flood Reform Act," H.R. 2874, this evening, paving the way for flood debate.  The committee initially was set to hear the bill last week in a meeting that was postponed due to a "unresolved" scoring issue (E&E News PM, Nov. 9). That question has apparently been resolved.  The Rules Committee will consider a version of the bill resulting from a deal struck between House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).  Scalise and Hensarling had disagreed about how the NFIP should handle properties that have suffered multiple losses. As part of the deal, Hensarling agreed to weaken some reforms (E&E Daily, Nov. 6).

Beaufort Applies For Marine Debris Grant 

Completion date of Buxton beach project delayed

Facts About Coastal Protection by the International Association of Dredging Companies

Flood Insurance - Support mounts for House bill
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, November 8, 2017
A coalition of environmental, taxpayer and insurance groups is urging House leadership to pass the latest version of a flood insurance reform bill.  In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Smarter Safer Coalition praised a deal made last week between Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).  The coalition wrote that the new version of the "21st Century Flood Reform Act," H.R. 2874, "makes meaningful reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure it is financially stable in the long-term, to give consumer choices in flood coverage, to address affordability, and to make investments in mapping and mitigation."  Scalise and Hensarling had disagreed about how the National Flood Insurance Program should handle properties that have suffered multiple losses.
As part of the deal, Hensarling agreed to weaken some of the reforms present in the bill advanced by the Financial Services Committee this summer.  In the new version, subsidies for "extreme repetitive loss properties" will be phased out after a property has two new claims. Prior claims will not count against the properties, whose premiums will increase by 10 percent after two new losses. The annual increases will rise to 15 percent after a third loss.  The coalition noted in its letter that it still has some concerns about the bill and would like to see "further movement toward risk-based rates." But it also described a number of "meaningful reforms" included in the legislation, such as means-tested assistance for low-income homeowners and raising the cap on increased cost of compliance for mitigation.  "However, as a whole, this legislative package moves the flood program in the right direction and contains needed reforms that will better protect those in harm's way, the environment and taxpayers," the letter concluded.
Additional proposals
Also today, 100 Resilient Cities released a set of policy proposals for improving NFIP.  The proposals emphasize the importance of mitigation funding and accurate flood maps in helping communities adapt to flood risk.  In the Senate, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) unveiled four bills to improve NFIP. Together, they would allow communities to take a more active role in flood mapping, let NFIP surcharges on small businesses to be used toward mitigation, fund continuing education for insurance agents to ensure accurate information is presented to consumers, and ensure NFIP has the information it needs to make assessments of whether damage was caused by wind or water following major storms.  Wicker's legislation joins a number of bills introduced in the Senate this year that have not yet had a hearing or markup by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Development Committee. Committee leaders released their own flood insurance reform bill in July, but it has not yet advanced (E&E Daily, July 19).

Study: N.C. gets D grade for climate change policies

Dredge Merritt to Undergo Major Maintenance

South Carolina not doing enough to protect beaches, Surfrider report says 

Buxton beach project will miss contract deadline by 2 months

Flood insurance discounts vary widely for communities around South Carolina

South Carolina environmental regulators delay beach restriction line until May after public outcry 

NTB resolves lawsuit over shoreline restoration project

Manson Wins $26.6M Hopper Dredging Contract (includes MHC)

Editorial: As flooding risk grows, a need for action

Oceana sues feds over sea turtle protections
Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, E&E News, November 3, 2017
Oceana wants to reinitiate a lawsuit against federal agencies over the delay of a final rule on sea turtle protections in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and took its case to D.C. District Court today.  The Obama administration issued a proposed rule on turtle excluder devices in response to a lawsuit from Oceana alleging the federal government was violating the Endangered Species Act by not determining whether shrimp fishing was putting the turtles at risk of extinction (Greenwire, Dec. 15, 2016).  The addition of the devices to skimmer, pusher-head and butterfly trawls would save about 2,500 endangered and threatened turtles every year, according to Oceana.  "At this point, every single day of delay means more threatened and endangered sea turtles dying preventable deaths in fishing nets," Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder said in a statement.  After Oceana's initial lawsuit, the Obama administration's settlement agreed that the group could sue again if final regulations were not released by June 15, 2017.  Snyder said Oceana held off from filing the unopposed motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to renew the lawsuit earlier "in the spirit of cooperation" with the federal government in hopes of ensuring a favorable outcome.  "All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable," Snyder said.  The initial complaint from 2015 alleged that NOAA, NOAA Fisheries and then-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries regulations and internal guidance when they failed to set measurable and enforceable take limits for endangered sea turtles in the 2014 shrimp biological opinion, among other things. In the revised lawsuit, Oceana names Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who serves under the Trump administration.  NOAA declined to comment on the ongoing litigation and did not answer an inquiry on the rule's status.

Committee to advance onshore-offshore energy bill
Kellie Lunney, E&E News, November 6, 2017
House Natural Resources Committee lawmakers this week will consider legislation aimed at increasing onshore and offshore energy development.  The Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing tomorrow on draft legislation Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) unveiled on Halloween (E&E Daily, Nov. 1).  The bill, which hasn't been formally introduced yet, aims to boost onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling as well as wind energy development by reducing federal regulations, streamlining the permitting process and creating a revenue-sharing partnership with coastal states.
After the hearing, the full committee tomorrow evening will consider opening statements for a Wednesday markup of nine bills, including a bipartisan measure, H.R. 4239, "to expand access to both conventional and renewable resources, establish revenue sharing with states, and streamline energy permitting processes to make federal lands and waters a competitive and attractive place for responsible development."
That bill, the "Strengthening the Economy With Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act," was introduced Friday.
While technically separate from Bishop's discussion draft, it is nearly identical in language. Bishop, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Texas Democrats Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez are sponsoring H.R. 4239.  The members said their bill will help create jobs and strengthen national security through energy exploration and development on federal lands as well as the outer continental shelf.  "As a South Texan, I have seen first-hand how oil and natural gas production can revitalize local economies, create jobs and move the U.S. toward energy independence," Gonzalez said in a statement.  "This legislation proposes important reforms that will allow the rest of our country to unlock vast economic development and energy capital that will support our nation for years to come."  
Among other things, the "SECURE American Energy Act" would:
Establish a revenue-sharing partnership among the federal government, Atlantic Coast states and Alaskan planning areas. It would also "ensure disbursement certainty" for the four Gulf states that fall under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. That law allows them to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts.
Prohibit Interior from enforcing the Obama administration's December 2016 ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean.
Direct 6.25 percent of revenue from offshore energy development to the Interior and Transportation departments for certain deferred maintenance projects. The National Park Service, for instance, has a multibillion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog.
Prohibit Interior from enforcing federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands in states with corresponding rules in place.
Prevent the Bureau of Land Management from hindering energy development on state and private lands with "unnecessary permits and additional federal environment reviews," according to a summary of the bill.
The hearing, which features four witnesses from across the country, will focus on Bishop's draft legislation, which contains many of the same provisions.
Today, Bishop will meet with reporters for a pen-and-pad discussion of the "SECURE American Energy Act."
During that briefing, the chairman also will discuss his recent trip with other lawmakers to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and recovery efforts for the hurricane-ravaged territories.
Other bills
In addition to the "SECURE American Energy Act," the committee on Wednesday will mark up eight other bills related to natural resources.
They are:
H.R. 995, sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), which would direct the Interior and Agriculture secretaries to amend regulations for "racial appropriateness."
H.R. 1800, from Bishop, which would direct the Agriculture secretary to transfer certain federal land to encourage scientific research supporting federal space and defense programs.
H.R. 1532, which would reaffirm that certain land has been taken into trust for the benefit of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) sponsored the bill.
H.R. 2504, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), aimed at ensuring fair treatment in licensing requirements for exporting certain echinoderms. Echinoderms include sea stars and sand dollars.
H.R. 2907, which would amend the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act to require the Interior secretary to develop and publish an all-of-the-above quadrennial federal onshore energy production strategy. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) is sponsoring the bill.
H.R. 3469, which would designate the bridge in Blount County, Tenn., on the Foothills Parkway as the "Dean Stone Bridge." That legislation is sponsored by Republican Rep. John Duncan Jr. of Tennessee.
H.R. 3905, sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), which would require congressional approval of any mineral withdrawal or monument designation involving the National Forest System lands in Minnesota, to provide for the renewal of certain mineral leases in such lands.
S. 140, from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), which would amend the 2010 White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act to clarify the use of amounts in the WMAT Settlement Fund.
Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m. in 1324 Longworth.
Witnesses: Ray Brady, environmental specialist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Washington, D.C.; Lynn Helms, director of mineral resources at the North Dakota Industrial Commission in Bismarck; David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance in Houston; Eric Smith, professor of practice and associate director of Tulane University's Energy Institute in New Orleans.
Schedule: The full committee markup begins Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 5 p.m. in 1324 Longworth and continues Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.

While a new island grew, southern Hatteras was shrinking

State coastal commission will meet on Nov. 7 and 8 in Atlantic Beach

In Charleston preservation circles, a new debate: To raise or raze historic, flood-prone homes?

Offshore drilling: House panel looks for common ground  

Beaufort to seek debris cleanup grant

Dredging that would put sand on Caswell, Oak Island beaches held up in Congress 

Here’s how these bulldozers are helping sea turtles in North Myrtle Beach

New Federal Study: Dredging is harming more endangered fish (SC) 

Charleston Harbor deepening is largest dredging contract in Army Corps history

Sandbags and victims’ rights to be discussed at North Topsail BOA

In the Trump era, rising seas still a concern for Defense Department

Feds recommend $1.8 billion in upgrades for Norfolk flooding. But none of them is funded yet.

How cities are defending themselves against sea level rise

Department of the Interior Announces Actions to Expedite Energy Development with Potential Consequences for Listed Species

Furor over new South Carolina beach-building restrictions leaves regulators with a mess

Here’s why Beaufort County residents are outraged by new property restrictions

OPINION: Drilling off East Coast not worth the risk

Outraged at new SC beachfront restrictions? Here’s why you shouldn’t be

Enviros 'shocked' by the depth of regulatory overhaul
Pamela King, E&E News, October 30, 2017
A regulatory review handed down last week by the Interior Department takes the knife to a broad set of rules and policies to shepherd oil and gas operations on public lands.  Interior's report, a response to President Trump's directive to review all regulations that "potentially burden" federal energy production, predictably contained details on the department's steps to rescind and revise the Bureau of Land Management's hydraulic fracturing and methane waste rules (Energywire, Oct. 26).   Secretary Ryan Zinke also signed Order 3358, creating the "Executive Committee for Expedited Permitting," an effort to slash industry's waiting period for drilling permit approvals.  Nestled in the document's 44 pages are some of the first official indications of how much deeper the cuts will go.
"Interior is aggressively working to put America on track to achieve the President's vision for energy dominance and bring jobs back to communities across the country," the report says. "Working with state, local and tribal communities, as well as other stakeholders, Secretary Zinke is instituting sweeping reforms to unleash America's energy opportunities."  Late last week, environmental groups had just begun to process the information contained in the report, which was released at the end of the day Wednesday.  "I'm shocked," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. "What Interior views to be a burden, that's been the basic way of doing business for years."  He pointed to sections of the review that say Interior is considering elimination of lease stipulations and limitations to public protests.  "Free speech is not a burden to the oil and gas industry," Nichols wrote in an email. "It's an American constitutional right. This is beyond bizarre."
Western stakeholders convened a call Friday to decry BLM's planned rescission of its policy incorporating master leasing plans (MLPs) into its land-use planning process (Greenwire, Oct. 27).  "An unintended consequence of this policy has been that many areas open to oil and gas leasing have been deferred from leasing while they await the completion of the MLP process," Interior's report says.  Utah's Moab MLP, finalized last year, was a collaborative process that offers a high level of certainty for oil and gas operators, said Grand County Council member Mary McGann.  "Such an open and effective process should be encouraged and not discouraged," she said.  But incomplete plans, like southwest Colorado's proposed Tres Rios MLP, are likely to be stopped in their tracks. BLM expects to erase the strategy from its handbook this quarter.  Blockage of the Tres Rios plan is a welcome development for Eric Sanford, operations and land manager for the oil and gas firm SG Interests in Colorado.  During his time on BLM's Southwest Resource Advisory Council, Sanford said he saw the proposed MLP being used as a political tool by interests that wished to run out the clock on oil and gas development.  If a company doesn't know how long it has to wait to drill, it can't create its business plan, and the firm will go elsewhere, he said.  "There are areas of the West where an MLP could benefit not only the resource but also the operator, but that assumes that National Environmental Policy Act reviews could be done in an efficient manner," he said. "I've never seen a NEPA document done in an efficient manner."  
Interior has introduced time and page limits for its NEPA reviews, but the legal implications of that move are unclear (Energywire, Sept. 8).  Just as environmental groups have used MLPs as a political tool, industry interests can use the shifting political tides to their advantage, Sanford said.  But the results are always fleeting.  "The pendulum will swing in the other direction," he said. "You should expect that."

New streamlined approach to sand placement projects saves time and costs 

South Carolina Gov. McMaster calls on DHEC to hold off beach-building restrictions

Beaches: Town will seek bids for renourishment before referendum (SC)

Letter to the editor: Is oil revenue sharing worth the risk?

Lawsuit Delays OIB Terminal Groin Project 

Hundreds of S.C. coastal property owners call for delay in beach building restriction lines 

Repair to these Sea Pines beaches damaged in Irma will start soon. But how much will it cost? (SC)

Charleston's use of federal grants to raze flood-prone properties part of a national trend 

Editorial: Time to repeal NC law that blocks addressing sea level rise

Producer Blog: Sea level rise is 'so clearly fact'

Rick Luett/ch and the Science of Storm Surge 

Rep. Mark Sanford joins growing call for beach-building line delay

Pawleys Island moves toward beach renourishment, but homeowners worry about cost 

Wrightsville Beach receives funding for $9.5 million winter 2018 beach renourishment project

Residents of one of Charleston's most flood-prone areas to get relief in $2.45 million federal grant

With Congress mulling privatization, Fla. offers a model
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, October 25, 2017
In 2014, the Florida Legislature passed a one-of-a-kind law ushering the private flood insurance industry into the state for the first time ever.  S.B. 158 simplified the process for companies to set prices. Three years later, the Sunshine State is one of the only places in the nation where homeowners can get flood coverage from somewhere other than the National Flood Insurance Program. Twenty companies offer plans and count roughly 20,000 residents as customers.  Now, with Congress weighing whether or how to grow the private flood insurance market nationwide with the goal of reducing NFIP's mounting debt, Florida's burgeoning industry is receiving renewed attention. But analysts say what worked there is unlikely to repeat, forcing Congress to focus on other solutions.  Florida's story began in 2012, when Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act to limit subsidized premiums for some federal policies. The law turned out to be a shock to the system.  NFIP offers lower rates for properties that predate the federal program but adhere to housing codes from their time of construction, regardless of the owner's financial status.  It also "grandfathers in" properties, allowing homeowners to keep their current premium rates even if new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps calculate their risk has increased.  Biggert-Waters required raising NFIP's most-subsidized premiums until they attained actuarially sound levels. Under the law, some 250,000 business owners, second-home owners and people with frequently flooded properties saw immediate 25 percent increases.  The law put another 578,000 policyholders on notice that they would only keep subsidies until they either sold their homes or suffered severe, repeated flood losses.  With 1.7 million NFIP policies, Florida accounts for 35 percent of the national program. Any change in federal policy would hit the Sunshine State the most.  Pinellas County state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), whose district is home to the most subsidized policies of any county in the nation, started getting calls.  "People's premiums were increasing by thousands of dollars, they were saying they had to turn their keys into the bank," he said. "It devastated the real estate market in my community."  Brandes did some research and decided his constituents needed more options for flood insurance. He drafted a bill with help from Lisa Miller, a former state insurance commissioner-turned-lobbyist who helped Brandes draft the law.  Though Congress ultimately reversed the most extreme rate hikes in Biggert-Waters, Miller says the sticker shock was key to convincing Florida legislators to welcome the private market.  "When people have the choice of paying the higher NFIP rate or the lower private insurance company rate, what do you think they are going to choose?" she said. "The market drives the product."
'Shocked no one else has done this'
Today, Florida's private insurance market is young, but growing. Two more companies decided to cover flood risk this summer, and industry watchers say more are on the way.  Florida's law allows for four types of private flood plans, ranging from standard coverage mirroring NFIP to three advanced kinds of coverage.  Those policies offer things NFIP doesn't, like living expenses to temporarily move out of flood-damaged homes. Some private policies exceed NFIP's $250,000 coverage cap for residential properties, while others are bundled with homeowners' insurance.  While flooding has historically been seen as too risky for private companies, recent advances in computer modeling have helped them better predict risk and make insurance more affordable.  Christopher Heidrick, an insurance agent on Sanibel Island, Fla., said many companies can customize rates in ways NFIP can't.  NFIP rates are largely based on whether homes are located in the 100- or 500-year floodplain. But homes in the middle of a floodplain carry different risks than those closer to the edges, a nuance NFIP doesn't account for.  "There is a big difference between a property with a 0.3 percent chance of flooding and a 0.99 percent chance of flooding, but all of those are technically in NFIP's 100-year floodplain," said Heidrick, who chairs the flood insurance task force for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America Inc.  "That difference is something private companies calculate and translate into better rates for homeowners," he said during a recent interview.  Private policies can come with risks. In the two weeks after Hurricane Irma, Florida's Department of Financial Services received nine consumer complaints about private policies, compared to just one about NFIP.  And unlike NFIP, private companies don't always guarantee customers' policies will be renewed the next year. What's more, private flood insurance may not be available to everyone.  "We say no," said Kevin Mitchell, vice president at HCI Group Inc.  The group began offering flood insurance via a smartphone app last year and writes policies in all FEMA flood zones. But HCI limits the number of high-risk homes it insures in the same ZIP code.  "Once we make a promise to a number of homeowners in a given area, we think it is best for them and us that we don't oversaturate that area so we can financially respond in the event of a loss," Mitchell said.  Locke Burt, chairman and president of Security First Insurance, told Insurance Journal this summer that some properties insured by NFIP, like those that have suffered repetitive losses, "will never be insured by the private market."  Some lawmakers have expressed concerns that a large private insurance market could lead to "cherry-picking," leaving NFIP with only the most-risky, most-subsidized policies. Others note that NFIP could lose funding for mitigation if too many policies move to the private market.  That hasn't slowed privatization's supporters. Three years later, Brandes says his only regret is that more states haven't followed his lead.  "I'm really shocked that no one else has done this," he said. "People should be taking the model and running with it."
'Screwing people'
Faced with reforming and reauthorizing NFIP before the program expires in December, Congress is gun-shy about raising rates again. And White House proposals to limit subsidies for all but low-income policyholders have fallen on deaf ears.  This time around, lawmakers are hoping that regulatory clarity will nudge more private companies toward covering flood risk.  The proposal with the most traction comes from Florida Reps. Dennis Ross (R) and Kathy Castor (D). Proponents of the bill say it would fix a blunder made during the 2012 NFIP reauthorization.  Then, Congress reformed the program to allow homeowners in 100-year floodplains to carry private policies but said they had to be "substantially similar" to ones offered by the federal government.  Banking regulators, however, have been skittish about defining that term, and the private market has remained small as a result.  Ross and Castor want to clarify that private insurance fulfills federal requirements and would empower state insurance commissioners to decide when private policies are "substantially similar" until banking regulators come up with their own definition.  "We see this as basically a technical correction," says R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the free-market-oriented think tank R Street Institute.  But the bill would also eliminate a provision requiring private policies to be "at least as broad" as NFIP, which consumer advocates fear could put homeowners at risk.  Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, said he doesn't understand why the bill has to eliminate that language.  "Why does it stifle [private companies] if all they have to do is be equal?" he said. "All it does is stifle them from screwing people."  Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said Florida's experience shows the Ross-Castor bill isn't necessary.  "There is a huge mythology around this bill that if only we would pass it, private insurers would participate," he said. "But Florida shows us that Biggert-Waters already opened that door."  Berginnis said he believes Congress should give states and banking regulators more time to act before making more changes to federal law, especially given that Hurricane Irma is the first major storm to hit Florida since private insurers began writing flood policies there.  "I understand there is a big appetite right now at a time without any big disasters, but there is still a question of whether private industry can weather big events," he said.  Berginnis and Hunter are particularly concerned that the language will allow for more flood policies on what's called the excess and surplus lines market.  While common kinds of coverage — like homeowners or car insurance — are on the "admitted market" and must adhere to a number of state regulations, so-called surplus lines insurance is reserved for coverage where risk is less predictable.  Those policies are less regulated, and companies offering surplus lines are not required to guarantee funding a claim if they go bankrupt.  Miller, the Florida lobbyist, said she supports the Ross-Castor legislation but understands concerns about the surplus lines market.  Miller said she thinks Congress will still ultimately have to raise rates or cede a portion of the insurance market to private companies.  That's an idea House Republicans considered and then rejected this summer after facing resistance from the real estate and building industries (E&E Daily, Sept. 6).  "After laws pass, people continue to talk," Miller said. "We will eventually have to raise rates to get more players into this market, but in the meantime, Ross-Castor is a good start."

The high cost of inlet access

Oak Island nets millions for pier, beach nourishment 

Holden Beach targets invasive weed 

Virginia Beach applies for a grant to change how homes are built in flood-prone areas 

Beach owners blindsided by new South Carolina don't-build line

Beach replenishment program ready to begin in Carteret Co.

Pawleys Island: Scaled-back beach project gets on fast track 

DHEC rejects Hewitt’s call to delay new lines

Environmentalist, Oil Exec Face Off at Forum 

Louisiana to get only about $70 million as first offshore oil revenue payment, feds say

More than 60 percent of Hampton Roads residents say flooding is on the rise, ODU survey finds 

Regional Plan Association (RPA) Proposes Formation of Tri-State Coastal Commission to Prepare For Rising Sea Levels

County copes with new flood maps 

Mathews Dredge Meeting Set for Next Week (Va)

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear case that threatened public's right to beach access

New bill could fast-track offshore drilling

The only answer to rising seas is to retreat 

Money for risk reduction is there. Will cities take it?
Adam Aton, E&E News reporter, October 19, 2017
Among the many billions of dollars Congress has spent on this year's hurricanes and wildfires, local governments can find federal money to rebuild their communities to withstand future climate threats.  Whether they go looking for it is another matter.
So far, federal disaster relief is bringing only voluntary and incidental measures to mitigate natural hazards. That could mean the United States emerges from a year of historically costly disasters little more prepared for the next one, even as warmer temperatures and higher sea levels offer more destructive storm seasons ahead.  Last week, the House approved $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, on top of $15.3 billion Congress sent through last month.  That pot of money includes funding for hazard mitigation grants — the federal program that covers most or all the costs of rebuilding things back more resilient than they were before a disaster. It's extra money for extra work.  But states and local governments have historically let those grants slip by unused, experts say, and this round of disaster funding lacks the explicit mitigation-related conditions that lawmakers tacked onto the Superstorm Sandy relief package five years ago.  The federal government has the authority to mandate stricter standards for projects it is paying to rebuild, and FEMA could extend that to hurricane-struck areas. But that's a politically difficult tool that has never been used.
"It's like touching the third rail to see if it's live," said Ed Thomas, president of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association.  Instead, FEMA pays to rebuild homes and infrastructure to local standards. So cities or states could theoretically tighten their building codes and still have the federal government help them rebuild more resiliently and at a steep discount.  We'll know by this time next year whether local governments responded to the disasters by tightening their codes and applying for hazard mitigation grants, Thomas said.  But some people — especially city lawyers — might view changing their building codes as tantamount to admitting they did something wrong, Thomas said.
The House's most recent disaster package also forgives $16 billion of debt from the National Flood Insurance Program, giving it more breathing space before hitting its borrowing limit.  But that relief has deflated efforts to reform the flood insurance program, said R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a free-market-oriented think tank.
Critics from both parties have tried to stop the flood insurance program from enabling people to build and live in areas that flood repeatedly. But that has proved politically unpopular around the coasts.  And even though the program still needs reauthorization in December, lawmakers won't make significant changes to it without the borrowing limit forcing their hand, Lehmann said.  At the congressional level, it's hard to find anywhere this year's disasters have left a policy imprint.  "Storms come and people are hurt — you can't stop helping people that have been hurt," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee with jurisdiction over FEMA.  But, he said, planning for climate change means building stronger. Florida fared better than Puerto Rico this hurricane season not just because its buildings are newer but because the codes are stricter.  "We have to think of a comprehensive plan to deal with what will likely be increasing emergencies," Peters said. "And it's not just hurricanes — it's wildfires and rising sea levels. There's no shortage of changes that we need to be thinking about."  That message of resilience might attract some fiscal conservatives. This year has seen 15 climate and weather events cause more than $1 billion in damages each, a trend that has generally been rising over the years.  Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who sits on the full panel that oversees FEMA's parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, said the Puerto Rico recovery money must go toward rebuilding for long-term "sustainability."  "Not just rebuilding what's there, but making it more sustainable over time, for the next hurricane," he said

New State Fund to Go Toward Sand Projects
Graves of some of the most recognized names in Outer Banks history are in jeopardy 

For first time in years, Cape Point was accessible all summer 

Forum offers viewpoints on drilling off the NC coast

Grand Strand leaders, environmentalists respond to support for offshore drilling

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
October 23, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

New state rules could dictate beachfront development (SC) 

Kiawah developers win permit to renourish dunes on Capt. Sam's Spit

Officials Look to Clean Up Taylor’s Creek

Beaches: New lines expand state jurisdiction along coast (SC)

State's new beach setback lines jeopardize existing homes along South Carolina coast (SC)

Pawleys Island: Beach erosion from Irma equalled two previous storms 

PKS takes stance opposing drilling 

Public Notice – The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from the Town of Nags Head seeking Department of the Army authorization to dredge 4 million cubic yards of beach-quality sediments from two offshore borrow sources, and deposit the material along a 10-mile section of oceanfront shoreline, in the Town Nags Head, Dare County, North Carolina. 

Optimism, lingering questions at Dare waterways meeting  

Endangered Species Act Reform – Wolves, Dollars, Data 

Rep. Iler says Brunswick County's request to be off prepared meal tax bill was honored months ago 

Offshore drilling forum gets political backing 

‘To Drill or Not To Drill’ Forum Oct. 17 

Beach cities say no to offshore drilling, but that’s not what Congress was told 

Lawmakers to revisit revenue-sharing fight
Geof Koss, E&E News, October 10, 2017
A House subcommittee this week will delve into new legislation that would ease offshore drilling in federal waters while also steering revenues to certain coastal states.  The Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will meet tomorrow afternoon to review a draft bill dubbed the "Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore (ASTRO) Act."  It would steer 50 percent of the revenue from offshore oil and gas production to the general treasury, with another 50 percent directed to a separate account to be distributed to certain coastal states, the Department of Transportation and the National Park Service.  Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are eligible to receive 75 percent of the second pot of money under a regulation to be promulgated by the Interior Department that takes into account the distances between the geographic center of the leased tract and the closest coastal point of the producing state.
The bill would hand DOT 12.5 percent of revenues for energy infrastructure development in coastal ports, with an additional 12.5 percent dedicated to reducing the multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog at NPS.  The measure would amend a 2006 law that allows a handful of Gulf Coast states to share in federal revenues generated off their coasts to receive as much as $500 million annually over the next decade. That amount would increase to $850 million annually from fiscal 2027 through 2036, and $950 million each fiscal year from 2037 to 2055.  In a nod to actions taken by President Obama that were criticized by the oil and gas industry and its congressional allies, the legislation would also limit the president's authority to withdraw lands from the outer continental shelf from oil and gas leasing. That power would require an act of Congress, although the president could still withdraw unleased lands in a national marine sanctuary.
The draft bill would revoke presidential withdrawals made prior to its enactment, provided they are not in national marine sanctuaries. It would preserve existing marine monuments but revoke presidential authority to designate new ones. It would also hand new power to the Interior Department to conduct lease sales outside the normal leasing program.  Tomorrow's hearing follows last week's House passage of a budget resolution that instructs the Natural Resources Committee to write legislation to reduce the deficit by $5 billion over 10 years. That bill could then be rolled into tax reform, which, under the budget reconciliation process, can pass the Senate by a simple majority (Greenwire, Oct. 5).  The Senate's budget resolution, which moved in committee last week, contains similar instructions to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, although that panel is tasked with finding just $1 billion in savings.  ENR Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is widely expected to meet the instructions by moving a bill to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although legislation expanding oil and gas drilling on other federal lands is another option. Murkowski is also a strong supporter of handing states a greater share of offshore drilling revenues.  That's been a legislative goal for oil-and-gas-friendly coastal lawmakers for years, but one that suffered a setback when the Trump administration earlier this year called on Congress to revoke the 2006 law that sends drilling revenues to the Gulf Coast states (E&E Daily, June 6).
In addition to the revenue sections of the new House bill, environmentalists are decrying provisions that revoke Arctic drilling rules and require Interior to conduct a study on "inefficiencies or duplication" between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.  Those agencies were created administratively by the Obama administration after the 2010 BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but never codified into law. Green groups fear the study mandated in the bill will lead to a rollback of the reorganization.  "This bill is the kitchen sink of the oil industry's wish list," said Dustin Cranor, senior communications director at Oceana, in a Friday email. "To call this bill extreme is an understatement. This is Congress' attempt to provide massive industry giveaways to big oil and special interests."

Coastal states eye windfall from drilling
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News, October 12, 2017
Stephen Goldfinch says Congress could deliver a "golden goose" to impoverished people in his home state of South Carolina by approving a plan to send millions of dollars in new oil and gas revenues to five coastal states.  "The time is right to capitalize on this opportunity, and the need in those towns and other places in South Carolina could not be greater or more urgent," Goldfinch, a Republican state senator from Georgetown, S.C., told a House Natural Resources panel yesterday.  On the opposite side, Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva calls the new GOP plan nothing more than "a giveaway" that would allow the Interior secretary to approve more oil and gas drilling off U.S. coasts at any time.  "This bill is an industry handout in a bad disguise," said Grijalva, the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee.  
The five states — South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alaska — would share 37.5 percent of the oil and gas revenues, under a draft Republican bill debated by the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.  Half of the revenue would go to the U.S. Treasury, while the remaining 12.5 percent would be split between the National Park Service to pay for deferred maintenance projects and the Transportation Department to finance energy infrastructure.  Backers of the bill, called the "Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act," said they want to expand a 2006 law allowing states to share in drilling revenues.  The five states could receive as much as $500 million each year for the next decade, with the amount increasing to $850 million annually from 2027 through 2036 and $950 million per year from 2037 to 2055.  "These states have borne the environmental risks and the social burdens brought on by a complex infrastructure-intensive industry," said Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, the subcommittee's chairman.
Gosar said the current planning process for oil and gas leases all too often has been used as a "political football," criticizing the Obama administration for making 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off-limits to development.  California Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal, the subcommittee's ranking member, said the bill would give too much power to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and put U.S. coasts "at a much higher risk."  Former Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu — a major booster of revenue sharing — told the panel the issue is "a matter of fairness and recognition of a partnership" to help states with the costs of development, including everything from medical services to schools and highways.  And Landrieu said new pipelines needed to reach markets have hit the state hard and accelerated its loss of land. "By recent estimates," she said, "we have lost approximately 1,800 square miles of our coastal areas since 1930, roughly the size of Rhode Island."  The bill also calls for a study of a possible merger of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.  Supporters said combining the agencies under a single bureau could save money and "streamline the oil and gas leasing and permitting process."
Opponents said it would be a mistake.  "Because the discussions on this issue have so far taken place behind closed doors, there has been no opportunity for informed debate," said Michael Bromwich, who served as the top offshore drilling regulator during part of the Obama administration.  On April 28, President Trump signed an executive order that reversed an Obama administration ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and directed the Interior Department to consider allowing more offshore oil and gas leasing in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico (Greenwire, April 28).  Oceana, an advocacy group that's helping lead the effort against more drilling, said the plan is opposed by more than 130 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance that represents more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families from Maine to Florida.  "This bill is an aggressive attack on our oceans," said Diane Hoskins, a campaign director for Oceana. "It's the industry's wish list, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in."
Admin tries to fix flood insurance without tackling climate
Zack Colman, E&E News reporter, October 11, 2017
After weeks of attention paid to hurricanes, flooding and a rebuilding process that will take years, the Trump Administration is making a push to change an insolvent program that offers cut-rate insurance to homeowners in floodplains.  While groups working to change the National Flood Insurance Program are encouraged that the Trump administration indicated it would spend political capital on the indebted program, they also said the White House's approach underscores its aversion to climate science and undercuts effective policy.  "There needs to be sort of clarity around the fact there's growing flood risk and those factors are being projected out in light of climate change," said Cynthia McHale, insurance program manager at the sustainability group Ceres.
The White House wants to reform the beleaguered program by encouraging private insurers to offer flood coverage, by refusing to repeatedly rebuild flooded homes, and by ending taxpayer-backed insurance for homes constructed in the 100-year floodplain after 2021. The program is $24.6 billion in debt.  It's not surprising to observers that the Trump administration would ignore climate-related complications imperiling the flood program. Trump officials have largely refused to discuss climate change within the context of natural disasters, like the hurricanes that battered the country and its territories in August and September.  Yet the omissions related to rising temperatures, and their impact on the program, highlight the degree to which the White House has sought to evade politically contentious conversations about climate change. President Trump has called it a hoax, and many of his Cabinet members are unconvinced global warming is a problem.
The proposed flood reforms issued last week by the White House Office of Management and Budget skirted around scientific findings related to a warmer climate and sharpening risks of inundation. Critics said the proposed changes might even increase the federal flood program's exposure to risk, rather than lower it.  That's in part because the White House was silent on steps to mitigate flood-related damage, to improve floodplain maps that climate change and development have helped to make outdated, or to build communities and infrastructure to better withstand heavier rains, more extreme storms and higher sea levels.  "They could have reflected any of those priorities, and they chose not to," said Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, who called the proposals "astoundingly disappointing."  Lawmakers were also divided on whether the proposals helped or hindered the program, with many suggesting the conversation should wait until after passing much-needed emergency aid to hurricane- and wildfire-damaged communities (E&E Daily, Oct. 6).
The flood program's problems have been known for years. Debt has weighed the program down, and an active hurricane season has shed further light on its long-term health woes.  By offering subsidized flood insurance in places private insurers considered too risky, taxpayers have unwittingly financed flood-prone home construction for years. When those homes suffer damage, taxpayers sometimes also fund the rebuilding process.  Some of the long-term, systemic financial headwinds come from climate change. Floodplain maps are often outdated, meaning the level of risk homeowners face doesn't show up in the maps even as seas have risen and storms are dropping more rain. A White House official told E&E News that while it didn't propose flood mitigation measures or mechanisms to fund projects to improve communities' resilience to climate-related weather events, it wasn't shooting down the idea. Accepting such policies, though, would reverse course for an administration that has revoked federal guidelines to plan for such climate impacts — arguing that they're too expensive and cumbersome.  "We're looking forward to the conversation," the official said. "We have the immediate need to address."
The National Flood Insurance Program has borrowed $26.4 billion from taxpayers. The program is set to expire Dec. 8 if Congress doesn't act to reauthorize it. Damages from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria figure to put the program above its $30.4 billion borrowing limit.  So the White House is asking for $16 billion in debt relief — the cost it estimated the program would have to pay out to policyholders after those storms. That doesn't include Hurricane Nate, which hit New Orleans over the weekend. At the same time, the White House is asking for reforms to the flood program and $13 billion in disaster relief spending.  "[It] puts some pressure on Congress," said Laura Lightbody, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' flood-prepared communities initiative. "This is kind of the first signal from the White House that we've seen on the flood insurance program."  It was a signal that left much up for interpretation and debate.
Many of the proposals might actually put further strain on homeowners and the federal flood program, especially when combined with the absence of updates to flood maps and resilience efforts, critics said.  Some of the White House reforms threaten to divide a diverse coalition of fiscal conservatives, environmental groups, insurers and floodplain managers who are seeking changes to the flood program.  The White House official said the language in last week's letter to Congress regarding the flood changes and emergency aid funding was intentionally ambiguous. The official noted that the administration has asked for changes to the flood program since May in the form of letters from the Department of Homeland Security.  "We're not explicitly saying if you don't do one you can't do the other," the official said, referring to disaster aid and flood reforms. "Those reforms were similar if not more aggressive back in May. However, now we're in the eleventh hour."  The debt relief provision is exposing rifts among proponents of improving the program. Fiscal conservatives worry that Congress could approve the debt relief without committing to long-lasting reform. But the Association of State Floodplain Managers and others welcome debt relief, since policyholders have already paid into the program in the form of insurance premiums.
Still, some proposals got broad interest from those pushing for alterations. The White House suggested limiting flood insurance rate increases for low-income policyholders, who constitute 26 percent of participants in the 100-year floodplain, beginning in 2021.  Much of the division centered around efforts to eliminate barriers for private insurers.  Doing so could saddle the federal program with a greater concentration of risky properties, as private insurers rush to underwrite the safest ones, some observers say. That's because private insurers already avoid the most vulnerable assets, which is why the federal program was created in the first place.  Many fiscal conservatives backing tweaks to the flood program praised the White House's moves to clear barriers for private insurers. They acknowledge that other administration proposals aimed at limiting financial strain on the program may be less appealing to some of the groups pushing for fixes.  "The provisions on repetitive loss properties and new construction are somewhat more controversial," R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow with the free-market think tank R Street Institute, said in an email.  McHale of Ceres said the White House offered a clumsy plan to stop insuring properties that incur "repetitive loss," meaning they flood repeatedly. While such properties are a burden on the program and illustrative of a need for change, McHale said there should be recourse to buy homeowners out of those repeatedly damaged properties. That's especially true for low-income residents.  While fiscal conservatives applauded a proposal to phase out federal flood policies for newly constructed homes, others said it could leave homeowners without any insurance.  "It assumes that the private market will always be there," Berginnis said. "There is a pretty significant potential that rates could increase significantly in those areas or that insurers could pull out altogether. So where does that leave property owners?"

Military, Hampton Roads sink or swim together
Nick Sobczyk, E&E News, October 11, 2017
Sea-level rise threatens the main economic engine of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, but a patchwork of jurisdictions makes it difficult to do much about it.  The Department of Defense, the coastal region's largest single employer, has worked over the past decade and a half to protect Naval Station Norfolk and its other installations from climate change, gradually replacing piers, infrastructure and electrical utilities to raise them above the rising tides.  But the scope of that work is limited to the base, and surging seas have prompted complicated discussions in the region about who owns the responsibility for adaptation.  Sixteen major military installations dot the Virginia coast.  At the same time, a jumble of cities and county jurisdictional areas, pocked by land owned by DOD and the federal government, can make effective collaboration on large-scale projects a nightmare.
"It's not enough for DOD to protect the base," said retired Navy Capt. Joe Bouchard, who was the commanding officer at Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base, from 2000 to 2003. "The surrounding community has to protect it, too."  Much of the critical infrastructure the naval station depends on — everything from water and sewage service to roads — comes from the surrounding communities. Because more than 90 percent of the officers working there live off-base, flooded roads can disrupt training and maintenance operations.  The region faces a dual threat. As tides rise with climate change, Hampton Roads is sinking thanks to a phenomenon known as land subsidence. Freshwater pumping compacts the land, which causes it to slowly sink into the ocean, accounting for about half the sea-level rise in the region, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Geological Survey.  With the water rising an average of about 4 millimeters regionwide each year, once-occasional floods have become routine, said Larry Atkinson, an oceanography professor at Old Dominion University.  Since Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, cities have slowly begun to recognize the risks, despite resistance from politicians in the conservative swaths of rural land that skirt Hampton Roads.  DOD has found itself playing the role of mediator among sometimes fractious local and county jurisdictions to organize a comprehensive program to adapt.  "Unless everybody is doing the same thing in terms of adaptation, then you don't get to base," said Skip Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch, a nonprofit group working on sea-level rise in the region. "The problem doesn't stop at the gate of Naval Station Norfolk."
'Doing their own thing'
DOD and the federal government have historically acted as the glue binding coastal Virginia into a single economy. But different jurisdictional areas have long struggled to work together, with squabbles over racial issues, water management and even outlet malls that go back more than half a century.  "It's sort of like Brooklyn at war with Queens," said Stiles.  Cities and counties in Virginia are separate, receiving their power and funding independently from the state Legislature. And collaboration among the jurisdictions must be approved at the state level, where climate change isn't always a top priority.  "Therein is the rub," said retired Navy Rear Adm. Ann Phillips. "That means the cities are doing their own thing, and really, the federal government is doing its own thing. It won't work that way."
In an effort to bring them all together, Bouchard in 2014 helped launch the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Planning Pilot Project, an initiative of the Obama-era National Security Council. The project aimed to partner communities, local universities, and the military and federal government to create joint plans for the region (Climatewire, June 2, 2014).  The project, which ran until last year, had little money attached, and DOD and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, a coalition made up of representatives from each regional government, were initially hesitant to play an active role.  Still, the project produced some important lessons for Hampton Roads and for collaborative efforts on sea-level rise across the country. In perhaps the most notable outcome, DOD repurposed its Joint Land Use Study, which is usually used to examine encroachment of local communities on military installations, to assess sea-level rise collaboratively.  Three such studies are ongoing, with an assessment that involves land owned by the Navy, Norfolk and Virginia Beach slated to finish up in fall 2018.  The pilot also made clear that Hampton Roads would need a master plan, as well as regionwide standards for coastal zoning and building criteria.  "What the cities will find is that they're all vying for the same high ground, or that there isn't enough high ground in their city to support the population numbers that they have right now by the end of the century," said Phillips, who chaired one of the pilot project's working groups and now serves on the advisory board at the Center for Climate and Security.
Cities are gradually starting to remake standards with an eye toward sea-level rise.  Norfolk is rewriting its zoning codes with resilience in mind, and Virginia Beach has raised the minimum sea-level standards for new structures.  That's progress, said Stiles, but even after the pilot project, there's little in the way of regional consistency. Norfolk, for instance, requires the lowest floor of buildings to be at least 3 feet above predicted flood levels, while Virginia Beach sets that standard at 2 feet above 100-year flood levels, according to the cities' websites.  Ultimately, what Virginia Beach can do to mitigate sea-level rise largely depends on what's done in Norfolk and other cities, which share jurisdiction over coastal drainage areas and the major roads into the popular tourist destination.  "Each of these localities is sort of doing it out on their own, but there's not guidance from the state, so there's no consistency," Stiles said.  The cities are considering larger-scale preparations, as well. Virginia Beach has a plan to upgrade its stormwater management system at a price tag of nearly $500 million. And Norfolk last year received a $120 million grant to support adaptation projects from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's National Disaster Resilience Competition.
Norfolk is also the subject of an ongoing storm risk management study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which was authorized by Congress after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The study, set to finish up in 2019, is assessing the city's problems, according to the Army Corps, as well as possible solutions, like storm surge barriers, more open space for drainage and building retrofits to elevate coastal structures above predicted flood lines.  The recommendations that come out of the study are likely years from breaking ground. Congress will need to fund and approve any projects, and they'll still have to go through the state permitting process.  Regional leaders are also pinning hopes on the outcome of the military's joint land-use studies and the increasing involvement of the Planning District Commission in preparing for sea-level rise.  "The hope is that the federal government is going to be able to bring together the boundaries in the region to help us deal with some of our problems," said Stiles.  Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, alongside Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), floated a bill earlier this year that would provide $5 billion to HUD over five years to help coastal communities prepare for sea-level rise, mirroring the disaster resilience competition approved by Congress after Sandy. The lawmakers targeted the measure toward Hampton Roads, which Kaine said in May would require federal money to adequately prepare for the future.  The bill has not yet picked up traction in Congress, and barring a hurricane that could send gobs of federal grant money to the region, it's unclear where more money could come from, ODU's Atkinson said.  "I think history shows that most things in the U.S. don't happen until there's a crisis," he added.
'Nip and tuck'
Adaptation doesn't happen all at once, though, and there are glimmers of optimism.  While Stiles encountered resistance on climate science from local politicians when he started working on sea-level rise a decade ago, he said, there isn't much pushback now.  Will Sessoms, the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach, has been a vocal leader in the region's efforts to combat sea-level rise. And freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor, who represents Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk, is a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, the bipartisan climate working group that adds Democrats and Republicans in pairs.  There are still political roadblocks at the state level, however, and lawmakers in the Legislature have been largely unwilling to direct money toward more resilient infrastructure. As recently as 2012, state Delegate Chris Stolle, a Republican from Virginia Beach, called sea-level rise a "left-wing term," saying he would rather refer to the phenomenon as "recurrent flooding."  This year, though, Virginia has been inching closer to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program linking nine Northeastern states that could help it fund adaptation efforts (Climatewire, Sept. 26).  And at least in Hampton Roads, the rhetoric surrounding climate change has softened, even if the root causes of sea-level rise are sometimes omitted from discussions about how to adapt, said Atkinson.  "The optimistic part is that all the leadership recognizes it and most of the citizens are aware of this, too," Atkinson said. "It's just going to be nip and tuck whether we can stay ahead of it."

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Flood insurance reforms tucked into Trump's disaster request
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, October 5, 2017
Controversial flood insurance reforms sidelined by House Republicans this summer have been resurrected in the Trump administration's multibillion-dollar emergency funding request.  The Office of Management and Budget requested $12.8 billion to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and $576.5 million to help recovery from wildfires out West. The proposal includes forgiving $16 billion of the National Flood Insurance Program's $30.4 billion debt.  The request was immediately celebrated by House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) yesterday evening.  "It is abundantly clear that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of more help — in dollars, in resources, in manpower, and in federal support," he said in a statement. "My Committee has already begun to move on this emergency funding request, and will put legislation forward as soon as possible."  
But OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in a letter to congressional leadership that the funding and debt relief must be accompanied by reforms to the NFIP aimed at making the program financially sound.  "Put plainly, the NFIP is not designed to handle catastrophic losses like those caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria," he wrote. "The NFIP is simply not fiscally sustainable in its present form."  The administration is asking Congress to prevent the federal program from insuring any homes constructed in the 100-year floodplain after January 2021. Those homes could still receive flood insurance on the private market.  That proposal echoes language advanced by the House Financial Services Committee this spring.  But the committee's chairman, Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) agreed to eliminate that provision from their reform bill after reaching a deal with real estate and home developer groups this summer (E&E Daily, Sept. 6).
The proposal also asks Congress to stop issuing new NFIP policies for any commercial properties, regardless of location or age, after January 2021. In his letter, Mulvaney said that both commercial properties and new residential construction could still receive flood insurance on the private market and noted that OMB is also proposing a number of tweaks to federal law to eliminate confusion about whether private companies can offer flood insurance.  The administration's proposal is also more extreme when it comes to handling "severe repetitive loss" properties, which have been paid claims exceeding the fair market price. It would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the NFIP, to kick those properties out of the program if they suffer another loss.  While the Financial Services Committee discussed doing that during hearings and markups on flood insurance reform bills, legislators ultimately opted to steadily increase insurance rates on those properties to make sure they were not subsidized.  All told, the Trump administration is proposing 15 changes to the federal flood insurance program.
Another major change would be establishing an affordability program for low-income policyholders, who make up 21 percent of NFIP customers living in the 100-year floodplain and 21 percent of other policyholders. Low-income policyholders would continue to benefit from subsidized rates already ingrained in the program based on their property's age or location, while premiums would steadily rise throughout the rest of the NFIP.  Other proposals include setting different rates for coastal and inland flood zones, making FEMA flood data available to private insurers and requiring states to write laws mandating that a property's flood risk is disclosed when it is sold or leased.
Partisan schisms
The administration's insistence that hurricane aid and NFIP debt relief be accompanied by reforms has already rankled Democrats.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the funding request a "good start" but said the administration was putting "much-needed aid at risk by insisting on the proposed ideological changes to the flood insurance program."  "Those changes should be debated separately from this aid package," he said in a statement last night.  Ironically, Democrats have been the ones pushing for Congress to forgive the NFIP's debt, arguing that doing so, along with increased mitigation spending, is key to getting the program on solid financial footing. But they have also been fiercely opposed to proposals to raise insurance rates, limit subsidies or kick homeowners out of the federal program.  Republicans, on the other hand, have resisted calls to forgive the debt, although in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hensarling said he would grudgingly agree to raise the NFIP's borrowing authority in order to ensure that policyholders could get their claims paid following the storm.
Wildfire costs
The administration's request includes $576.5 million to cover the Forest Service's climbing wildfire costs.  Officials say this has been a record-breaking year, with more than 8 million acres burned. More than 2 million acres of that is on Forest Service land, and the Forest Service used up its annual appropriation for wildfires in September.  In his letter to congressional leadership, Mulvaney wrote that a long-term budget solution to wildfires will require more active forest management and shouldn't interfere with the need to pay for disaster relief related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.  Several weeks ago, the Forest Service began budget transfers from non-fire-related accounts, and Mulvaney said transfers have also been taken from the Interior Department.  "Additional funding alone will not reverse the worsening trend of catastrophic wildfires that threaten our forests, critical habitats and communities that border public lands," Mulvaney wrote.  Mulvaney's comments suggest the administration agrees with Western lawmakers who say that any fire-borrowing fix should also include forest management provisions.  Several senators, including Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), have been discussing what type of forest management changes could be passed along with wildfire disaster funds but so far haven't reached a consensus (see related story).

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Faulty FEMA maps fail to convey risk — watchdog
Benjamin Hulac, E&E News, October 2, 2017
The bulk of the maps used to manage a national flood insurance program are outdated or inaccurate, according to a new watchdog report.  As of December, 42 percent of the territory in flood maps used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the National Flood Insurance Program was "updated and valid," said a report released Friday by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. That department oversees FEMA.
The watchdog said weak oversight from FEMA of private engineering company contractors, state and local governments, and regional agencies was to blame for the poor mapping quality.  In particular, the report said due to its inaccurate maps in the NFIP — an insurance program backed by the government and billions of dollars in debt — FEMA fails to "provide members of the public with a reliable rendering of their true flood vulnerability."  Experts in climate change and disaster planning have long said the flood maps American cities use to plan often underestimate flooding risk, often by girding against storms that have happened rather than those to come. And growth in coastal U.S. cities in recent years has compounded the danger, putting more people in flood zones.  "The recent flooding in Texas after Hurricane Harvey serves as a devastating example of the importance of accurate and reliable flood maps," John Roth, the inspector general, said in a statement.  
Faulty flood mapping is an open secret. At a Senate briefing in May, flood experts from Rhode Island and Delaware said the maps relied upon to keep people safe are often decades old (Climatewire, May 12).  Citing a FEMA study, Grover Fugate, director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, a state agency, told senators FEMA used methodology from the 1970s.  The authors of the new inspector general report recommended FEMA track its costs to complete flood maps and establish better oversight strategies for outside contractors.  "We are optimistic that our recommended changes will improve FEMA's management of the flood mapping program and introduce internal controls to ensure the quality of the maps produced by FEMA's partners," Roth said.

Markup set for bills dubbed 'foundation for ESA reform'
Michael Doyle, E&E News, October 2, 2017
Long-running efforts by conservatives to recast the Endangered Species Act take the Capitol Hill stage again tomorrow and Wednesday, when the House Natural Resources Committee marks up a handful of bills.  By themselves, each of the five ESA-related bills chews on only relatively small parts of the 1973 law. One, for instance, would tighten lawyers' fees. Another would add economic cost to the consideration of whether to protect a species. A third addresses only the gray wolf.  Taken together, though, the measures reflect conservatives' broader dissatisfaction with a law some would prefer to rewrite from scratch.  "All too often, the act has been misused to control land, block a host of economic activities important for jobs, our energy and resources infrastructure, and forest management," Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) declared at a July 19 hearing (Greenwire, July 19).  Bishop added his hope that "we can lay the foundation for ESA reform that creates better outcomes for both species and communities."

Many, though not all, Democrats remain skeptical of the campaign they've seen before.  The Endangered Species Act works, despite years of Republican efforts to pass bills weakening the act," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the committee's senior Democrat.  There are currently about 2,300 plant and animal species listed as either threatened or endangered under the ESA.

H.R. 717, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), would for the first time require review of the economic cost of adding a species as endangered or threatened. Though only four pages long, this legislation could significantly change the ESA landscape.  The Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries could decline to list species due to "the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects that would result from listing," under Olson's bill. Currently, the federal agencies take cost into account when designating critical habitat for a listed species.

The bill authored by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), H.R. 3131, would adjust the hourly rates awarded to lawyers in ESA-related litigation.  Currently, a court can award costs, including attorneys' and expert witness fees, to private parties in ESA lawsuits. The ESA places no cap on hourly attorneys' fees. Huizenga's bill would limit the fees to $125 an hour, which is the same cap set in most other circumstances by another federal law, the Equal Access to Justice Act.  "For too long, litigating attorneys representing nongovernmental entities have taken advantage of the Endangered Species Act, raking in millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded money," Huizenga said.

The other ESA-related bills:

H.R. 1274, from Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), to require making available to states affected by ESA determinations all data used in the federal decision making, and to ensure use of state, local and tribal data.

H.R. 2603, from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), to provide that nonnative species shall not be treated as endangered or threatened under the ESA.

H.R. 424, from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to require the Interior Department to reissue final rules to delist the gray wolf as a protected species in the western Great Lakes and Wyoming.

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House passes reform bill that senators plan to kill
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, September 28, 2017
Minutes after the House passed flood insurance reform language this morning, senators were already signaling that the provision would not make it past them.  H.R. 3823, meant to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, would also make it easier for homeowners living in high-risk areas to obtain private flood insurance. It passed in a partisan vote of 264-155.  On the floor, Republicans argued that giving homeowners a choice of insurance would be better for consumers, and that moving more high-risk properties off of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would help alleviate its growing $24.6 billion debt.  "The private market will come to the rescue of consumers out there," said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who authored the language. "We need a paradigm shift in this country so that the business of this country is left to businesses."  But Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters they did not think the bill, which also included tax relief for hurricane victims and reauthorizing language, would pass unchanged.  During remarks on the floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) only pressed FAA and hurricane provisions. "We need to pass that legislation here in the Senate without delay," he said.  Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said the flood insurance language made it impossible for him to support the broader bill.  "No, no, no," said Brown. "It undercuts federal flood insurance. It cherry-picks. You end up with government taxpayers bearing a lot more costs."  Proponents of H.R. 3823, including the SmarterSafer coalition, say it seeks to fix a blunder made during the 2012 NFIP reauthorization.  Then, Congress reformed the program to allow homeowners in 100-year flood plains to carry private policies but said they had to be "substantially similar" to ones offered by the federal government.  Banking regulators have been skittish about saying what makes a policy "substantially similar," and the private market has remained small as a result.  So the bill would clarify that private insurance fulfills federal requirements and would empower state insurance commissioners to decide when private policies are "substantially similar."  Opponents, including the Association of State Floodplain Managers, say the 2012 language was not a mistake and ensures that private insurers treat taxpayers fairly.  Senate Democrats like Brown, meanwhile, have questioned whether federal mitigation grant funding would falter if privatization expands, because currently, federal policyholders pay extra fees to fund mapping and mitigation grants.

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Harvey deal includes flood insurance extension
Geof Koss and Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, September 7, 2017
The federal flood insurance program would be extended until December under the Senate's Hurricane Harvey aid package, which would also nearly double relief funding from what the House passed yesterday.  The new legislation, unveiled in the Senate last night as H.R. 601, includes an increase in the debt ceiling and a spending continuing resolution until Dec. 8 to keep the government open.  The original deal — brokered by President Trump and congressional leaders yesterday — was expected to last through Dec. 15, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats agreed to a GOP request to change the effective date to one week earlier.  Also, lawmakers have attached provisions beyond spending and the debt ceiling. The measure, likely to pass the Senate later today, would give Congress two additional months to work on a long-term reform bill for the National Flood Insurance Program, which currently expires Sept. 30, according to a summary.  Congress was already racing to meet its end-of-September deadline to reauthorize and reform the program before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas.  But House lawmakers were unable to overcome deep disagreements on how to alleviate the program's $25 billion debt, and the Senate Banking Committee never proposed its own piece of legislation.  Already, lawmakers have used Harvey to justify partisan positions on flood insurance reform. Republicans have called for limiting subsidized rates, while Democrats have argued that affordability and mitigation are key to helping homeowners (E&E Daily, Sept. 6).  Those views could become further entrenched in the coming months. The NFIP had only $5 billion left in borrowing authority before Harvey, and that cap will almost certainly need to be raised once people file claims from Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  While raising the borrowing cap would be a separate negotiation from the NFIP reform talks, it would highlight problems in the program.

Other provisions
The Senate Harvey bill also adds $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to direct to areas "most affected" by this year's disasters.  The CDBG program, used to help rebuild parts of the East Coast devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, was among the programs slated to be eliminated under the Trump administration's fiscal 2018 budget request.  Lawmakers plan to approve the $7.4 billion on top of the $7.85 billion the House approved yesterday by wide bipartisan margins.  How many lawmakers will respond to the deal remains to be see. The conservative group Heritage Action for America said it would score members negatively for supporting the Trump-brokered pact, which the group called the "Pelosi-Schumer-Trump Debt Ceiling Deal."  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who pointedly noted yesterday that it was the president's decision to agree with Democrats on a way forward — urged senators today to quickly approve the package, citing Irma's approach to the U.S. mainland (E&E Daily, Sept. 7).  "The recovery effort for a record-setting storm like Harvey has strained resources to the limit already," he said on the floor today. "The advance of another historic storm now makes the need for action even more urgent."  In addition to Harvey aid, the Senate package includes:
$3 million for U.S. EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which the summary states is intended to address administrative expenses.
Allowing the Energy Department "funding flexibility to avoid disruption" of cleanups at former uranium enrichment sites, including Ohio's Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
An extension through Sept. 30, 2019, of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act user fee.
An extension of EPA's authority to collect pesticide fees through the duration of the continuing resolution.

Hurricanes top concern as Congress mulls flood program reforms
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, September 6, 2017
Insurance claims for damage caused by hurricanes have a greater impact on the National Flood Insurance Program — and its debt — than other types of flooding, the Congressional Budget Office said in a new report.  The study, released as the nation is both reeling from Hurricane Harvey and preparing for Hurricane Irma, adds pressure to lawmakers working on reauthorizing and reforming the NFIP, which is currently $25 billion in debt.  CBO provided new details on policyholders living in coastal areas where storm surge adds at least 3 feet to water levels reached in a 100-year flood.
Homes in those areas, labeled "Zone V" on insurance rate maps, amount to just 3 percent of NFIP policies. But 37 percent of claims over the past 35 years were for Zone V homes, said CBO.  What's more, CBO found that 85 percent of the policyholders for properties in Zone V do not pay rates that reflect their flood risk and "do not pay premiums that cover their expected costs."  NFIP allows homeowners to pay subsidized rates for properties that predate the NFIP but adhere to housing codes from their time of construction.  The NFIP also offers subsidized rates for homeowners whose property was not in a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone when built but ended up there when the agency updated its maps. People advocating for flood insurance reform have long argued that "grandfathering" only contributes to NFIP's debt by encouraging homeowners to build in dangerous areas.  The CBO report confirms that, finding that NFIP's expected $1.4 billion annual budget shortfall — calculated before Harvey hit Texas last month — is "attributable largely to premiums falling short of expected costs in coastal counties."  The document is also the first federal analysis to show how widespread grandfathering is within a specific flood zone and its financial impact on the program.
Deal with builders, Realtors
Its release follows a deal House lawmakers struck with the real estate and building industries to strike language in NFIP reform legislation, H.R. 2874, that would limit subsidies.  Both the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders issued press releases this summer celebrating the agreement struck with House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance Chairman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).
According to the lobby groups, committee leaders agreed to eliminate a provision in the bill to end NFIP coverage of new homes constructed in the 100-year floodplain and ensure "grandfathering" will remain available for policyholders even if they are mapped into higher-risk flood zones.  The groups also say they convinced Duffy and Hensarling to limit a proposed annual rate hike floor to 6.5 percent, instead of the proposed 8 percent.  The agreement does not impact a provision that would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to gradually raise insurance rates for what's known as repetitive loss (RL) properties, which have suffered two or more claims in the past 10 years.  NAR President William Brown said Hensarling and Duffy "deserve high praise for working with Realtors to improve this legislation."
Lawmakers have yet to formally introduced the deal as legislation, but the Financial Services Committee has posted a summary of a manager's amendment online that reflects the changes.  
'Wakeup call'
Despite speculation last week that Harvey's price tag could convince House Republicans to back down from their deal, Hensarling appears to be standing his ground.  In a U.S. News and World Report op-ed over the weekend, Hensarling described Harvey as a "wakeup call" and noted that "the program creates perverse incentives to build and re-build homes and businesses in flood-prone areas" due to subsidies.  Hensarling, however, largely blamed RL properties and limits on private insurers for NFIP's debt.  "Having just one insurance provider for all flood risk in the entire country makes no sense. Competition is good for consumers," he wrote. "It provides more choices at better prices."  R.J. Lehmann, senior fellow at the R Street Institute and a member of the SmarterSafer coalition advocating for deep NFIP changes, says it is too early to tell whether Congress will pass a reform bill with teeth.  Already racing against the clock before the recent storms, Congress will likely pass a short-term three- or six-month reauthorization in the coming weeks.  That means the full financial impact of Harvey and Irma will be well-known by the time members consider any broader reform packages.
"If you add up those two storms and the program ends up $50 billion in debt, which is not unthinkable, then you have a really good cause to make that NFIP is not sustainable," he said.  Noting that the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has yet to propose its own reform or reauthorization legislation, Lehmann added, "I am not willing to put up the white flag on that yet."  He said, "How the conversation in Congress develops will, in large measure, be determined by what things look like once we start tallying up all the damage."  An industry lobbyist who advocated for changes to the House bill said he "can't see a huge policy shift" happening, but added that anything can happen "when we are one week out from Harvey with another hurricane churning in the Caribbean."

Harvey amplifies partisan debate over flood, zoning rules
Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter, September 6, 2017
Did regulations help Houston weather the impact of Hurricane Harvey, or did they hinder the city's response and recovery efforts?  Like most complex policy questions, the answer depends on whom you ask.  For U.S. EPA and Texas officials this week, the focus is on addressing air and water pollution and planning for the long road to recovery, as authorities report at least 63 casualties and thousands of homes destroyed (Greenwire, Sept. 5).
But for organizations across the political spectrum in Washington, D.C., the focus is now on examining whether certain regulations mitigated or augmented Harvey's scope of destruction.  Some left-leaning organizations are gearing up to fight the rollback of the federal flood risk management standard, which they say will complicate Houston's recovery from the storm. President Trump issued an executive order last month that rescinded the Obama-era rule, which requires public infrastructure projects built in flood-prone areas to accommodate sea-level rise in order to receive federal funding (Climatewire, Aug. 16).
Other left-leaning groups are pinning the blame on Houston's lack of a zoning law, which they say left the city more vulnerable to damage from floodwaters. Houston is the largest city in the country without formal zoning control, although it does have various permitting rules.  And some conservative groups are mobilizing to defend Houston's lax housing regulations, saying they won't hinder the city's efforts to get back on its feet.  "Ultimately, what everyone's talking about is the concept known as regulatory design," said James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform. "One of the good ways of doing regulatory design is discussing and envisioning worst-case scenarios like Harvey."
The revoked flood standard
In the eyes of many left-leaning environmental and consumer advocate groups, Trump's executive order on Aug. 15 repealing the federal flood risk management standard couldn't have come at a worse time (see related story).  Ten days later, Harvey struck.  "The repeal of the executive order came at a pretty bad time," said Rob Moore, senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program.  "Those flood protection standards would have applied to the billions of dollars of federal assistance that agencies like [the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development] are going to spend to rebuild public buildings, infrastructure and facilities," Moore said. The White House is expected to ask Congress for nearly $6 billion in what will likely be the first of several aid packages for Harvey victims (Greenwire, Sept. 1).
David Flores, a policy analyst at CPR, said he thinks the repeal of the flood standard presents two problems when it comes to future floods.  "The first problem is that it continues incentivizing or allowing the development of federally funded facilities in flood-prone areas that, when exposed to flooding events, can themselves contribute to additional hazard," Flores said.  "The other issue that the repeal of the flood standard has [is] the potential to place more vulnerable communities in public housing developments in flood-prone areas, resulting in their potential exposure to not only flooding, but also other hazards ... like industrial pollution."  Eli Lehrer, president of the right-leaning, free-market R Street Institute, espoused a more nuanced view of the revoked standard.  "On one hand, the recovery from Harvey will probably be slightly less expensive and slightly faster under the president's executive order," Lehrer said. "On the other hand, the results of other disasters are greatly increased by the repeal of the flood risk management standard. So you will have a very small benefit in the short term, but nothing in the long term."
Zoning laws
While the revoked flood standard has fostered debate at the national level, much scrutiny has also been placed on Houston's lax housing regulations.  Houston calls itself the "city with no limits," and it remains the only sizable city in the country without a formal zoning law, a reflection of its laissez-faire attitude toward urban planning.  In the days after Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane, several prominent left-leaning news outlets drew a connection between Houston's "Wild West" approach to urban planning and its damage from flooding.  A Washington Post story said Houston's "hands-off approach to urban planning ... may have contributed to catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey and left thousands of residents in harm's way."  Meanwhile, an NPR piece listed Houston's "rapid growth without zoning regulations" as one of three reasons the city was a "sitting duck" for Harvey flooding.  But Paul Larkin, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank, said he thinks the focus on zoning is misplaced.
"Zoning is an issue you could worry about down the road," Larkin said. "Right now, it's about keeping people from dying and getting sick."  Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute, agreed with this sentiment, adding that he thinks some "uninformed articles" have perpetuated misperceptions about Houston's housing laws.  "There's a persistent myth that Houston lacks urban development regulation just because it lacks a formal zoning code," Scribner said. "It's true that they lack a formal zoning code ... but they do have minimum lot-size requirements for single-family homes and a minimum parking requirement.  "Harvey is obviously a catastrophe that hasn't been seen before, but I think the bigger thing is that Houston is very susceptible to this kind of thing," he added. "It's low-lying, very flat, and the soil is very rich in clay. So it has natural factors working against it, as well."

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The myth of the 100-year flood
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, August 30, 2017
With southeast Texas facing years of recovery after Tropical Storm Harvey's catastrophic floods, many ask whether the devastation could have been prevented or mitigated.  Experts say yes. They blame how the government assesses and communicates flood risk.  
Federal policies are built around the so-called 100-year floodplain, which is commonly and incorrectly understood as an area that would flood once every century. But it really means there's a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year or that there's a 26 percent chance of being flooded at least once during a 30-year mortgage period, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Moreover, flood maps don't take into account pavement and development that takes place in wetlands or floodplains. Putting impervious pavement on top of natural sponges will only make flooding worse.  President Trump flubbed the numbers with a tweet describing Harvey as a "once in 500 year flood." But homes in a 500-year floodplain really have a 6 percent chance of flooding over a 30-year mortgage.  For what it's worth, Harvey is Houston's third "500-year flood" since 2015.  "You have a 1 in 6 chance of rolling a dice and landing on four, but you can still land on four twice in a row," said Stephen Strader, a professor of geography and the environment at Villanova University. "The same goes for a 100-year flood or a 500-year flood."
To stem the confusion, FEMA has started referring to floodplains by their annual probability of flooding. So, the 100-year floodplain becomes the 1 percent floodplain and the 500-year floodplain becomes the 0.2 percent floodplain.  But experts say changing the lingo without changing policies isn't enough.  "The biggest problem with flood maps in the U.S. is that they are drawn as 'lines in the sand' — at risk of flooding on one side, and A-OK on the other side," said Nicholas Pinter, director of the University of California, Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences. "This a false and dangerous message to send," he said.
Homes in the 100-year floodplain are required to get federal flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Those located outside the 100-year area — no matter how close they are to it — aren't required to get flood coverage, although it is offered for homes located in the 500-year floodplain.  In Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, that means just 12 percent of the 1.6 million properties are required to have flood insurance.  Property owners in the 100-year floodplain are also eligible for funding to help them mitigate flood risk by putting their homes on pilings or fill. Local governments generally concentrate their building and planning standards around the 100-year floodplain, creating extra requirements for elevating homes in those areas.
While mandatory insurance purchasing requirements haven't stopped development within the 100-year floodplain, studies have shown that they have significantly increased development in areas immediately outside those areas, where buildings can still have shoreline views without adhering to strict building codes.  But those edge locations can be just as vulnerable as properties built within the 100-year floodplain.  A study of flood insurance claims in Houston between 1999 and 2009 found 55 percent were from beyond the 100-year floodplain boundary, with an average distance of just under 1,400 feet.  Damage beyond the 100-year floodplain can still be significant. Another study of Houston in the 1999-2009 time frame found every meter away from the floodplain translated into just a $18 decrease in flood damage. During Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, that meant living 0.2 mile outside the 100-year floodplain only reduced the average repair bill by $7,365 but still caused $24,331 worth of damage, the study found.
Sandra Knight, former deputy associate administrator for mitigation at FEMA, points out that there really isn't a good risk-based reason to put so much policy weight on the 100-year floodplain.  The 100-year flood standard was set in 1973 as a compromise between the Army Corps of Engineers, which was building levees and dams to the 200-year flood level, and communities that generally relied on far lower five- to 20-year flood standards.  "We have basically taken a condition for insurance, which is based on probability, and set it up as a de facto standard for floodplain management, all because of the flood insurance program," said Knight, who is now a senior research engineer at the University of Maryland. "But it doesn't reflect the risk, it reflects the probability."
Inaccurate maps
Another issue: FEMA flood maps intended to show where 100- and 500-year floodplains are located rely on data from historic floods to predict what area would be affected by a new 100-year event.  Critics of the National Flood Insurance Program have long complained that the maps are not updated often enough. And when the maps are revised, they say, statistical models used to create the maps don't consider changes in land use, which can significantly affect flood risks as pavement replaces grass and trees.  "Imagine pouring water on a sponge versus pouring it on a table top," Strader said.
Similarly, flood maps also don't consider the efficiency of a community's stormwater drainage system, or other factors that could worsen inland flooding.  That's particularly problematic in storms like Harvey whose main hazard is rain, not wind. Such storms are more likely to cause damage outside the 100-year floodplain when paved areas drain poorly.
Such storms are only likely to become more common because of climate change, scientists say, as warmer oceans increase precipitation in storm systems.  Because FEMA uses historic data to calculate flood maps, they don't take into account the probability that future storms could bring more rain.
"We have a changing climate, and we're using a statistical model for our maps that doesn't provide any more statistical weight to near-term changes in the environment," Knight said.  Pinter is quick to caution that the U.S. is much better prepared thanks to the 100-year flood standard and the maps that come with it than it would be without any standard at all.  But, he said, Harvey shows how policy flaws can exacerbate problems caused by severe storms.  "Every flood disaster is like a prizefight — it takes two participants in the ring," he said. "A big flood starts with a momentous meteorological event, but only happens if that event collides into infrastructure built without enough protection or caution."  Strader agreed. While he acknowledged "no city could withstand 30-plus inches of rain in 72 hours ... urban sprawl and increased development has only exacerbated the situation."  Increased investment in FEMA's flood mapping program and changes to statistical models used in mapping would be a good first step to improving the nation's flood preparedness, experts agree. "Unfortunately, these processes ... take money and federal support," Strader said.
Both Pinter and Strader expressed concern that the Trump administration would consider planning for climate change in flood mitigation given that Trump revoked an Obama-era executive order this month that would have required federal-funded infrastructure being built in floodplains to account for higher sea-level rise and more intense storms (Climatewire, Aug. 16).  Others have suggested setting a flood standard for larger storms — a 1,000-year flood, for example, or basing flood policy on a gradient rather than a specific flood probability. Such changes would require major policy overhauls by Congress and the administration. Neither has shown any appetite for changing flood standards.  Bottom line, Knight said, is that improved communication with consumers is critical.  "People always think that it will never happen to them, but if you really explain that your home is in an area where it has a 1 in 4 chance of flooding over a mortgage, hopefully that would hit home," Knight said.  "That's pretty high odds considering that a mortgage is one of the biggest investments families make," she said.

Harvey Destruction And The Nation’s Struggling Flood Insurance Program

Harvey plays into partisan divide on national program
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, August 29, 2017
Devastation caused by Tropical Storm Harvey will only exacerbate congressional debate over flood insurance reform, likely forcing lawmakers to pass a short-term extension before the federal program expires at the end of September.  The National Flood Insurance Program is currently $24.6 billion in debt, and lawmakers are divided about how to address the problem. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has argued for either limiting subsidized premium rates or allowing more private insurers to enter the market. Democrats like ranking member Maxine Waters of California, however, have suggested forgiving the debt.
Bills passed by the House committee in June largely represent that Republican point of view. They would accelerate the development of a private flood insurance market and end grandfathering for new construction within four years.  In statements about Harvey, both Hensarling and Waters argued that the storm proves they are right about the best way to handle the federal program.  "With our long-term reauthorization bill, people will benefit from competition and more flood insurance options, or their rates will be more affordable than they are today," Hensarling said.
Waters has been gun-shy about raising insurance rates and limiting subsidies since co-authoring a successful bill in 2012 that was met with such consumer backlash that Congress passed legislation delaying those increases two years later.  Harvey, she says, is further proof that raising rates is the wrong move.  "This disaster yet again makes clear that Americans need access to affordable flood insurance, and I am committed to ensuring that the program remains affordable and accessible to all," she said.  R.J. Lehmann, senior fellow at the R Street Institute and a member of the SmarterSafer coalition, said he's not surprised that Harvey's wrath is further entrenching the political divisions over flood insurance.
"There's one scenario where Congress sees that we have an NFIP that might soon be $30 billion in debt and says, 'OK, we need some serious reforms,'" he said. "But there's also the scenario where lawmakers don't want to diminish the real pain coming out of this storm and thus don't want to make any changes that might cost anyone more money."  Duking it out will take time NFIP doesn't have. The program is set to expire in September, and if there's one thing both sides agree on, it's that now is not the time for politics to get in the way of insurance coverage.  "Nobody wants to see the program lapse," said Laura Lightbody, project director for flood-prepared communities at the Pew Charitable Trusts. "In this context, that means reauthorization and reform are very different things."  A short-term reauthorization bill could either be folded into a continuing resolution to authorize government spending overall, or in a stand-alone bill if President Trump follows through on his threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn't fund his border wall.
Congress was already racing against the clock to pass reform and reauthorization bills before the end of next month. While the House Financial Services Committee finished marking up its legislation in June, it had not garnered enough support to move to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has not yet considered any bills. A six-month short-term reauthorization could give both chambers time to reach consensus.  It's too early to say exactly how much Harvey will cost the NFIP in insurance payouts, with only a small fraction of those impacted by the storm having federal flood insurance policies — roughly 370,000 people in Harris County, Texas (see related story).  Still, experts say it's likely the record-breaking Harvey could be at least as expensive as Superstorm Sandy, which contributed $7 billion to NFIP's debt.  That could give Congress still more work to do, as NFIP is just $5 billion away from hitting its borrowing authority cap.  Already, Hensarling says he is preparing to raise that cap if necessary, though he isn't happy about it.
"Today we are faced with the likelihood that there is not enough money in the program to pay these claims, so the NFIP will have to rely on Congress for another taxpayer-funded bailout," he said, adding that privatizing some of the market would help relieve pressure on the government. "That's what happens when there is basically just one insurance provider for all of the flood risk in the whole country, which is exactly the system the government has built for itself with its NFIP."

Reauthorization looms large for federal flood program
Published: Monday, E&E, August 28, 2017
Tropical Storm Harvey poses major challenges for the National Flood Insurance Program, which faces increasing debt and an upcoming reauthorization battle in Congress.  The federal program, created in the 1960s to protect homeowners against catastrophic risk not covered by private insurers, will likely be inundated with billions of dollars in new claims after Harvey dissipates from the Texas coast.  But the program can only borrow $5.8 billion more from the Treasury to compensate new claims, and it's set to expire at the end of September.  "From a public policy perspective, Hurricane Harvey reinforces the narrative of why the National Flood Insurance Program is so important and needs to be addressed," said Christopher Gillott, legislative director for Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).  Congress is already discussing several options to continue the program when members return to Washington next week, but debates over rates for homeowners and paying for the program loom large over its reauthorization (Witkowski/Scism, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 26).  The picture is more optimistic for private insurers, however, as experts say the industry is ready to meet Harvey's damage with record levels of capital.  While residential flooding is covered largely by the National Flood Insurance Program, private insurers often market flood insurance to businesses.  Years of moderate disaster damage since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have bolstered the industry, which expects to remain stable despite the storm, a Category 4 hurricane at its peak.  "You would need to see a significant level of insured losses to have an impact on the excess capital of the industry [and] have a material impact on the pricing environment," said Elyse Greenspan, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities (Friedman/Scism, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 27). — NS

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Number crunchers warn of rising damage from higher seas
Daniel Cusick, E&E News, August 25, 2017
One of the nation's leading organizations on disaster insurance and hazard mitigation is asking Congress to account for the risk of sea-level rise to coastal properties as part of its upcoming reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  In a letter to Senate leaders this week, the American Academy of Actuaries, which represents more than 19,000 insurance professionals, noted that rising sea levels are "an observed fact, with non-storm coastal flooding now occurring regularly" across parts of the country.  "This presents challenges both in the number of properties that are at risk and in the expected increase in the severity of damage from future storms," the head of AAA's Casualty Practice Council wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.  Yet none of the draft legislation offered by the Trump administration or Congress takes up sea-level rise as a material issue in reauthorizing the NFIP, which remains nearly $25 billion in debt due to huge payouts following storms like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Experts have noted that the flood insurance program is unlikely to regain its financial footing unless Congress finds a way to clear the massive debt while also accounting for the growing climate risks associated with coastal zone development, including stronger storm surges and rising sea levels.  "We believe the policymakers should look at these issues over a multiple-decade time horizon, just like they do with Social Security and Medicaid," said Rade Musulin, AAA's vice president for casualty. "It's not just about the debt issue or rising premiums. It's about how NFIP informs and intersects with other policy priorities — whether it's land use, building codes or other things."
Congress will have the opportunity to address such concerns as part of a reauthorization bill expected by the end of September. The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, led by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo (R), is spearheading the reauthorization effort with a draft bill, S. 1571, issued last month.  A spokesman for Crapo did not respond to an email requesting comment. But the senator, along with committee ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), issued a joint statement last month saying their six-year reauthorization bill "includes many important reforms, including in the areas of risk mitigation, mapping and program improvements."  The House of Representatives, meanwhile, has offered a number of NFIP reform and reauthorization bills, including seven proposals from the Financial Services Committee (E&E Daily, July 20).
In addition to accounting for sea-level rise, AAA called on Congress to act on a number of other reform proposals. They include expanding the private sector's role in the flood insurance market, addressing price disparity between NFIP policies and private policies, and taking steps to buy out "repetitive loss properties" that pose a huge financial burden on the program.  But it remains unclear whether Congress will be able to deliver a substantial reform bill by Sept. 30, when the current NFIP is set to expire. Rather, Musulin said, lawmakers could opt for a temporary extension of the program until other legislative priorities are addressed.  The AAA letter also follows a Trump administration executive order reversing an Obama administration directive requiring that federally funded infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas be evaluated for risk of sea-level rise (Climatewire, Aug. 16).  President Trump characterized the directive as one of many federal requirements that slow infrastructure projects and stifle economic growth. But climate and coastal zone experts have warned that building within 2 to 3 feet of the 100-year flood zone poses significant financial and physical risk to properties and their owners.  Earlier this month, NOAA reported that sea levels and atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases hit record levels in 2016, while 2017 is on pace to become the second-warmest year on record (E&E News PM, Aug. 10).

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Risk drops with insurance — report
Adam Aton, E&E News, August 22, 2017
As Congress debates how to deal with mounting flood damage, new research from Europe suggests that expanding flood insurance coverage leaves communities better prepared for rising waters.  The survey of more than 1,800 Europeans also found that public protections like dams and levees could create a "false sense of security" where people don't prepare for floods even when they live in risky ares. The findings were published yesterday in the journal Risk Analysis.
Those findings validate the conventional wisdom among hazard mitigation experts, who have spent years pushing for a more robust National Flood Insurance Program in the United States even as President Trump loosens flood requirements for buildings. Lawmakers will have a chance to rewrite the flood insurance plan when it expires in September, but expectations for sweeping changes are low as Congress grapples with a packed legislative calendar.  Flooding has caused more damage than any other natural disaster over the past two decades, and climate change promises to make it worse. More than 2.5 million people suffered flood damages between 1994 and 2013, and the global economic losses topped $636 billion, the researchers wrote.  People in England, Austria and Romania were more likely to adapt their homes to flood risks if they got an insurance premium discount or warranties, or had gotten information about flood risks, the researchers wrote.  But they found that both insurance companies and governments could be doing more to drive down risk.  Getting people to accept the basic premise — that floods pose a risk to their homes — is a challenge of psychology, said Ed Thomas, president of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association, who wasn't affiliated with the study. Even people who live where the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires people to buy flood insurance don't want to do it, he said.
"You gotta understand the basic human impulse to ignore high-consequence, low-probability events," he said.  Flood preparation advocates should follow the example set by fire safety, Thomas said. Over the 20th century, a combination of public awareness campaigns, stricter building codes and community ratings of risk made urban fires become much rarer and less deadly.  "Instead of having folks, as they're really doing now, fight tooth and claw to keep the FEMA flood elevation [maps] down, push back against flood insurance, push back against government regulation — we have the chambers of commerce supporting sensible fire risk preparation," he said.  In the United States, direct government disaster payments are rare, said Ray Lehmann, a senior fellow at the free-market R Street Institute, who was also not affiliated with the study.  The government does incentivize dams and levees, though, often by relaxing the nearby flood insurance requirements, he said. "It's hard to get communities to invest in levees and dams if you don't give them a carrot," he said, "and the carrot is you don't have to buy flood insurance."  Hurricane Katrina demonstrated why that policy is shortsighted, he said.  After the levees broke, the flooding of New Orleans along with the rest of the Gulf Coast is the main reason the National Flood Insurance Program is more than $24 billion in debt.  Sea-level rise could cause the program's costs to balloon even further, according to a 2013 report commissioned by FEMA.  The average loss cost could increase by 15 percent each year through 2020, then between 20 and 60 percent through 2080, according to the report.  "Mother Nature doesn't read flood maps," Thomas said.

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Trump's plan hits 'wall of resistance' in Carolinas
Rob Hotakainen and Kellie Lunney, E&E News, August 17, 2017
When Peg Howell and her husband decided to semiretire eight years ago, they moved to Pawleys Island, S.C., a seaside resort she calls "a piece of heaven on earth."  The last thing she wants to put up with is exploration work and drilling rigs. "It could happen very quickly," argued Howell, who founded a group called Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic.
To make sure it doesn't, Howell and other opponents are mobilizing to block President Trump in his bid to allow oil and natural gas exploration and drilling off the Atlantic seashore.  And even in one of the country's reddest states, where Trump won easily in 2016, opponents are increasingly confident they can succeed.  "The odds are getting better every day — the momentum is on our side," said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of both the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce in Columbia and the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, a group backed by 41,000 businesses from Maine to Florida.  Today marks a key day for opponents, the deadline for the public to make comments about the forthcoming five-year plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Trump ignited the debate April 28, when he signed an executive order that reversed an Obama administration ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and directed the Interior Department to consider allowing more offshore oil and gas leasing in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico (Greenwire, April 28).  Knapp said the president's plan has been met with a "unified wall of resistance" from Democrats and Republicans alike.  "The entire coast is opposing it — all the residents, the business community, all the local governments. ... It has been amazing to see the bipartisan opposition that's rising up," he said.  To be sure, the plan has drawn some support. When Trump signed his order, South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan in a Facebook post called it "a common-sense step" and pledged to "stand firmly behind President Trump as he makes American great again."  "It provides clarity for an industry that has been attacked by radical leftists for years," Duncan said. "They have no idea how their policies threaten the security of the United States, and I am proud that we finally have someone in the White House with clear eyes and steely resolve."  But so far, 129 East Coast municipalities — including every coastal mayor in South Carolina — have gone on record opposing the president's plan.  And opponents say the state's top politicians have taken notice.
That includes Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, a drilling opponent who last year as lieutenant governor became the first statewide officeholder to endorse Trump. McMaster's predecessor, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, was an enthusiastic backer of drilling.  "We are very optimistic," Howell said. "It's not just people complaining: All these people vote, and these politicians understand that we're not going to be voting for people who support offshore drilling."  For opponents, there's more good news on Capitol Hill, where the state's two GOP senators, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, have done little to try to sell Trump's plan.    The situation is similar in North Carolina, where Trump's plan has sparked "something magical" inside the opposition, said Randy Sturgill, Oceana's senior campaign organizer for the Southeast and a native North Carolinian.  "It was like, the people got up off their couches," he said. "The people who were silent for four years all of a sudden saw an imminent danger and have jumped into this battle."
State officials take sides
One reason for what Sturgill calls his "warm feeling" is the backing of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who came out strongly against offshore drilling last month.  "It's clear that opening North Carolina's coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment and our coastal communities — and for little potential gain," Cooper said during an event in Atlantic Beach, N.C.  But North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R), the chairman of the North Carolina Energy Policy Council, submitted formal comments saying Trump's plan "could bring economic benefits and thousands of jobs to our state as well as our nation's economy."
Views on East Coast drilling, however, do not cleave to conventional party politics.  For instance, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the only Democrat who sits on the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group whose mission is to "influence a sensible path forward for the development of America's offshore energy resources." Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, is also part of the coalition, which includes four other Republican governors.  McAuliffe has been on the pro-drilling side in recent years, but he sent an Aug. 11 letter to BOEM asking that Virginia "not be included in the 2019-2024 National OCS program."  One potential sweetener for elected officials is the prospect of revenue-sharing for their states. Alaska and four Gulf of Mexico states have such arrangements with the federal government, which gives them a cut of the revenues generated by offshore oil and gas production.  McAuliffe in his letter to BOEM said that "a primary concern that must be satisfied in order for Virginia to be included in the leasing area is a revenue-sharing agreement between participating Atlantic coast states and the federal government. Today, we are no closer to resolving this issue than when I became governor."  It's unclear whether the Trump administration would favor that arrangement. The White House's 2018 budget proposal called for the repeal of state payments to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which allows those states to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts.
Drilling backers say that the Obama administration made 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off-limits to development and that more is needed to help a key job-producing industry.  Seeking to build support for the plan, the American Petroleum Institute last year surveyed 664 North Carolina registered voters and found that 67 percent backed "increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources located here in the U.S.," while 64 percent supported "offshore drilling." But respondents to the survey were not asked whether they backed the plans specifically off the coast of North Carolina or in the Atlantic.
A GOP congressional divide
Last month, North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis were among 36 Republicans who sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a letter voicing support for Trump's plan.  But neither of South Carolina's senators signed the letter.  "Look, they can see the handwriting on the wall with opposition from their constituents," Knapp said. "Why would they go out on a limb and do that? That doesn't mean they're opposing it — it means that they're shifted into a neutral position, but, hey look, that's an achievement. ... Turn the clock back 12 months and they would have signed it in a heartbeat."  In the last session of Congress, Scott promoted legislation to allow more drilling, calling it a good way to create more jobs and expand the economy.  But his spokeswoman said Scott is no longer trying to advance the idea.  "Sen. Scott is still a supporter of offshore drilling; however, he has delayed pushing his legislation in support of it because he believes it is necessary to garner support of more coastal residents," said Michele Perez-Exner, Scott's press secretary. "He grew up on the coast and has a firsthand appreciation for the need to preserve our beaches and environment to ensure we continue to safeguard our thriving tourism industry."  Graham backs drilling but wants to give the final say to states, allowing them to decide whether to opt in.  
House Republicans in the two states are split, as well.  Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), co-chairman of the Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus, and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) back the plan.  Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) criticized it, saying it could hurt the state's tourism industry and was "at odds with the overwhelming chorus of voices at home speaking out against offshore drilling." He introduced a bill in April to suspend drilling and related activities off the East Coast for the next 10 years.  And Sturgill praised Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) as a "champion" against drilling from the beginning.  "He was a champion before it was popular to be a champion," he said.
'Battle for the Atlantic'
Sturgill said Trump won't be able to ignore the "cries" of opponents who "just want to be left alone," but he's taking nothing for granted.  "We're having to go forward full bore on this — we've got to continue with our battle for the Atlantic," Sturgill said. "The industry is hellbent on punching holes out here in the Atlantic."  Sturgill said he's feeling better than he did three months ago about defeating the plan: "I feel optimistic."  As today's deadline neared, Howell of Pawleys Island has stepped up the pace, speaking at four public events in just the last couple of weeks, meeting with at least a thousand residents from North Myrtle Beach to Charleston and urging them to send their comments to BOEM.  Last month, she got to make her case before a House Natural Resources panel, telling lawmakers that the risks of drilling are simply too high for animals and the environment (E&E Daily, July 13).  Howell said she's out to do "a tremendous amount of education" to thwart the president's plan before it's too late.  "This could be done to us and without our say," she said.

Va. governor on Trump's plan: 'Exclude our coastal areas'
Kellie Lunney, E&E News, August 17, 2017
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the latest East Coast state official to come out against the Trump administration's proposal to open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas drilling.  The Democratic governor has asked the federal government to exclude Virginia from its 2019-24 plan to cover oil and gas lease sales in the nation's outer continental shelf.  McAuliffe's position on the issue has been nuanced in recent years: He has said he doesn't have a problem with seismic testing and is not against offshore drilling if Virginia can reap economic benefits. But his latest stance makes clear that he will oppose offshore drilling in the Atlantic without a revenue-sharing commitment from the federal government.  "A primary concern that must be satisfied in order for Virginia to be included in the leasing area is a revenue-sharing agreement between participating Atlantic coast states and the federal government," McAuliffe wrote in the Aug. 11 letter to Kelly Hammerle, national program manager of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "Today, we are no closer to resolving this issue than when I became governor."
McAuliffe pointed to the White House's 2018 budget proposal calling for the repeal of state payments to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which allows those states to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts. "This is a clear indication that any new revenue-sharing arrangement between additional states is as unlikely as ever and is a non-starter with the current administration," he wrote.  The comment period on BOEM's revised five-year OCS plan closes today. API, along with several other oil and gas associations, submitted comments urging the administration to keep "existing exploration production areas" in the leasing program and "make new areas in the Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico (EGOM), Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Alaska, and the Pacific available for leasing as part of the program."  API Upstream Director Erik Milito said such expansion in a new plan provides an opportunity "to truly embrace our nation's energy potential and ensure American consumers and businesses continue to benefit from the U.S. energy renaissance."  He said that "safety is a core value of the U.S. natural gas and oil industry, and we are constantly improving technologies, standards, best practices, and programs that protect our workers and our environment. Decades of experience demonstrate that offshore operations safely coexist with the military, tourism and commercial and recreational fishing industries."
McAuliffe's decision to request making off-limits Virginia's coastal areas — which not only contribute to the state's tourist economy but also are home to major military installations — is a significant boon to the offshore drilling opposition.  "Gov. McAuliffe has finally joined with the governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina and North Carolina to oppose offshore drilling in the Atlantic under current regulatory standards," said Caroline Wood, Oceana's Mid-Atlantic campaign organizer. "This represents a huge win for Virginia communities like Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore who stand to shoulder all of the risk of allowing the oil and gas industry to exploit Virginia's coast and the Chesapeake Bay."  The Trump administration decided to reopen and revise the Obama administration's current 2017-22 leasing plan, which was approved in January. President Trump's April 28 executive order reversed the Obama-era ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and directed Interior to consider adding areas in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  McAuliffe said that in the absence of a revenue-sharing arrangement with the federal government on offshore drilling, Virginia was left with "only one option."  He added: "Virginia remains committed to diversifying our economy into new sectors and strengthening our energy infrastructure. However, the program as proposed does not adequately protect Virginia's interests and we hope you will heed our request to exclude our coastal areas."

Lawmakers weigh in
This summer, lawmakers have sent several letters to Zinke expressing support for, or opposition to, the 2019-24 OCS leasing plan.  Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 29 other senators sent Zinke a letter today asking him to back off plans to expand oil and gas exploration in the OCS.  "Since 2015, municipal governments on the East Coast passed over 120 bipartisan resolutions opposing drilling in the Atlantic," the letter said. "Similarly, every senator along the West Coast has sought to protect the nearly 650,000 jobs in the fishing, tourism, and recreation industries and the $44 billion coastal economy from the impacts of offshore drilling. In the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Department of Defense has repeatedly expressed support for an extension of the existing moratorium in order to protect the critical testing and training range there."  Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a member of the Natural Resources Committee, along with dozens of Democratic House lawmakers, sent a similar letter to Zinke today, as well.  Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), along with more than 100 Republicans and one Democrat, urged Zinke yesterday to consider all 26 planning areas in the outer continental shelf in the administration's new five-year leasing plan for offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling.  It is "imperative" to consider all OCS lands, including those not part of the plan crafted by the Obama administration, "to ensure opportunities are not missed," Bishop's letter said (E&E News PM, Aug. 16).

With comment period over, Interior mulls 5-year lease plan
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News, August 18, 2017
Tensions are rising as the federal government considers revising the current five-year offshore drilling lease plan, with opponents vowing to put up a fight.  Yesterday marked the deadline for comments to be received by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) as part of its request for information issued earlier this year. President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed BOEM to reconsider the current plan, with an eye toward opening up more acreage to offshore drilling rigs.  Zinke issued the directive to BOEM at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston earlier this year (Energywire, May 2).  Yesterday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) added his voice to the furor, coming out against permitting drilling rigs off his state's coast. McAuliffe said he was concerned that Trump's proposed budget cuts would put Virginia at risk of an oil spill, but his main opposition focused on the administration's stance on revenue sharing.  "A primary concern that must be satisfied in order for Virginia to be included in the leasing area is a revenue sharing agreement between participating Atlantic coast states and the federal government," McAuliffe said in a letter to BOEM National Program Manager Kelly Hammerle. "Today, we are no closer to resolving this issue."  McAuliffe also said he opposed the administration's proposal to repeal a law that provided for revenue sharing with Gulf of Mexico states. "As such I am requesting that the Commonwealth of Virginia not be included in the 2019-2024 National [Outer Continental Shelf] Program."
A broad coalition of industry interest groups issued their own formal comments demanding that Virginia waters be included, and more.  Nine organizations — including the America Petroleum Institute, International Association of Drilling Contractors and International Association of Geophysical Contractors — issued a 14-page set of comments and requests, including the demand that all federally controlled waters be incorporated into a new five-year offshore leasing plan. Their request also envisions allowing for oil and gas exploration off both coasts of Florida.  "Anything less undermines the comprehensive process set forth in the OCS Lands Act and could have significant impacts on U.S. energy policy options well into the future," the industry coalition stated in its own letter to Hammerle, also delivered yesterday.   The industry groups said they "urge BOEM to make new areas in the Atlantic, Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Alaska, and the Pacific available for leasing."  The current five-year plan, implemented by the Obama administration, restricts new offshore oil and gas leasing to just the Gulf of Mexico minus waters off Florida and slivers off the coast of Alaska. The Obama administration also issued rules aimed at putting vast swaths of federally controlled waters off-limits to drilling permanently.
Trump vowed during the campaign to reverse those decisions once he assumed office. Existing law limits how quickly his administration can move to open up the Atlantic and Arctic to ocean drilling rigs, though environmental groups believe the Trump administration will seek to move as quickly as possible, prompting alarm from them.  Katharine MacGregor, acting assistant secretary for Interior, told reporters during a call Wednesday that BOEM is still a long way away from making any final decisions. Interior will next review the comments received yesterday and then issue a draft five-year plan for further public review. Drafting could be quick, as Interior has the option to simply resubmit an original plan drafted before the Obama administration removed Atlantic and Arctic waters from energy leasing consideration.  "We're still at the very initial stages of the five-year plan," MacGregor said.
McAuliffe's opposition to Atlantic drilling heartened environmental groups opposed to drilling for oil and gas along the Eastern Seaboard. Oil and gas activity already exists off Canada's Atlantic coastline, with substantial finds developed near the island of Newfoundland.  The Southern Environmental Law Center says coastal communities throughout the region and governors of both North and South Carolina oppose Atlantic drilling. SELC also firmly opposes the Trump administration's recent approval of oil and gas seismic surveys of the Atlantic Basin, a strong indication that the administration plans to make good on its promise to permit oil and gas exploration there (Greenwire, June 5).  "There is overwhelming opposition to drilling from coastal communities, elected officials across the political spectrum, local businesses, and commercial and recreational fishing groups," SELC senior attorney Sierra Weaver said in comments issued.  Some members of Congress weighed in on the industry's side. Zinke received a letter from the House Natural Resources Committee signed by more than 100 House members requesting a wider area for drilling consideration in a revised five-year plan.

September Dredging and Potential Survey Discussed at Waterways Commission Meeting

OBX vows to fight offshore drilling 

Trump kills plan to protect projects from rising seas
Zack Colman, E&E News, August 16, 2017
The Trump administration will no longer require public infrastructure projects built in flood-prone areas to accommodate sea-level rise in order to receive federal funding, which critics argued would expose hospitals, schools and roads to the effects of climate change.  President Trump's executive order on infrastructure yesterday rescinded a 2015 Obama administration directive requiring agencies to withhold funding for projects that fail to address the risks of building in a floodplain (E&E News PM, Jan. 30, 2015). Trump claimed that broad permitting changes would enhance safety by sparking new projects after many were stalled amid increasingly complex regulations.  "If it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we're not going to approve it," Trump said at a news conference yesterday in Trump Tower in New York City. "No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay."
The move comes just days after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report noting that sea level is at a record high (E&E News PM, Aug. 10). It also follows the release of a draft study by 13 federal agencies saying that rising temperatures would lead to more intense and frequent rainstorms, extreme weather events and higher seas (Climatewire, Aug. 8).
Scrapping the so-called federal flood risk management standard earned the rebuke of environmental groups, spending watchdogs and engineers. They said the action disregarded mounting scientific evidence about how climate change would affect floodplains and put taxpayer dollars in jeopardy. They also said it ignores the findings of an exhaustive report from engineers that called for better coordination of flood management policies across federal, state and local governments.  "It results in stuff being built in the wrong places and being built in the wrong ways," Eli Lehrer, president of the right-leaning R Street Institute, said in an interview. The SmarterSafer Coalition, a collection of environmental, taxpayer and insurance groups, of which R Street is a member, said every dollar spent on disaster mitigation saves $4 in recovery and rebuilding costs.
The revoked standard required public infrastructure such as subsidized housing to be built 2 feet above the 100-year flood standard, while critical infrastructure like hospitals and fire departments would need to rise by 3 feet. Many in the environmental community already considered the standard too weak, as it's based on floodplain maps that they say do not accurately account for future climate change.  Industry groups like the National Association of Home Builders opposed the Obama standard, arguing that it would impose construction costs and deter development.  "The [standard] posed unanswered regulatory questions that would force developers to halt projects and raise the cost of housing," NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald said in a statement. "This action by President Trump will provide much-needed regulatory relief for the housing community and help American home buyers."  The action caught some officials by surprise. Federal Emergency Management Agency employees attending a New Jersey meeting of floodplain managers "are aghast," Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program, said in an email.
Move comes 5 years after Sandy
Revoking the flood standard comes as Congress is working to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program. It's earned similar criticism from the SmarterSafer Coalition for incentivizing home construction in flood-prone areas on the taxpayer's dime. Lawmakers may well make a push on the flood policy Trump ended yesterday, as well. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted, "I think we are going to have to make a law and take away his discretion here."  Regulations to implement the Obama flood policy are pending at FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. EPA, though those will likely come to a halt. Now, projects such as hospitals, schools, roads and utilities that receive federal funding won't have to take preparations such as elevating structures to avoid damage from flooding and sea-level rise, though local and state governments could still push for such measures.
The flood provision was one of just several elements of the executive action that sought to streamline permitting for infrastructure that's consistent with Trump's campaign pledges to ignite a building spree. The Transportation Department said it would implement a process called "One Federal Decision" that "will make the federal government speak with one voice" on environmental reviews and permitting. It also will convene an interagency working group to review each agency's National Environmental Policy Act review process.
The Obama-era directive sought to address the lack of coordination across governments on flood adaptation. A 2014 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers that assessed weaknesses in flood management in light of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy called attention to those disparities and urged more collaboration.  Superstorm Sandy inflicted $50 billion of damage on the East Coast. Other major flooding events have occurred in the years since, with Baton Rouge, La., enduring unprecedented rainfall in August 2016. The state said the flooding cost $8.7 billion. Recent downpours in New Orleans have also inundated that city.  Making projects meet federal standards to receive funding addressed "a natural conflict" between local governments, which seek to drive economic development through projects, and protecting taxpayer dollars, said Robert Traver, a professor of civil engineering at Villanova University. Absent a standard, governments are free to build — and potentially rebuild — in risky locations without proper safeguards at taxpayers' expense.  "There's always been a conflict about dunes on the Jersey Shore. They make it so you don't have as pretty a view," said Traver, who directs the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering and Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership. "In Sandy, it was very well-documented that areas that didn't have dunes flooded out."
Trump bets on Dems
Building cities in floodplains invites risk, but climate change is making such incidents more likely. NOAA said nuisance flooding — the type that closes roads and affects other infrastructure — has increased between 300 and 925 percent on all three coasts since the 1960s.  "The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are expected to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, likely more so than any other climate-change related factor," NOAA said on its website. "Any acceleration in sea-level rise that is predicted to occur this century will further intensify nuisance flooding impacts over time, and will further reduce the time between flood events."
Lehrer of R Street said former President Obama erred in framing the policy as a climate change initiative. The amount of money spent on rebuilding in flood-prone areas alone would have been a worthwhile pitch to conservatives, he said. FEMA says floods caused $260 billion in damage to the United States between 1980 and 2013.  The emphasis on climate put a bull's-eye on the standard when Trump — who has called climate change a hoax — assumed office. In fact, nixing the flood directive was included in an earlier draft of a March executive order to erase a suite of Obama's climate policies but was removed at the last minute.  Trump has downplayed the effect of rising sea levels even as many of his own properties face risk from it. He reportedly told the mayor of Tangier Island, Va., which is sinking into the Chesapeake Bay, that he "shouldn't worry about rising sea levels," according to Mayor James Eskridge (Climatewire, June 15). "Like the president, I'm not concerned about sea-level rise," he told The Washington Post.  The real estate developer-turned-president has derided environmental reviews as too cumbersome. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao added in a statement that environmental reviews for infrastructure projects can take up to five years.  The shrinking window to get Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure bill through Congress means the White House may increasingly lean on executive actions and removing regulations to accomplish its political goals, as the flood move demonstrated. Still, Trump was optimistic about Congress passing infrastructure legislation.  "We came very close to health care; we will end up getting health care. But we will get the infrastructure," Trump said yesterday. "I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure."

Lawmakers weigh environmental effects of Trump's order
Arianna Skibell, E&E News, August 16, 2017
Members of the House United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force are condemning President Trump's infrastructure order as a gag on public comment that will put the environment at risk for the sake of "corporate profit."  "Removing existing protections and stripping away long-term planning requirements will mean more waste, more accidents, and shorter useful lives for the projects we build. These changes are a deep disservice to the American public, and the president should be ashamed," the task force said in a statement to E&E News.  The task force is chaired by Reps. Don McEachin (D-Va.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, respectively. All are freshmen.  The Democrats launched the task force in response to proposed cuts to U.S. EPA, fearing that minority and low-income communities would be hit the hardest.  "As sea levels rise, and as floods and extreme storms become more common, it will become ever more necessary that we acknowledge and plan for those realities," the task force said.
Issued yesterday, Trump's executive order calls for streamlining infrastructure permits and rescinds a 2015 Obama administration directive requiring federal agencies to account for rising sea levels when funding proposed projects. President Obama billed the original directive as a climate change measure, noting that the number of flood-prone areas is likely to increase nationally as sea levels rise, putting more infrastructure at risk (Greenwire, April 15).  The scrapped Obama directive, which sought to address the lack of coordination across governments on flood adaptation, required public projects like government-subsidized housing to be built 2 feet above the 100-year flood standard. Critical infrastructure like hospitals required 3 feet.
Environmental groups, spending watchdogs and engineers derided the decision to toss Obama's so-called federal flood risk management standard, saying the action overlooked mounting evidence that climate change will affect flood plains and risk taxpayer dollars (Climatewire, Aug. 16).  "Instead of making bipartisan plans to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, Donald Trump has once again put big corporations ahead of our health and safety," the House task force said.  "What we need instead are fair, inclusive decision-making processes that give all Americans a voice; a prudent, farsighted approach to how we spend scarce public dollars on infrastructure; and a more sustainable economy built on well-paying green jobs."
The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus expressed mixed reactions to the infrastructure order, which came just days after NOAA released a report stating that sea levels are at a record high.  Republican Co-chairman Carlos Curbelo of Florida slammed the order as not fiscally conservative.  "It's irresponsible, and it will lead to taxpayer dollars being wasted on projects that may not be built to endure the flooding we are already seeing and know is only going to get worse," he said in a statement.  "Sea level rise and the risk of severe flooding are a reality for communities across the country. When you're on the front lines like South Florida, we know the importance of having more resilient building codes to protect our infrastructure, especially when taxpayer dollars are used."
Curbelo's Republican colleagues in the caucus were not all in alignment on how the order factors in climate change. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) said he was pleased to see the administration taking strong steps to cut through the "red tape and bureaucracy," adding it also would protect the environment.  "We can and should overhaul our national infrastructure while being good stewards of our environment, and the Executive Order issued yesterday will help ensure that appropriate environmental reviews are undertaken in a timely and efficient manner," he said in a statement to E&E News.  "Modernizing our infrastructure will create jobs, make us more competitive on the world stage, make our communities safer and benefit the environment."
Meehan also plans to introduce legislation next month to boost investment in "green" infrastructure, according to a congressional aide.  
The order came as Congress is gearing up to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program and after the release of a draft study by 13 federal agencies stating that rising temperatures are leading to more intense and frequent rainstorms, extreme weather events, and higher seas.

White House to dump Obama-era flood standard
Camille von Kaenel and Zack Colman, E&E News, August 15, 2017
The White House will rescind an Obama-era policy that sought to prevent federal spending on infrastructure that could be damaged by floods, according to sources briefed on the plan.  The announcement is part of an executive order on federal permitting President Trump is set to sign this afternoon in New York City. The decision marks an expansion of the White House's rollback of environmental rules in an effort to speed up the construction of infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, pipelines and rural broadband.  Spending watchdogs and environmental groups criticized the administration's plan for the flood standard, saying it would encourage federal subsidization of projects that may have to be rebuilt after floods and other disasters. Such events have caused $260 billion of damage between 1980 and 2013, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  "This whole thing is about removing regulatory hurdles to construction, but speeding up unwise development so it can be destroyed in a disaster doesn't do any good," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
President Obama issued the original directive in January 2015, and several agencies have been implementing it. The Obama administration pitched its original directive as a climate change measure, noting that flood-prone areas are likely to expand in light of sea-level rise associated with climate change that would potentially put more infrastructure at risk.  The executive order will also aim to speed infrastructure projects by streamlining the permitting process. It will establish "one federal decision" and a two-year goal, according to the White House. Trump has complained that the permitting process can require 16 approvals involving 10 federal agencies and taking up to 10 years in some cases. A White House spokesperson said the order would bring "accountability and discipline" to the federal permitting process.  Trump, who made rebuilding the country's roads and bridges a key campaign promise, has vowed to overhaul what he calls a "painfully slow, costly and time-consuming" environmental review process for new projects, theatrically dumping on the ground a binder with an environmental impact statement for a highway in a speech at the Department of Transportation headquarters in June.  The focus has given new wind to conservatives' efforts to roll back environmental rules (Climatewire, June 19). Some lawmakers who have long criticized environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act are preparing to introduce reform bills in Congress.

House lawmakers push Interior to consider all U.S. waters
Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter,  August 16, 2017
More than 100 House members are urging the Interior Department to consider all 26 planning areas in the outer continental shelf in the administration's new five-year leasing plan for offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling.  It is "imperative" to consider all OCS lands, including those not part of the plan crafted by the Obama administration, "to ensure opportunities are not missed," 118 Republicans, including Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah, wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today. Democratic Rep. Gene Green of Texas also signed the letter.
The Trump administration decided to reopen and revise the Obama administration's current 2017-2022 leasing plan that was approved in January. President Trump's April 28 executive order reversed the Obama-era ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and directed Interior to consider adding areas in the Arctic, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  The revised plan being crafted by Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will cover lease sales from 2019 to 2024. The department published a request for information in the Federal Register on July 3, with a 45-day comment period that closes tomorrow.
Bishop's office said the lawmakers' letter was separate from the comments submitted to BOEM about the administration's forthcoming OCS plan.  There are four OCS regions (Alaska, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific) that include 26 "planning areas." Alaska is the largest OCS region with 15 planning areas, followed by the Pacific and Atlantic with four each and the Gulf with three.  The letter to Zinke said the country's "onshore energy renaissance" presents an opportunity to "further secure our global position by encouraging exploration and leasing in new OCS areas and encouraging investment in traditional offshore development areas." The long lead time on offshore projects, which can take years because of an extensive seismic testing, permitting and leasing process that has to occur before drills go in, makes it "critical" that the department include all OCS lands as development potential, the members wrote.  "The safe and environmentally responsible development of our offshore resources not only enhances our status as an international energy superpower, but benefits the nation through increased job creation, additional government revenue, and affordable and reliable energy supplies for consumers and manufacturing," said the letter. "The time is now to make the U.S. energy dominant."
The administration's push to explore offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast in particular has alarmed environmentalists, coastal residents and some members of both parties. Several lawmakers have sent multiple letters to Zinke opposing offshore drilling in the areas, saying it threatens beaches, wildlife and tourism in coastal communities.  As of this afternoon, BOEM had received more than 50,000 public comments in its request for information on the 2019-2024 OCS oil and gas leasing plan, according to

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Environmental group sues over Ocean Isle Beach terminal groin 

44 homes proposed at east end of Ocean Isle Beach 

Court orders removal of seawalls to protect rare turtles

Isle of Palms seawalls must come down because of turtle nesting, judge rules

Beach renourishment during Grand Strand tourist season not ideal but necessary 

Science behind Shelly Island says it won’t be around long 

Carteret turns out in big numbers for oil hearing

OBX says no to offshore drilling - again

Greens, industry upset about Gulf exploration rules
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News, August 14, 2017 
New rules for seismic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico are almost out, but few are happy with the government's proposals.  Industry groups say they'll continue to press for fewer restrictions, while environmentalists ponder taking the government back to court over the row.  Last week the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued its final programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) concerning geophysical exploration for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Sending sound to penetrate the depths of the ocean floor is one of the first steps for oil and gas companies searching for new hydrocarbon riches in one of the busiest offshore oil patches on the globe.  The multi-volume PEIS has been posted to BOEM's website.  BOEM generally concluded that allowing more seismic testing in the Gulf poses minimal risk to marine habitats (E&E News PM, Aug. 8). Still, some restrictions on when and where exploration can occur are recommended.
But BOEM's proposals don't go far enough in protecting marine life, said Michael Jasny, director of the marine mammal protection program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said the newest final PEIS issued last week is a slap in the face to environmental groups who have been working with regulators ever since a 2013 court settlement launched the environmental review.  "It's a stark retreat from conservation," said Jasny, arguing that adopting PEIS recommendations as final rules would see ocean energy regulators "turn their back on Gulf wildlife."  Jasny said NRDC is concerned about Bryde's whales, a small number of which call the De Soto Canyon in the Gulf home. He said there is evidence that oil and gas activity, in particular the noise generated from seismic testing, has narrowed the range of the whale, threatening its extinction. NOAA puts the number of Bryde's whales in the Gulf at less than 100 individuals.
Industry representatives say they are also unhappy with BOEM's PEIS.  The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) complained that recommended restrictions are unscientific and that the PEIS "puts energy exploration at risk."  Among the recommendations, BOEM suggests keeping segments of state and federal Gulf waters off limits to seismic survey vessels for up to four months of the year. In a release, IAGC President Nikki Martin blasted that specific proposal.  "An arbitrary 4-month near-shore closure in all coastal waters, including state waters, has no scientific merit or environmental benefit and should be precluded from the BOEM's Record of Decision," Martin said.  Martin accuses the agency of bowing "to the political pressure of the anti-oil and gas agenda which refuses to look at the long-standing history of environmentally safe seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico." The Gulf of Mexico is simultaneously a major source of oil and natural gas and the largest source of seafood in the U.S.
But while the industry wants fewer restrictions, environmental groups active in the dispute want more. Jasny said his coalition of organizations could take the government back to court if they feel the final outcome doesn't match the aims of the 2013 settlement. He called proposals such as the four-month closure "lipstick on a pig."  In an interview last week in Houston, Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), tried to forge a middle ground in this debate.  "They basically said, as I said earlier, there is no proven harm to commercial fishing, to marine mammals," he said of BOEM'S impact statement. "However, that doesn't mean there won't be some limitations such as when in a year you'll be allowed to do it. You might want to avoid dolphin calving times. There might be specific areas where you are limited."  Still, he agreed with BOEM's contention that many of the existing mitigation efforts in place are adequate to protect the Gulf's species. "Already you are required to have marine mammal observers on the ships," he noted.  Luthi said NOIA expects a final decision to be out within a month.

N. Topsail: Effort Renewed to Undo CBRA

Offshore drilling debate comes to the east

Residents tell state again: ‘No drilling off our coast!’ 

Meet the man who wants to bring offshore oil and gas exploration to North Carolina

Letter: Dredging isn't the answer 

Coastal Commission could force cities to plan for rising seas
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News, August 10, 2017
The California Coastal Commission wants cities and counties to plan for sea-level rise when they update rules for beachfront development, sea walls and other protections.  The state agency is revising the set of expectations it gives to local governments on those policies. It could be among the most controversial areas the commission has waded into.  "This is going to be one of the most difficult planning issues we've ever faced," said Jack Ainsworth, interim executive director of the commission, during the commission's meeting in Calabasas, Calif. "When you're dealing with billions of dollars in real estate and development along the coast, there are political forces there that are going to push back.  "The most critical thing is to get everyone on the same page and acknowledge that sea-level rise is going to happen, there's vulnerable areas that are going to be impacted, and that we need to start taking steps," he added.  The Coastal Commission, a powerful agency that oversees most development along 1,100 miles of coastline, gives cities and counties guidance for their Local Coastal Programs, or LCPs. The commission requires them to have "standards for future development and protection of resources in the coastal zone."  The guidance tends to be forceful because if cities and counties fail to follow it, their LCPs could be rejected. Without an LCP, the local agency could have less say in development projects, and approval for those would fall to the Coastal Commission.  The commission yesterday heard a presentation on draft updates to its guidance. The document outlines the conflict between protecting homes along the coast and preserving the beach. Allowing sea walls and other revetments would mean the loss of the beach, it said, as the water rises.  "Residential development is the foundation of many of California's coastal communities," the draft guidance said. "However, as sea levels rise, and beaches migrate inland, maintaining residential development adjacent to the shoreline will cause the narrowing and eventual loss of beaches, dunes and other shoreline and offshore recreational areas."  Beaches are lost because the ocean eventually will hit sea walls, devouring dry sand. That's already happening during high tide in some coastal areas (Climatewire, July 31).
The California Coastal Act, passed in 1972, created the Coastal Commission. That protection law requires the agency to ensure public access to the beach.  Sea-level rise and armoring that leads to beach loss pose a "new threat to public access," the draft said.  Those have "the potential to cause significant conflicts with the Coastal Act, which was enacted for the purpose of protecting California's coastal resources," the draft said. It also creates a fairness issue "if residents continue to enjoy shoreline access, while the general public is blocked from accessing the shore."  At the same time, the Coastal Act allows sea walls and other protections for homes that existed when the measure took effect in 1973. That likely will cause clashes, Ainsworth said.  The commission will take comments on the draft through mid-September. Staff will then make any needed revisions and bring it back to the commission for potential adoption, possibly in November.

New rule related to state lands?
The draft document highlights adaptation options that include: prohibiting development in hazardous areas, designing accommodations for hazards, and moving development away from hazards. The latter is known as managed retreat, and means homeowners in some cases would not be allowed to rebuild if structures are repeatedly damaged. Building hard and soft barriers to protect homes from hazards is another option, it said.  The draft report said that "not all approaches listed here will be appropriate for every jurisdiction, nor is this an exhaustive list of options."  The commission has in some cases required property owners to waive their right to future sea walls, and to stipulate that they are in a hazardous area. In some cases, they must add that disclosure to their property deed.
Commission Chairwoman Dayna Bochco said the agency should consider looking at approving a regulation tied to California's Public Trust Doctrine. That law asserts that state lands, such as beaches, must be preserved "for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public."  She raised the prospect of protecting beaches through "a much more obligatory way than a guidance document."  Commissioner Ryan Sundberg, from the Humboldt area in Northern California, rebutted that idea.  "You hear the word 'guidance,' and it says flexibility," he said. "Then you hear a new regulation or law at the state level, and we get really nervous when we have one-size-fits-all policy for something that takes care of Southern California but has nothing to do with us, but we still have to follow the rules."  Ainsworth said it's possible to require disclosures on properties that say, "Look, you may not be in this house in the long term." He also said, however, that there are some areas along the coast "where planned retreat just is not going to be feasible."  "It's this suite of different ways of dealing with it," Ainsworth said. "Some of it's going to take some baby steps going forward, in phasing in these sorts of concepts over time.  "We may not be able to get them all into these first rounds, all of the sea-level rise planning concepts that we would like to see," he said. "It's unrealistic to expect that in all our LCPs going forward."
The commission might have to push on some policies, he said.
"But the problem is, if you push too hard, the local governments just won't accept some [of] the LCP modifications that we would propose," Ainsworth said.  Part of the process needs to include feedback from beach visitors, said Madeline Cavalieri, coastal planner at the commission.  "As invested as the property owners are in their property and in their interest, we also have public who comes to use the beach," Cavalieri said.  Counties updating LCPS hear from local community members. The link with the visitors "could be stronger; that's something we want to work towards including through our LCP updates, and really encouraging robust public outreach," she said.

County criticizes FEMA flood maps 

Southern Shores improves Community Rating System classification

Climate change before your eyes: Seas rise and trees die

Drilling Opponents Dominate Public Hearing

Trump, Cooper hold strong positions on Atlantic drilling. Now NC residents are weighing in.

As the debate over offshore drilling heats up, what’s at stake? 
Feds declare seismic testing in Gulf safe
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News, August 8, 2017
The Gulf of Mexico is safe for oil and natural gas seismic surveys, a review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has concluded.  BOEM announced today the release of its final programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) concerning the impact of geological and geophysical survey technologies on the habitats in the Gulf, home to the world's largest concentration of offshore oil and gas platforms. The Gulf's energy resources continue to be explored with technologies to read the geology of deep rock layers.  Looking at an array of technologies employed by the oil and gas industry, including "deep-penetration, high-resolution geophysical, electromagnetic, deep stratigraphic, and remote sensing," BOEM says its environmental review shows minimal harm to the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Thus, the agency sees no need to place restrictions on geologic survey activity, deeming existing mitigation methods to be adequate for protecting Gulf species.  "Subject to adequate mitigation," allowing the oil and gas industry to continue its geophysical activities in the Gulf of Mexico "would not result in major impacts to the environment," BOEM's review finds.  BOEM said this new PEIS is the result of a 2013 settlement between the agency and several environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Some Democrats and environmental groups argue that loud sounds from seismic air gun surveying can damage marine mammals (E&E Daily, July 19).  The review was undertaken in conjunction with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and NOAA Fisheries. Drafting a PEIS concerning commercial activities in federal waters meets requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act. BOEM says this final environmental impact statement will also be used by NOAA Fisheries in that agency's review of policies concerning applications for incidental take permits, governed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In June, the Trump administration recommended authorizing incidental take permits for companies seeking to deploy seismic survey vessels for use in the Atlantic Basin. The administration is determined to open Atlantic waters to offshore drilling, and permitting seismic surveys is the first step toward opening new federal waters to oil and gas leasing (Greenwire, June 5).  Government regulators are reviewing the current five-year federal offshore leasing program, with the intent to add acreage in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans for oil and gas leasing consideration. The Obama administration had incorporated Atlantic and Arctic waters in the original 2017-22 leasing schedule, but later withdrew those tracts from leasing consideration.  During the presidential campaign, President Trump pledged to open more federal onshore and offshore areas to oil and gas activity.

USCG temporarily discontinues Barden Inlet buoys 

Virginia Beach residents sue over neighborhood dredging district

Tangiermen see hope in a long shot that would reinvent the island

NTB homeowners to save thousands in insurance 

New insurance rates don’t affect all

Reinforcements for NC’s beleaguered environmental regulators?

Ed Gillespie has a plan for battling sea-level rise – but he doesn't mention climate change

New fight over drilling offshore South Carolina could be about exports

PKS – Don’t worry about that science stuff 

Officials to revisit turtle habitat plan; possible means to help restore eroded beachfront

Brunswick Town erosion control work under way; Southport is interested observer

"Island in Peril," two of a three-part series about Tangier Island 
1 – Tangier Island is sinking and its residents are putting their faith in Trump
2 – At the shriveling Uppards, Tangier islanders see their past -- and, possibly, their future
City Plots A Series Of Defenses For East Boston's Coast

Shore Protection Office Newsletter (as presented to the Island Review)

ANNOUNCEMENT - State to host three public hearings on potential oil and gas leasing program 

Estimated cost of Hurricane Matthew recovery on Hilton Head: $65.9M. FEMA reimbursement so far: $0

Sand Project: More Turtles Than Expected

As Harbor Island seawalls deteriorate, efforts to protect sea turtles intensify

Enviromental groups ask court to bring down controversial seawalls on Isle of Palms

As sea levels rise, changes to the Low Battery will likely reverberate across the city

Beach nourishment in KDH wraps up; Kitty Hawk next (turtle related) 

Hunting Island beachgoers could see this big change next year (SC)

New flood maps may ease rates 

Sea Pines (SC) is going to get a lot sandier 

Court again puts halt on large OBX house 

Mapping Coastal Flood Risk Lags Behind Sea Level Rise (Md) 

Poll: Residents Worry About Offshore Drilling

Lockwood Folly Inlet work halted as dredge 'Merritt' sustains hull damage

Drilling Opponents Ready For Renewed Fight

Charlotte Talks: Preparing For Rising Sea Levels In North Carolina

Program keeps people in high-risk homes — report
Daniel Cusick, E&E News, July 26, 2017
The federal government should provide guaranteed buyouts to homeowners facing chronic flooding, according to an environmental group that says the flood program pushes people to stay in dangerous locations.  A report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council urges Congress to make that reform and others as it reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program. Lawmakers should end the "flood, rebuild, repeat" mindset that has effectively trapped homeowners in high-risk properties, the report says.  NRDC says many homeowners would prefer to move out of their homes but can't because of the constraints imposed by the NFIP.
"Flood insurance traps homeowners in a situation no one wants to be in: forced to rebuild in a location that will inevitably flood again," Rob Moore, senior policy analyst with NRDC's Water Program and lead author of the "Seeking Higher Ground" report, said in a statement. "It's time to start helping people move to higher ground, rather than make them wait for the next flood."  Among the proposed reforms is a "guaranteed buyout" of chronically flooded properties if the owners choose not to rebuild. "For homeowners that want to move out of harm's way, the NFIP should help, not hinder, that from happening," the report said.
The flood program currently offers voluntary buyouts through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The homes are demolished, and the land is required to remain largely empty to accommodate floodwater. But the number of buyouts is limited by cost and other federal requirements.  Other reforms pitched by NRDC suggest owners and prospective buyers of properties should have access to a home's flood history and that data on NFIP claims should be more readily available. Flood maps should also show how sea-level rise and other climate change effects will influence future flood risk so that individuals and communities can make better decisions about development.
"The public has a right to know where flood damages occur, the cost of those damages, and what communities are doing to reduce their vulnerability to flooding and sea-level rise," the report states.  NRDC is one of a half-dozen environmental organizations working alongside taxpayer watchdog groups, private insurers, housing organizations and others under a broad-based NFIP reform movement called Smarter.  The umbrella organization has called for a broader set of flood insurance reforms, including giving consumers more choices for policies and strengthening the NFIP "to better protect people in harm's way, better protect the environment, and better protect taxpayers."  According to NRDC's review of FEMA data acquired under a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Flood Insurance Program currently covers more than 30,000 "severe repetitive loss properties," meaning they have flooded an average of five times. In some cases, they're damaged every two to three years.  Roughly 60 percent of those homes are considered modest, meaning they are valued at $250,000 or less, according to NRDC. Such homes, which represent less than 1 percent of the 5.1 million properties insured by the NFIP, could be reasonably purchased, condemned and removed by FEMA, the group asserts. Yet from 1978 to 2015, owners of such properties claimed $5.5 billion in insurance payouts, or 9.6 percent of all claims paid by the NFIP.
The states with the largest share of at-risk homes, measured both by the number of properties and the value of insurance payments, are Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Florida and Missouri, according to the report.  The analysis also found that for every $100 the nation spends to rebuild flood-damaged homes, FEMA spends $1.72 to help move affected property owners to safer areas.  Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who is sponsoring legislation to reform the program, said in a statement that the NFIP, already $25 billion in debt, is "underwater" and that thousands of American families are exposed to high flood risk.  He called NRDC's recommendations "a commonsense fix to help both property owners and the federal government" reform the program as part of its next reauthorization. The program is expected to be extended before September.

Way more sea turtles than expected captured by Outer Banks beach widening project 

The Navy is tracking sea turtles released by the Virginia Aquarium. Here's why.

Cooper: ‘Not off our coast’ 

Cooper Vows to Lead Offshore Drilling Fight

Cooper: Offshore drilling is ‘a bad deal’

Large buildings threaten N.C. beaches 

GOP lawmakers gear up for repeat attack on 'sue and settle'
Amanda Reilly, E&E News, July 24, 2017
A House panel this week will hold its second hearing of the year on the so-called sue-and-settle phenomenon that Republican lawmakers say has occurred in environmental law over the last several years.  The joint hearing will take place tomorrow in the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and Environment. The committee has yet to announce witnesses.  GOP critics have long argued that a small number of special-interest groups frequently file litigation using citizen suit provisions to force friendly federal agencies to issue new regulations.  In May, the Oversight subcommittees held an initial hearing on the topic to drum up support for legislation that aims to prevent "sue and settle" lawsuits.  A key target of Republicans' ire has been a sweeping 2011 settlement the Fish and Wildlife Service entered into with WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, compelling the agency to make decisions on whether to list 252 species under the Endangered Species Act.  "There's a legitimate role for consent decrees and private suits," said Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), chairman of the Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee, at the first hearing in May. "But I think we're currently in a situation where we're outside what would be acceptable" (E&E Daily, May 25).  The House Judiciary Committee has since approved legislation along party lines that would require agencies to publicly post and report to Congress any information on lawsuits, consent decrees or settlement agreements.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), would also prohibit same-day filing of complaints and pre-negotiated settlements (E&E Daily, July 13).  U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also earlier this year issued an "oral directive" instructing the agency to limit the practice (Greenwire, July 3).  Democrats and environmental groups say "sue and settle" is a made-up phenomenon pushed by foes of regulation.  The Government Accountability Office in 2011 and 2014 released reports finding no evidence that such a practice was occurring at EPA.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, July 25, at 10 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn.  Witnesses: TBA.

NEWS RELEASE - “Not Off Our Coast”: Cooper Announces Opposition to Seismic Testing and Offshore Drilling in North Carolina w/ Fact Sheet

How a little bird is keeping some Hilton Head residents off a big stretch of beach

The National Flood Insurance Program is up for Reauthorization: Here’s What Congress Should Do

FWS backs contentious Republican reform package
Michael Doyle, E&E News, July 19, 2017
The Fish and Wildlife Service today backed "in general" a package of Republican-authored Endangered Species Act reform bills that critics contend would gut the 1973 law.  But in a sign of negotiations to come, the agency's acting director advised lawmakers that certain "technical modifications" are still needed to meet specific concerns.  "In Western states, the law and certain species have become lightning rods for intense disagreement," acknowledged Fish and Wildlife Service acting Director Greg Sheehan, adding that "the administration is committed to making the ESA work for the American people."  The administration now supports, Sheehan noted, part of a bill — H.R. 717, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) — that would remove current 90-day and 12-month deadlines for making decisions on species listing decisions.  Sheehan likewise voiced support for part of a bill, H.R. 1274, from Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), that would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider all data submitted by state, local and tribal governments.
At the same time, Sheehan cautioned that officials wanted to "work with" lawmakers on a proposal also in Olson's bill "to better understand how economic impacts should be appropriately considered" in deciding whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. His comment was an oblique way to raise concerns about the measure requiring the consideration of costs in listing decisions rather than later in the protection process.  Sheehan likewise raised doubts about a Newhouse bill provision that would automatically deem all state, local and tribal information to be "the best scientific and commercial data available" in guiding decisions. Sheehan said the provision would be a "significant departure from scientific integrity standards."
"My goal as the acting director of the service is for the organization to be a better neighbor and partner to the states," Sheehan told the House Natural Resources Committee.  Sheehan was previously director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. It is not clear how long he will oversee the federal agency, as the Trump administration has not yet nominated a permanent Fish and Wildlife Service director or an assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.  
Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the panel, convened the standing-room-only session as part of the committee's ongoing scrutiny of the law. He noted that in the past four Congresses, the committee has held "more than 50" related hearings.  Getting legislation to the president's desk has proved much trickier.
"It is my hope that, in coordination with our colleagues in the Senate and this administration, we can lay the foundation for ESA reform that creates better outcomes for both species and communities," Bishop said.  The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, countered that the "Endangered Species Act does not need congressional meddling to work better."  "These bills are an embarrassment and a waste of time," Grijalva said.  Jeff Corwin, identifying himself as a "wildlife biologist, author and television host," testified on how he has enjoyed "some amazing, intimate encounters with some of our world's most threatened and endangered species." Corwin hosts ABC's "Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin."  Other witnesses spoke with more legislative specificity.
David Willms, policy director for Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, cited a set of recommendations drafted last year by the Western Governors' Association, including greater state participation and more flexible deadlines to avoid litigation (Greenwire, June 30).  But Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) noted that the WGA also recommended spending more on protecting species, while the Trump administration has proposed cuts in funding.  "We've got a disconnect there," Huffman said.  The committee also looked at H.R. 2603, from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered or threatened under the ESA. Other bills under consideration are H.R. 3131, from Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), to adjust the hourly rates awarded to lawyers in ESA-related litigation, and H.R. 424, from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to require the Interior Department to reissue final rules to delist the gray wolf as a protected species in the western Great Lakes and Wyoming.

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
July 24, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

Beach nourishment drives some town budget increases

Hicks: Not everyone is sold on Charleston’s planned $100 million rehab of Low Battery

Dem waves air gun as panel clashes over seismic testing
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News, July 19, 2017
A House Natural Resources panel clashed yesterday over the question of whether loud sounds from seismic air gun surveying for oil and gas deposits beneath the oceans can damage marine mammals.  California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman said the blasts of up to 120 decibels, repeated every 10 to 12 seconds, have "an enormous and obvious impact" and should not be allowed under federal law.  Holding an air gun to make his point, Huffman said: "It can be heard up to a mile away. It's only a little bit less loud than a jet engine at takeoff."
Offering a sarcastic response, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said marine mammals "are suffering from one of the most egregious things that is being allowed to happen" — forced to listen to thunderclaps that also register at 120 decibels.  "Thunder in the clouds — we've got to find a way to stop it, because it is wreaking havoc and doing enormous damage," Gohmert said.  "Would the gentleman identify a marine mammal that lives in the clouds, please?" asked Huffman.  "I don't live in the clouds of some of my friends," replied Gohmert.  The exchange came as the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on the effects of federal natural resources laws that critics say have "gone astray."
Opponents took aim at two landmark laws yesterday: the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.  Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the panel's chairman, said both laws "had stretched beyond Congress' original intent."  Witnesses told lawmakers that the laws had been abused and should be changed.  Patty Brandt, a member of a group called Keep Eastmoreland Free in Portland, Ore., said neighborhood groups have applied to be recognized as historic districts as a way to curb development or renovations. She said decisions of what's historic can be arbitrary and should not be made by the federal government.  "I believe that these discussions and decisions are best managed at the local level," Brandt said.
Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, a trade association, said seismic testing is "well understood and safe."  "To date, there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from acoustic sources used in seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities," Martin said.  Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin, the panel's ranking member, said lawmakers were getting "an incomplete picture" because the list of witnesses included no one from the Trump administration. And he said the panel should be focused on climate change instead of "attacking our environmental protections."  "Climate change is not just coming — it's here," he said.  
Last month, a bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress asked the Trump administration not to allow seismic air gun surveying for oil and gas development. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, they criticized a White House proposal to allow five companies to use air guns to search for offshore deposits in the Atlantic Ocean (Greenwire, June 29).  Huffman noted that President Trump's 2018 budget plan called for the elimination of the Marine Mammal Commission, the agency that's best equipped to advise Congress on such issues.  He took issue with Martin's testimony that seismic testing was safe and told the panel he'd be willing to discharge the air gun to show members how loud it was.  "Would you like me to sound off this air gun actually every 10 to 12 seconds?" Huffman asked Martin. "Do you think your testimony would benefit from that?"  "Congressman, I appreciate the prop," Martin replied.  Westerman warned Huffman not to discharge the air gun.  "I'll remind the gentleman that it would be a violation of House decorum," he said.

Lockwood Folly Inlet dredging to start Tuesday

The Netherlands, always vulnerable to floods, has a new approach to water management

Surfside Beach renourishment project begins
Disputed 24-bedroom house in Carova is basically finished

Raising Charleston's Low Battery expected to cost $100 million and take decade or more to complete

Kaine, Warner announce grant to help combat sea-level rise in Hampton Roads 

Pentagon doesn't oppose all offshore drilling 

Could Brunswick change course on offshore drilling?

House panel to review ESA bills
Michael Doyle, E&E News, July 17, 2017
The Endangered Species Act will come in for a spanking and a possible face-lift Wednesday as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on five ESA-related bills.  Authored by four Republicans and one rural Democrat, the individual measures pick away at several pieces of the 1973 law that's outlasted many previous congressional forays.  This year's ESA skeptics aren't yet going for a wholesale repeal-and-replace effort.  Instead, the bills being reviewed Wednesday morning target specific areas that range from lowering lawyers' fees and excluding non-native species from protections to requiring that cost be taken into account in listing decisions. Together, the bills reflect widespread antipathy among conservatives toward the law.  "It's terribly flawed," Rep. Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said in an interview.  Bishop added that he is still in the information-gathering stage, sorting through options for revising the law.  "If the Republican approach is 'my way or the highway,' then I don't think they'll be able to get Democratic support," Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, said in an interview, adding that "a constructive approach on a bipartisan basis" works best.  The bills under review Wednesday are short; none is longer than four pages. In their own way, though, they could be far-reaching. A measure by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) to take cost into account in ESA listing decisions, for instance, would reverse a cost-blind federal practice that has previously been upheld by the Supreme Court.  The Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries would be allowed to decline to list species due to economic impacts under Olson's bill. Currently, the federal agencies take cost into account when designating critical habitat for a listed species.
The bills include:
H.R. 1274, from Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), to require making available to states affected by ESA determinations all data used in the federal decisionmaking, and to ensure use of state, local and tribal data.
H.R. 2603, from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), to provide that non-native species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
H.R. 3131, from Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), to adjust the hourly rates awarded to lawyers in ESA-related litigation.
H.R. 424, from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to require the Interior Department to reissue final rules to delist the gray wolf as a protected species in the western Great Lakes and Wyoming.
H.R. 717, from Olson, to require review of the economic cost of adding a species as endangered or threatened, and removing certain listing deadlines that have been the focus of litigation.
Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, July 19, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
Witnesses: Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar; Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan; David Willms, policy director for Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead; and attorney Kent Holsinger of Denver.

Some new reports help picture the threat of sea level rise in Hampton Roads

New study pinpoints sea rise hot spots, with Edisto and Kiawah islands caught in the crosshairs

ESA Reform Update

You can weigh in on plans for ‘seismic blasting’ using air guns off NC coast

Construction of massive 24-bedroom Outer Banks "event house" can continue, judge says 

Surfing Scientists Develop Wave Forecast Tool

KDH will tackle regulating home sizes 

Hearty residents monitor turtles during beach nourishment

Offshore drilling foes gear up for another fight 

Sand from the Folly River would be used to fix Folly east end beaches under city plan 

Court orders Currituck to allow completion of mega-house on OBX

Beach replenishment is all that’s standing between North Carolina and storms

FEMA releases new Beaufort County flood maps. So where are they? (SC)

Murrells Inlet Dredging Pays Off, USACE Says 

So who owns that new ‘forbidden island’ off the NC coast? It’s not who you think. 

Editorial: Speak out against offshore drilling 

Lawmakers eye energy development off U.S. coasts
Kellie Lunney, E&E News, July 10, 2017
A House Natural Resources panel on Wednesday will assess the potential for offshore oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf.  The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will look at the Trump administration's efforts so far to rewrite the five-year Obama plan on OCS oil and gas leasing and engage affected states and coastal communities, said Molly Block, press secretary for the full committee's majority.   Other topics likely to come up include opportunities for revenue sharing, impacts of seismic testing on the area to gather data, any changes to the Interior agencies overseeing offshore energy development and the moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.   President Trump's April 28 executive order reversed an Obama administration ban on drilling in much of the Arctic Ocean and opened the door for Interior to allow offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelf regions, as well as a review of proposed oil and gas leases in the western and central Gulf of Mexico OCS regions.  
The 2017-22 leasing program developed as part of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act shielded those areas from oil and gas leasing until 2022.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said little on the topic since the executive order but has tasked the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management with coming up with a new five-year plan for oil and gas drilling leasing in the region. Interior last week opened a 45-day public comment period for the revised plan, which will propose lease sales between 2019 and 2024.  The Trump order also directed a more streamlined permitting process for privately funded seismic data collection in those areas to gauge the offshore energy resource potential there.  Oil and gas industry groups have argued that President Obama's decision to pre-emptively limit options for exploration and drilling undermined the country's energy production. They support a new plan, as well as a reversal of Obama's withdrawal of offshore areas.
Block called the 2017-22 OCS plan a "relic of the previous administration."  But the Trump order has alarmed environmentalists, coastal residents and members of Congress from both parties who represent the regions. Lawmakers have sent several letters to Zinke opposing offshore drilling in the areas, saying it threatens beaches, wildlife and tourism in coastal communities (E&E Daily, May 12).

Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, July 12, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
Witnesses: Katharine MacGregor (expected), Interior acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management; Lori LeBlanc, offshore committee director, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association; Margaret S. Howell, founder, Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic; James Knapp, professor at the University of South Carolina's School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment; and Michael Whatley, executive vice president, Consumer Energy Alliance.

Legislature Pauses, Environmental Bills Wait 

Contract awarded in Grand Strand beach renourishment project

Tourists and turtles will see detours when beach work starts next week (SC)

North Myrtle Beach Renourishment Set for September

As sea levels rise, NOAA scientists work toward seasonal tidal flooding forecasts

How a 1992 high court ruling eroded regulatory might (SC)

Seismic: Public Has More Time to Comment

NOAA gives more time to comment on offshore seismic tests

Feds extend comment period on seismic testing in the Atlantic

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling renews push against seismic testing as a deadline nears (SC)

A last chance to be heard on seismic testing off the NC coast

BOEM NEWS RELEASE - President Trump and Secretary Zinke Open up Comment Period for New 5-Year National Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program
REQUEST FOR COMMENT (Federal Register)

Trump reopens Atlantic waters to oil, gas exploration

Construction Process of Megacutter Helios (international) - world’s heaviest cutter ladder

Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations (Carteret County, Dare, Hyde, Onslow, More)
Comments are requested on proposed flood hazard determinations, which may include additions or modifications of any Base Flood Elevation (BFE), base flood depth, Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) boundary or zone designation, or regulatory floodway on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), and where applicable, in the supporting Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports for the communities listed in the table below.

NC Coastal Resources Commission Meeting Agenda
July 11-12, 2017, Holiday Inn, Greenville

Group continues push for 'meaningful' flood insurance reform
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 29, 2017
A coalition of conservation groups, housing organizations and taxpayer advocates is continuing its push for comprehensive flood insurance reform.  The SmarterSafer coalition urged Congress to include several reforms in its reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is $25 billion in debt and up for reauthorization in September.  "SmarterSafer urges the Committee to make meaningful reforms to the program to ensure it is financially stable in the long-term," says a letter sent to Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  The letter lays out four objectives for a reauthorization: privatizing at least some of the market, more accurate mapping, investing in mitigation and tying flood insurance rates to risks.  Tying flood insurance rates to risks, however, is one of the more controversial policies supported by the coalition, with members of Congress hesitant to enact policies that would require constituents to pay higher premiums.  But, the letter says, "For too long, the federal government has masked risk through subsidized rates, and this has resulted in a program deeply in debt to taxpayers." It adds, "The Committee should continue a gradual move to risk-based rates, and should include assistance outside of the rate structure for low-income homeowners who cannot afford their full risk-based rates."  Members of the House Financial Services Committee hotly debated the issue earlier this month during a markup.
The NFIP allows homeowners to pay subsidized rates for properties that pre-date the NFIP but adhere to housing codes from their time of construction. The NFIP also offers subsidized rates for homeowners whose property was not in a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone when built but ended up there when the agency updated its maps.  Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House committee, unsuccessfully pushed back against a proposal to end new grandfathering, saying people should not be punished for "doing everything right" and building to code.
"It is not fair to have them be responsible for higher costs they never had anticipated," she said.  The House Financial Services Committee ultimately passed bills that aim to limit the number of high-risk policies in NFIP, including the "Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act," H.R. 1558, from Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), to require communities with repeatedly flooded properties to map those properties and associated public infrastructure.  Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced a companion bill, S. 1445, in the Senate this week.

What does 'waters of the U.S.' mean? We asked the authors
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 29, 2017
Written at the 11th hour in the fall of 1972 in a bid to get the landmark Clean Water Act through Congress, those five words have created regulatory confusion, political jousting and many lawsuits — three of which went all the way to the Supreme Court.  How did the phrase get into the bill? Three Capitol Hill staffers worked it up after a 30-minute huddle.
"It wasn't a long conversation, but we decided to see where it would take us," Lester Edelman, former counsel to the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, recalled in a recent interview. "Little did we know, 45 years later they are still figuring it out."  It's now the Trump administration's turn to wrestle with that phrase. It does so in a 42-page proposal rolled out this week for sinking former President Obama's 2015 Clean Water Rule, which aimed to clarify what wetlands and isolated streams get legal protection as "waters of the United States" (E&E News PM, June 27).  Edelman said he and his two colleagues — Leon Billings and Tom Jorling — did the best they could under deadline pressure, maintaining that "waters of the United States" has stood the test of time.  "I don't think there is or was a paragraph or even tens of paragraphs we could have used instead of that phrase that would have avoided this kind of controversy," said Jorling, who was then Republican staff director for the Senate Public Works Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution working for then-Rep. John Sherman Cooper (R-Ky.). "It's messy, but it has survived."  With Congress needing to vote on the Clean Water Act conference report, Jorling and Billings, who worked for Sen. Ed Muskie (D-Maine), realized they had one last wrinkle to smooth.  The two staffers, who are credited with inventing much of the Clean Water Act's regulatory infrastructure while carpooling daily to the Capitol from the Washington suburbs, envisioned the law as a break from previous iterations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.  While existing law set water quality standards for the nation's waterways, Billings and Jorling wanted to regulate the source of pollution as it entered the water.  To do that, Jorling said, "We had to make the regulatory program match the hydrologic cycle."  But they had a problem.  Both the Senate and House versions of the bill used the phrase "navigable waters of the United States" to describe areas protected by the law. That phrase was in turn self-defined as "navigable waters of the United States."
That, says Jorling "was not going to achieve our objective."  Originating in English common law, the expression made its first American appearance in the 1899 Refuse Act, giving the Army Corps of Engineers control over dredging and filling of "navigable waters of the United States."  Over the years, its legal meaning evolved to include waters that could be made navigable with "reasonable expense," not just those a boat could travel.  By 1972, the phrase appeared in guidelines for many federal laws and agencies. EPA and the Army Corps already had their own definitions of which areas counted as "navigable waters of the U.S."  If agencies relied on those definitions, the Senate calculated at the time, the Clean Water Act would only protect 40 to 50 percent of the nation's waterways.  As former chief counsel to the Army Corps, Edelman had a lot of experience parsing "navigable waters," and so Jorling and Billings turned to him.  Edelman was himself growing increasingly concerned about the definition.
The House-Senate conference committee had finally agreed to adopt Section 404 of the House bill, which maintained the Army Corps' traditional authority over dredging and filling activities, even as the rest of the legislation made EPA the regulating agency for water pollution.  Edelman feared self-defining "navigable waters of the U.S." would result in bitter disputes between EPA and Army Corps over whose pre-existing explanation to use.  At the same time, the three staffers and their bosses were racing against the clock. The Clean Water Act legislation had been introduced almost two years prior, meaning it would die if it didn't pass by the end of the session. President Nixon had threatened to veto the legislation, and Congress needed enough time for an override.  After 39 conference meetings ironing out the major regulatory differences between the House and Senate bills, "we were under the gun," Jorling recalled.  Edelman came up with a solution: "Let's drop the word 'navigable' and define 'navigable waters of the U.S.' as just 'waters of the U.S.'"  Jorling and Billings agreed, hoping it would be a sufficient signal to agencies that the bill was more expansive than existing law.  "You could spend 1,000 pages defining it further, but we couldn't do that — we already had a 1,000-page bill," Edelman said. "A year and a half of work was tied up in this last straw, we had to put it out there."

Congressional intent
The trio's work gave them an near-iconic status in the world of environmental law and the result of their short, 11th hour conversation lives on in the Clean Water Act conference report.  "The conferees fully intend that the term 'navigable waters' be given the broadest possible Constitutional interpretation unencumbered by agency determinations which have been made or may be made for administrative purposes," it says.  Billings died last fall. Jorling, who used to teach an environmental law class at Columbia University with Billings, is now retired. Edelman is a senior counsel for Dawson & Associates, a Washington lobby shop and consulting firm that specializes in water resources.  Then-Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) supported the new definition on the House floor in October 1972.  "It means all 'the waters of the United States' in a geographical sense," Dingell said. "It does not mean 'navigable waters of the United States' in the technical sense as we sometimes see in some laws."  The new phrase, Dingell said in a recent interview, was critical to the success of the legislation, which ultimately became law after Congress overrode Nixon's veto.  "We knew that if you were drinking water in New Orleans you were drinking what people had for dinner and flushed down their toilets in Minnesota a week or a month before," he said. "We knew water traveled with the stink in it all that way and we wanted to cover the whole process."   Not everyone was happy with the legislation's scope.
In 1974, Army Corps and EPA came up with different definitions for "waters of the United States," with the corps arguing the Refuse Act still limited the agency's jurisdiction to "navigable waters of the U.S."  That view was struck down less than a year later when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in Natural Resources Defense Council v. Callaway that Congress had "asserted federal jurisdiction over the nation's waters to the maximum extent permissible under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution."  The Army Corps would have to write a new regulation taking into account "the full regulatory mandate" of the Clean Water Act.  That skirmish is one example of why Edelman said he assumed back in 1972 that Congress would eventually amend the Clean Water Act to devise a more specific explanation for "waters of the U.S."  Indeed, the original House version of the Clean Water Act amendments of 1977 included language limiting the law's scope to the more traditional phrase "navigable waters." A proposed amendment to the Senate bill would have made a similar change.  But the conference committee again struck a deal. "We left the definition alone," Edelman said, in exchange for the Senate agreeing to exempt certain agricultural activities from dredging and filling restrictions.

'Kennedy had it right'
Today, dredging and filling restrictions remain among the most controversial aspect of the Clean Water Act, especially for small waterways and wetlands. The question is raised time and again: Are they "waters of the United States"?  Agriculture, energy and construction trade groups have all argued the phrase has been interpreted too broadly, infringing on personal property rights and unreasonably preventing people from working on their own land.
But Jorling said there's one man who understands what Congress meant by the term: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Kennedy's stand-alone opinion in the 2006 case Rapanos v. United States says wetlands and small waterways fall under federal jurisdiction if they have a "significant nexus" to a navigable waterway, meaning there must be a surface, chemical or biological connection.  The test echoes the Clean Water Act's preamble that the law intends to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters."  "Kennedy had it right," Jorling said.  The Kennedy interpretation was ultimately the basis for the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule defining "waters of the United States."  The Trump administration is now hoping to break from the Kennedy interpretation by replacing the Clean Water Rule with one inspired by Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion in Rapanos. Scalia wrote that "waters of the U.S." only covers wetlands and small waterways with a surface connection to actually navigable waters.
That's a nonsensical interpretation to Dingell, who also agrees with Kennedy.  "I thought people could read clear English," he said. "And I thought some of those contemptible scums on the Supreme Court could understand what it meant and why it was there and why Congress had acted to clean up our waters."  Even as Jorling favors Kennedy's opinion, he said he was actually pleasantly surprised by Scalia's because he had feared a conservative court would restrict federal jurisdiction to only navigable waters.  Billings, too, was apparently happy with the results of the case, as he told the Maine Law Review in 2014 during a speech celebrating Muskie.  "The Supreme Court has acknowledged a scope that is at least as far as we had imagined and, in my view, broader than we had reason to hope," he said.

Stewards Aim to Protect Beach-Nesting Birds

EPA and Army Corps seek to rescind clean water rule

Has suing the department become a cottage industry?
Kellie Lunney, E&E News, June 29, 2017
Witnesses and lawmakers yesterday sparred over whether special interest groups are abusing their right to sue the Interior Department over policies they don't like, or simply using a tool in their civic arsenal to keep the government accountable and law-abiding.  "Special interests repeatedly exploit our legal system to further their own agendas and sidestep the legislative and regulatory processes," Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said during a hearing on the "policy impacts of excessive litigation" against Interior and how resource-depleting lawsuits impede the department's mission.  But full committee ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the premise of the hearing, which featured testimony from a panel of lawyers, was "false," adding that judges are already empowered to throw out frivolous lawsuits and that there are often good reasons for suing the department in the first place.  "Why does the Interior Department get sued?" Grijalva asked. "Because it fails to live up to the standards set by this Congress for managing our natural, cultural and historic resources."  The topic of litigation came up a few times last week during Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's three appearances on Capitol Hill to defend the administration's fiscal 2018 budget proposal.  "We've spent a lot of money on litigation that could have been spent" in better ways, Zinke told the full Natural Resources Committee last Thursday. He also mentioned that he was sued six times during his first day at work in March.  The cost of lawsuits is relevant — and can be pricey. But the money spent on them is not well-tracked.  The 1980 Equal Access to Justice Act allows organizations and individuals that sue the government to collect attorneys' fees, subject to certain caps. The law was designed to help parties with limited resources file lawsuits against the government. However, there are loopholes in the law that some view as allowing lawyers to circumvent the monetary caps.
"EAJA is a taxpayer-funded meal ticket for environmental groups to collect attorneys' fees at enhanced rates even if the nonprofit's net assets exceed the $2 million limit that precludes attorneys' fees recovery for individuals," said Caroline Lobdell, executive director of the Western Resources Legal Center in Portland, Ore.  But Lois Schiffer, retired general counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a former Justice Department lawyer, defended the government's use of settlements in lawsuits, when practical and cost-effective, as well as its oversight of money claims for attorneys' fees, which she said are "strictly regulated" by statute, including EAJA.  "From my experience at both NOAA and the Justice Department, I note that claims for attorneys' fees under EAJA and other statutes are evaluated carefully before payment is made," Schiffer said.  The debate over settlements, costs and allocation of resources toward lawsuits is further complicated by the fact that Interior's Office of the Solicitor plays a limited role in litigation against the department.  Dan Jorjani, Interior's principal deputy solicitor, pointed out yesterday during testimony that Justice handles lawsuits in which Interior is a party.  "The Department of Interior's policy decisionmakers and lawyers therefore do not have the legal authority to litigate or settle cases on our own," he said. The solicitor's office, however, does provide legal advice to the department's bureaus on whether to litigate or settle cases, he added.  Jorjani said settlements can be "useful and beneficial" when used properly, minimizing the risk of future litigation and, in some cases, saving the government money.  "However, the system certainly is not perfect," he said.
Policy impacts
Mark Barron, a partner in the national energy practice group at BakerHostetler in Denver, argued that the glut of lawsuits is delaying the oil and gas leasing process on federal lands.  "Under the Mineral Leasing Act, the Department of Interior is mandated to offer leases quarterly in all states in which eligible parcels of land are available for leasing," Barron said. "That deadline is almost never met."  He added, "Our clients report that oftentimes when they interact with field offices and ask why these deadlines are not met, it's reported to them that field office personnel are being used to respond to and support efforts to defend lawsuits." According to a hearing memorandum distributed by Republicans yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service's fiscal 2013 budget request noted that 86 full-time employees were assigned to comply with court orders or settlement agreements resulting from litigation.
A black hole
While witnesses and lawmakers disagreed about the validity and necessity of litigation filed against Interior, they did agree that the department needs to be more transparent about the process and do a much better job tracking settlement and attorneys' fees costs.  The history of lawsuits against Interior is like a black hole: vast, mysterious and seemingly inescapable, many said.  "Previous subcommittee efforts to learn more about the opaque litigation process and the true volume and nature of litigation at the Interior has produced little useful information," Johnson said, and yesterday's hearing did little to change that.  Interior's solicitor's office does not keep centralized records of litigation against the department, which has nine bureaus and more than 30 offices and manages one-fifth of the country's land.  A 2012 government accountability report, which lawmakers referred to yesterday, assessed how well the Interior and Agriculture departments monitored attorneys' fees disbursed through EAJA.  The agency concluded that "it is difficult to comprehensively determine the total number of claims filed for attorney fees, who received payments, in what amounts, and under what statutes."

House moves to block OMB from reviewing corps projects
Arianna Skibell and Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 29, 2017
House appropriators, in an unusual move, released legislation that would restrict the White House Office of Management and Budget's ability to assess Army Corps of Engineers water resource projects.  The financial services and general government bill, released yesterday, says no OMB funds can be used to evaluate or determine if water resource projects "are in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and requirements relevant to the Civil Works water resource planning process."  "Army Civil Works water resource planning" usually means environmental restoration, like a project to restore Florida's Everglades or Louisiana's wetlands.  When the Army Corps undertakes a project, it is required to perform technical analysis to ensure compliance with relevant laws and then send a report to OMB.  Historically, OMB's sole job was to perform cost-benefit analyses. If net benefits outweighed costs and the project was in line with the president's priorities, it would get the green light.  
Michael Strachn, senior adviser for Dawson & Associates with more than 40 years' experience with environmental policy, said that in recent years OMB has taken more of an interest in evaluating water resources planning.  "OMB has had a proclivity to get more and more involved in technical issues that are normally the purview of the corps," he said.  "My take is that this is a shot across the bow to tend to your knitting, do what you have historically done, and don't get too into the technical side."  Strachn said when OMB gets "into the knickers of the corps," it tends to slow projects and potentially derail them altogether. He speculated that appropriators might be frustrated about delays in their states.  "It's a bold move, relatively speaking," he said.  Even without the provision, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney may have his hands full reorganizing the federal government, and with fewer funds than he'd hoped for.  The bill, set for subcommittee markup today, would give the office $97 million — up from its current $95 million, but not quite the $103 million Mulvaney requested.
The general government spending bill would also prohibit funds from being used for the implementation of Federal Flood Risk Management Standards.Those standards were released in a 2015 executive order from President Obama and meant to discourage development in high-risk flood zones.  The executive order gives agencies three choices in how to determine what areas are safe for investing federal dollars. They can use data and methods based on "best-available, actionable climate science"; require buildings to be 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation; or require that infrastructure be built to at least the 500-year floodplain (E&E News PM, Jan. 30, 2015).  U.S. EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have all moved forward with the new standards, though none is finalized yet.  President Trump briefly considered revoking them in his March executive order directing EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, but ultimately left the standards out (Climatewire, June 19).  The spending bill also includes a rider from previous years meant to roll back Obama-era guidance on financing overseas power plant projects. The previous administration wanted to limit money for carbon-intensive facilities.  Reporter George Cahlink contributed.

The Largest Dredging Project in Gold Coast’s History Starts (Australia)

Protecting Gold Coast Beaches (w/ “rainbow” video)

New bid to limit house sizes in KDH faces an uphill battle 

North Carolina environmental groups readying for a fight against seismic testing in the Atlantic

Sea level rise isn't just happening, it's getting faster

Seismic tests as a steppingstone to Virginia offshore drilling raises excitement and concern 

Number crunchers prod Congress to consider sea-level risk
Erika Bolstad, E&E News, June 27, 2017
Nancy Watkins had some wonky questions for the group gathered for box lunches yesterday in a small conference room in a U.S. Senate office building.  How many people have flood insurance? And how many have fire insurance? How many people know someone whose home has caught on fire? And how many know someone who's had a flood?  Most people raised their hands at that final question, far more than for any other response.  "I'm trying to make a point here," Watkins said at the briefing on flood insurance for congressional staffers and media. "It's not really all that uncommon for rain to fall or for a river to rise and water to get into the house."
Yet so far, insurers have yet to factor in sea-level rise into flood insurance rates or coverage. They're just now beginning to consider how they might do it, said Watkins and other industry experts with the American Academy of Actuaries, an industry group.  They're urging Congress to consider sea-level rise and other factors in the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program this year.  Watkins, an insurance industry consultant, said she has spoken to a catastrophe modeler about sea-level rise. There's not currently a projection built into their models for sea-level rise, she said, but they can do what she described as "as-if scenario tests" in models. That means, for example, that if the sea level goes up 1 foot, the models assume their elevation goes down 1 foot. They can see what happens with those models and assign risk accordingly.  "You can see what happens if sea levels change," she said. "You don't have to know what the answer is to model what it could be."  But they are aware of the risk.
Stu Mathewson, a member of the academy's flood insurance work group, pointed out that the academy last year created the Actuaries Climate Index, a way of tracking the frequency of extreme climate events. It's designed to help actuaries, policymakers and the general public understand climate trends and their potential impact.  The index doesn't make any projections, he said, so it may be a little early for actuaries to factor it into their work assessing risk for insurers. But underwriters at various insurers might find it useful, Mathewson said. For example, they might choose to cut back on writing near-shore policies with lower elevation.  "It's out there, there's an index, and they can see things are on an upward rise on this index," he said.  The first index showed that the frequency of heat waves and extreme rain events is on the rise, along with sea levels (Climatewire, Dec. 1, 2016).
The American Academy of Actuaries warned in a policy report in April that sea-level rise and its future risks must be considered during any reauthorization of the federal flood insurance program. The report called on Congress to consider sea-level rise — among many other factors — as part of the reauthorization of the federally backed flood insurance program.  The academy also suggested in its paper that better mapping and data might help people with homes at risk of flooding by opening up the market to greater participation by private insurers and reinsurers. The program remains $24 billion in debt, in part because of large losses after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as losses last year after flooding in Louisiana and after Hurricane Matthew in the Carolinas.  The report found it would be impossible to maintain current premiums' coverage and eligibility in the face of sea-level rise without severe limits on construction or massive investments in infrastructure. Otherwise, the United States faces exposure to "enormous program losses" and additional debt.

Oak Island receives $750K toward pier rebuild, $5.2-million to help restore eroded beach

Large new island forms off popular Outer Banks fishing spot 

Beaufort County’s high tides will get especially high. Blame it on the moon (SC) 

House panel advances 5 flood insurance reform bills
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 21, 2017
The House Financial Services Committee advanced five flood insurance reform and reauthorization bills today.  The bills were passed during the second session of a markup that ultimately advanced seven bills as Congress races to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) before it expires in September (E&E Daily, June 16). The program owes $24 billion to the Treasury, and lawmakers have focused reform and reauthorization efforts on ways to erase that debt.
The "Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act," H.R. 1422, from Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), which would accelerate the development of the private insurance market, passed the committee unanimously, 58-0.  Ross said multiple private insurers are already providing policies to Florida residents, adding, "Floridians and all Americans would greatly benefit from more private market involvement."  He noted that NFIP policies only cover up to $250,000 in damages, do not cover living expenses for property owners while damages are being repaired, and do not cover financial losses for businesses affected by floods.  "The NFIP is limited in what it can cover, but the private sector is not," he said.  The bill was supported by committee ranking member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who called the bill "an example of real compromise."
The committee also advanced the "Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act," H.R. 1558, from Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), in a voice vote.  The bill would require communities with repeatedly flooded properties to map them and associated public infrastructure, and come up with plans to mitigate those properties.  "It is said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again," Royce said, describing how the NFIP  continues to pay claims to properties that have flooded multiple times in the past few years without mitigating their risk.
While the original bill would have required FEMA to suspend NFIP policies for communities with large numbers of repetitive loss properties that did not do enough to mitigate the causes, an amendment offered by Royce was passed that would turn FEMA suspension of NFIP policies into an option — but not a requirement — for the agency.  Waters pushed back against any prospect of suspending NFIP policies, noting that the bill did not include any federal funding to help communities mitigate repetitive loss properties.  "Just simply saying to communities they will be subject to sanctions for failing to take actions they can't afford to take is too much," she said.  Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said he was willing to let Royce's amendment through despite concerns that it would not present communities with the "appropriate carrot and stick to participate" in forming mitigation plans.  "I don't want it to be a toothless tiger," he said.  Royce joked back, defending the amendment: "The incisors may be gone, but the molars will still be there."
The "Taxpayer Exposure Mitigation Act of 2017," H.R. 2246, from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), which would repeal the mandatory flood insurance coverage requirement for commercial properties located in flood zones, passed the committee 36-24.  Waters called the bill "seriously misguided," arguing that businesses not required to obtain flood insurance would likely not do so, ultimately raising the costs of emergency response down the road.  But Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) took a more balanced view of the bill, noting that NFIP policies may not be a good fit for large businesses because of the $250,000 cap on federal policies.  "Companies that have several buildings in one block need both public and private insurance, because NFIP is not enough to cover the risk to high-rises and other large buildings," she said.  But she said she was concerned that the bill also would exempt smaller businesses from owning flood insurance.  "If you are not required to have insurance, the majority of people won't purchase it," she said.  Luetkemeyer defended his legislation, saying business owners clearly have a mind for financial risks and responsibilities and should be allowed to make their own choices. He also argued that they could be better served by private insurance.  "It should be a business decision between the lender and the business owner," he said.
The committee also passed a second bill from Luetkemeyer, H.R. 2565, in a 34-25 vote. The bill would require the use of replacement cost value in determining the premium rates for flood insurance coverage under the National Flood Insurance Act.
The committee also unanimously advanced the "National Flood Insurance Program Administrative Reform Act of 2017," H.R. 2875, from Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), which would prevent fraud and abuse in the program.  Several members speaking in favor of the bill noted that in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, many reports surfaced of abuses from private insurers that were allowed to write and service standard flood insurance policies in their own names.  "This bill would codify policyholder rights when it comes to appealing a claim," Waters said.

Topsail Dune Rule: Is Legislative Fix Possible?

Bogue Inlet markers in place again 

Beaches: State budget adds $5 million for storm repairs (SC) 

Virginia Beach City Council will oppose offshore oil and gas exploration

Coast Guard reestablishes navigation aids marking bogue inlet channel

Offshore Energy Debate Renews 

Stormwater flooding in South Carolina an expensive problem and a hot issue 

Short Term Dredging is Completed, but Connecting Channel isn’t Out of Hot Water Yet 

Buxton beach nourishment project to start on Saturday

Where $1B in coastal storm protection was spent in N.J. after Sandy
"The federal government and New Jersey have spent $1.05 billion on 11 major coastal storm protection projects since Hurricane Sandy decimated much of the state’s coastline on Oct. 29, 2012."

Oak Island OKs two-cent hike, unspecified assessments to fund major renourishment project 

Oak Island Town Council votes to increase taxes

'Edisto Attitude' helps SC beach town rebuild after Hurricane Matthew 

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

House committee advances first flood insurance reform bills
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E, June 16, 2017
The House Financial Services Committee advanced two bills yesterday aimed at revamping and reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.  The "National Flood Insurance Program Policyholder Protection Act," H.R. 2868, from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), passed 53-0. It would authorize a study of flood insurance coverage for urban properties and allow more flexibility for owners trying to prevent damage to high-rise buildings.  The "21st Century Flood Reform Act," H.R. 2874, from Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) passed 30-26. It seeks to improve the financial stability of the NFIP by increasing the role of private markets in flood insurance, among other things.  The bills are the first two of seven before the Financial Services Committee as Congress races to reauthorize the NFIP before it expires in September. The program owes $24 billion to the Treasury, and lawmakers have focused reform efforts on ways to ease that debt.  One of the more controversial aspects of Duffy's bill was a provision that would end grandfathering new construction after four years.  Currently, the NFIP allows homeowners to pay subsidized rates for properties that predate the NFIP but adhere to housing codes from their time of construction. The NFIP also offers subsidized rates for homeowners whose property was not in a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone when built but ended up there when the agency updated its maps.
Ranking member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) pushed back against an end to new grandfathering, saying people should not be punished for "doing everything right" and building to code.  "It is not fair to have them be responsible for higher costs they never had anticipated," she said.  Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) countered by saying innocent taxpayers will ultimately have to pay for subsidized flood insurance rates.  He said, "The single mom in my district who drives the UPS truck did everything right, so why is she being penalized and asked to subsidize new construction? Somebody's got to bear this risk. Why not the person who bought the property?"  New York Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Gregory Meeks said they feared limiting grandfathering for new construction would slow economic development. They also worried about forcing new construction onto an underdeveloped private flood insurance market.
Duffy defended his legislation.  "If we have new construction in dangerous areas, do we want to take that risk onto the federal government, or do we say, well, if there is a private market, let's let them take it?" he asked.  "If we build more properties that are nicer properties in more dangerous areas, then when storms hit we can't be shocked that the cost to cover damage to these homes is also going to increase."  Democrats also expressed concerns with elements of Duffy's bill that would increase premiums and fees for policyholders. Though Duffy calculated that the average NFIP policyholder's premium would only increase $42 between fiscal 2016 and 2017, Democrats argued it was not affordable for low-income owners.  "I have said from the very beginning that my main priority, when it comes to flood insurance, is affordability, and that is what bothers me," Waters said.  Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) disagreed, saying raising the cap on premium increases from 5 to 8 percent is a way to mitigate loss to the program.  "If we cannot mitigate the risk we are insuring, then maybe it is not insurance we are providing but assistance," he said.  Duffy agreed. Whether Democrats "want to argue it's global warming or that we are building more homes in dangerous areas," he said, "the cost of recovery is going up."  The committee yesterday only tackled two of the seven bills on its docket. It will reconvene Wednesday to mark up the rest:
The "Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act," H.R. 1422, from Ross and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), to accelerate the development of the private insurance market.
The "Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act," H.R. 1558, from Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), to require communities with repeatedly flooded properties to map those properties and associated public infrastructure.
The "Taxpayer Exposure Mitigation Act of 2017," H.R. 2246, from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), to repeal the mandatory flood insurance coverage requirement for commercial properties located in flood zones.
H.R. 2565, also from Luetkemeyer, to require the use of replacement cost value in determining the premium rates for flood insurance coverage under the National Flood Insurance Act.
The "National Flood Insurance Program Administrative Reform Act of 2017," H.R. 2875, from Velazquez, to prevent fraud and abuse in the program.

NOAA opens public comment period related to seismic blasting

Storm protection: 10 things to know about East Shore seawall project (NY)

Kill Devil Hills Board puts a lid on talk of taller hotels 

KDH Board says 'No' to raising hotel heights 

This Hilton Head private beach reopened after hurricane damage

Mayor of Tangier Island says he got a call from President Trump. And they talked about sea level rise

Outer Banks beach widening ahead of schedule as sunbathers watch

Floodwalls, sand dunes and wetlands: Norfolk residents weigh in on possible flood-prevention steps

Flood insurance in Norfolk just got a little cheaper for homeowners

New ships may control fate of Charleston's eroding Crab Bank shorebird rookery

Mark Sanford, environmental groups in race against clock to stop offshore drilling

Coastal flooding increasing by ‘leaps and bounds’ in South Carolina, Georgia

Southeast Virginia region ranks No. 5 nationwide for storm-surge risk

County wants to update 25-year-old management plan 

Drilling, Seismic Opponents Rally … Again

Could Oak Island Levy a 10-cent tax to pay for beach nourishment?

Oak Island decision on beach nourishment, financial options drawing near

New Seismic Permitting Process Begins 

Concerned about seismic testing? Tell NOAA

Panel debates flood insurance rate caps, privatization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 8, 2017
Lawmakers grappled with dueling priorities of keeping flood insurance affordable while tying insurance rates to risk during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday.  The hearing touched on a package of six drafted bills, one of which would increase the annual limit on premium increases under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from 5 to 8 percent. Other bills in the package would focus funding on mitigation, including one that would fund buyouts of properties that suffer repeated severe losses.  Caitlin Berni, vice president for policy and communication at Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development organization, told lawmakers that any allowed rate bump was too much.  "I am concerned it will increase the cost of the policy," she said.
But Taxpayers for Common Sense Vice President Steve Ellis, along with other witnesses, argued lawmakers should oppose any "artificial rate cap" and instead fund mitigation efforts.  "Rates are a clear communication of risk and provide incentives to mitigate, a far better way to reduce rates than by maintaining the risk and subsidizing the rate," he said.  Ellis said he favored providing rate assistance to "those who need it," but that insurance rates should ultimately be related to the actual flood risk of a property, with homeowners able to earn credits for improving their homes.  Congress, he said, should "encourage and fund mitigation measures that could serve to reduce rates by reducing risks."  "These mitigation efforts should be targeted at higher-risk and lower-income property owners," he said.  Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) appeared to favor mitigation funding, criticizing Berni for opposing premium increases.  "Are you advocating that this should be a continued subsidy, that it is the taxpayer who should make up this shortfall?" he asked.
Rebecca Kagan Sternhell, deputy director and general counsel of New York City's Office of Federal Affairs, said she was concerned about another draft bill that would eliminate NFIP's practice of subsidizing flood insurance rates for homes that were originally built in compliance with building codes of the time, even if they are currently out of date.
She defended "grandfathering," saying, "If you built to code at the time, you shouldn't be penalized for the world changing around you."  That rankled Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), who noted that grandfathered properties are not owned by "only poor people."  He argued wealthy policyholders who own grandfathered properties are unjustly being subsidized by "all other ratepayers" who are paying more expensive rates, including lower-income families.  "I find it outrageous we have a program where poor people are subsidizing rich people who can afford it," he said.
On the other side of the debate, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said he was in favor of funding more mitigation but was worried that the draft proposals would make it more difficult for "those families that are most at risk to obtain the affordable insurance."  A number of the draft proposals would cede segments of the insurance market, like new construction in floodplains, to private insurers.  That idea split the panel of witnesses, with Berni and Sternhell worrying that forcing homeowners into the private market would automatically increase their insurance rates.  "We do not object to people going out and getting private insurance — if they go out and get a better price, go ahead, but we don't want to force them," Sternhell said.  They also worried that allowing private insurers to compete with NFIP for customers could result in lower-risk properties being privately insured while leaving NFIP financially unsound with the higher-risk properties.  But Ellis and R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a free market think tank, disagreed.  Lehmann argued that because homeowners living within 100-year floodplains are required to buy flood insurance, NFIP is "already a high-risk pool."  "There are by and large no cherries to pick," he said.  Ellis agreed, saying fears about "cherry-picking" are "simplistic" and that insurance companies would want to hold some higher-risk policies in order to make more money.  He also noted that competition for policies would incentivize private companies to offer better or cheaper policies.

Oak Island considering $3 million beach renourishment contract

NOAA sets table for seismic testing offshore, including off South Carolina

Trump opposition adds new hurdle to revenue-sharing debate
Geof Koss, E&E News, June 6, 2017 
Republicans and oil companies are vowing to push ahead with their long-standing efforts to expand the sharing of federal offshore drilling revenues with coastal states, despite the unexpected opposition of a key federal official: President Trump.  The administration caught top GOP allies off guard last month with the release of its fiscal 2018 budget request, which called for the repeal of state payments under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).  That law, enacted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, allowed four Gulf of Mexico states — Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas — to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts.  At the time, the bill included caps on the annual payments for the first 10 years, a move that facilitated passage by lowering the measure's deficit impact. Payments are set to rise significantly this year.  Proponents of expanding the revenue-sharing formula nationally were gearing up for another try, confident they would have Trump's support. Then the budget came out.  In documents related to the spending plan, the Interior Department said repealing GOMESA would "ensure the sale of public resources from Federal waters owned by all Americans, benefit all Americans."  Gulf Coast states, it noted, "currently receive significant economic benefits from activity in their States associated with offshore energy development and are further set to receive additional benefits from the payout of the $20.8 billion BP oil spill settlement agreement reached in 2015."  Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was among those surprised by the administration's position because it echoed President Obama's fiscal 2016 request, which sought to "redirect" the GOMESA payments to national watershed and conservation programs.  Murkowski said about the Trump proposal last month, "That one got my attention because it is not unlike what we saw coming out of the last administration."
As they did with the previous administration, Murkowski said she expected congressional lawmakers to ignore the new president's idea.  "I know that there's been every effort made to make sure that this budget that was laid down balances, but, boy, that's sure going to be a tough lift for the people in the Gulf states to come around and support anything like that," she said. "I certainly don't."  Not only will lawmakers ignore the president, Murkowski and other drilling boosters say the budget would not deter her push to expand the revenue-sharing formula.  Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who invoked Trump's win last year and the prospect of more drilling to pressure Democrats into expanded revenue sharing to Alaska and Atlantic states, is one of those undeterred lawmakers (E&E Daily, Nov. 16, 2016).  "Unfortunately, D.C. folks want to have power retained by D.C. folks," he said before the Memorial Day recess. "The Obama administration went after this, too. The idea of giving it to a state and letting federalism work, allow the state to do that which is needed, for whatever reason, offends folks here." Cassidy noted that under Louisiana's amended Constitution, the GOMESA funds are legally required to be used to restore the state's rapidly eroding coastline.  "We're going to protect those dollars," he said. "In our state, we're losing all this land as we speak, and so that's what we're going to use to rebuild our coastline."

Cassidy's Senate predecessor, former Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), didn't mince words in discussing Trump's call to repeal GOMESA — one of her signature legislative achievements in the three terms she served in the upper chamber.  "It's shocking, it's disappointing, it's upsetting, it's insulting," Landrieu said in a phone interview with E&E News last week. "I can't think of enough words to say what it is, and I hope it was a mistake. I hope they rethink it."  Landrieu recounted that GOMESA was borne out of her frustration that Western states split onshore mineral extraction revenues with the federal government, which she called "a cornerstone of Western land policy" dating back to the 1920s.  She credits such revenue sharing for the broad support Western states have for resource development "because they're basically treated as respected partners." Coastal states, on the other hand, "have been, in my view, shortchanged for decades," she said.  During her first term, Landrieu pushed a broad resource bill that would have created a nationwide coastal restoration program, funded by federal oil and gas revenues. She says the measure had more than 60 votes in the Senate, but then-Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) refused to bring it up for a vote.  After Hurricane Katrina struck, devastating New Orleans and highlighting Louisiana's fragile coastline, Landrieu said she put together the more narrow measure that President George W. Bush eventually signed.  "I never came to Washington just to get money for Louisiana," she said last week. "Even though that was my No. 1 goal, I thought all coastal states — and still do — need help.  "But it ... just ended up being four states. So that's why it's sort of like pouring salt on the wound when people say to me, 'Well, why should we fund this program just for four states?'"
'Extension ... more likely'
Despite Trump's GOMESA repeal proposal, the new administration's push to rewrite Obama's five-year offshore drilling plan has actually prompted an effort to expand the law.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last month introduced legislation, S. 1041, to extend a 125-mile ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf.  That moratorium — a key part of the negotiations that led to GOMESA's enactment — expires in 2022. Rubio's bill would extend the ban through 2027 but would also allow Florida to qualify for GOMESA revenue sharing (E&E News PM, May 5).  "This would give Florida a new source of funding, and recognize that as long as our shores shoulder some of the risk, it's only fair that Floridians share in some of the benefit," he wrote in an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal last month.  In an analysis issued shortly after the budget's release, ClearView Energy Partners LLC said the underlying political dynamics "could make GOMESA extension under existing terms more likely than GOMESA revision or rescission."  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last month told reporters there would be discussions with critics of the proposed GOMESA repeal but suggested new economic opportunities would eventually mitigate the fears (Energywire, May 24).  But Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said last week the administration's position hasn't lessened the group's support for revenue sharing.  "You look at all the great benefits it's provided up and down the coast," he told E&E News, singling out Louisiana in particular. "Great jobs, well-paying jobs, opportunities for them to do some environmental restoration. It's all a win-win, and I think it's just an equitable way to think about energy policy."

Feds take step toward allowing Atlantic exploration
Nathanial Gronewold, E&E News, June 5, 2017
The Trump administration is proposing to approve five ocean seismic survey companies' requests to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, prompting fury from environmentalists.  This morning, the National Marine Fisheries Service posted draft authorizations for firms to incidentally harm marine mammals while employing seismic airguns for exploration of hydrocarbons off the East Coast. The technology sends sound waves deep into the Earth's crust, monitoring the "echoes" to determine the likelihood of hitting sufficient crude oil and natural gas reserves.  The proposed authorizations will be officially published tomorrow morning in the Federal Register, kicking off a 30-day comment period.
The move was widely anticipated after President Trump repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to open up more onshore and offshore federal leases to oil and gas drilling. He signed an executive order in April calling for considering parts of the Atlantic for possible drilling (Greenwire, April 28).  Ocean conservation groups blasted the proposed permits, saying they will harm whales and other marine life.  The five draft incidental take permits, or incidental harassment authorizations, essentially would absolve seismic survey companies of responsibility should they inadvertently harm, harass or kill marine mammals in the course of their activities.  "Deafening whales and dolphins to hunt for dirty oil in these sensitive coastal environments is reckless and cruel," Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.  CBD also argued that the decision goes against the wishes of coastal communities along the Eastern Seaboard. The authorizations would cover an area stretching from Cape Canaveral off Florida north to the mouth of Delaware Bay, extending east throughout the United States' exclusive economic zone.  "According to the government's own estimates, seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more," said Oceana. The Southern Environmental Law Center also slammed the move.  
Seismic survey companies employ mitigation efforts aimed at avoiding harming marine life while conducting airgun surveys. Some firms have also been known to invite conservation groups to monitor the work or to serve as spotters alerting vessels to the presence of marine life that can be potentially harmed by their work. Companies also follow federal protocols designed to protect animals.  The Obama administration had earlier considered seismic exploration for oil and gas in the Atlantic and had even proposed lease sales in Atlantic waters, but later President Obama rescinded those decisions, citing community opposition and the oil price crash that began in mid-2014. Obama's Interior Department also pulled back on plans to sell offshore oil and gas exploration leases in the Arctic Ocean.  Trump has long promised to reverse those decisions. Green groups are vowing to fight back.
Monsell said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can reject permits if they go against mandates under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.  "We'll be commenting, urging the administration to deny these harmful applications," CBD's Monsell said in an email. "Before any seismic [test] can occur, BOEM will also need to issue permits and do supplemental analysis under NEPA and the ESA to analyze the impacts of seismic blasting on North Atlantic right whales and other imperiled species. We believe such analysis should lead to rejection of the permits given the significant, unnecessary harm to marine life already struggling to survive."  The Natural Resources Defense Council is eyeing alliances with the fishing industry to push back against Atlantic oil and gas exploration.  Michael Jasny, director of NRDC's Marine Mammal Protection Project, said post-seismic airgun tests can result in "net losses in catch by 40 to 80 percent" for the fishing industry.  Rick Baumann, founder and owner of Murrells Inlet Seafood in South Carolina, expressed his determination to oppose the permits in a call with reporters organized by NRDC this morning.  "It should be obvious to anyone who looks at this issue seriously that seismic blasting and offshore drilling are a real threat to our way of life and our ability to provide fresh seafood to the public," Baumann said. "It is very difficult for us to understand how the U.S. government would seriously entertain" the companies' requests, he added.
Industry earlier applauded the administration's decision to reconsider the applications to conduct seismic surveys.  "Existing resource estimates for the Atlantic [outer continental shelf] are based on data collected from seismic surveys conducted more than 30 years ago," Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in a release at the time. "As the Trump administration moves forward in developing a new Five Year Program for offshore oil and gas exploration, new surveys using modern technology are vital to providing an up-to-date and scientifically accurate picture of the offshore oil and gas resources off our Atlantic seaboard."  Following the oil price plunge from $100 per barrel to as low as $26 per barrel, interest in exploring for crude in the Atlantic and Arctic virtually evaporated. Offshore exploration activity in the Gulf of Mexico fell by more than half as companies shied away from offshore drilling. But with steadying crude prices in the $50-per-barrel-range, oil companies are again eyeing opportunities in ocean energy exploration. The number of active rigs employed in the Gulf of Mexico has stabilized.

One way Beaufort County residents are protecting homes from next hurricane: By moving them (SC)

Floods, sea rise might take bigger toll on estuary properties than beaches in South Carolina

Pilkey: The Paris agreement, climate change, NC coast and rising seas

Panel seeks 'taxpayer's perspective' on flood insurance
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News, June 5, 2017
The House Financial Services Committee will continue its discussion of flood insurance on Wednesday with a hearing aimed at getting "a taxpayer's perspective."  At issue is the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, which will expire at the end of September.  This week's hearing is the latest on the program for the Financial Services panel.  Earlier this year, NFIP chief Roy Wright told lawmakers that he doesn't know how the program could repay the $24.6 billion it owes to the Treasury (E&E Daily, March 10).  Lawmakers have begun floating solutions of their own, including forgiving the debt and opening up more of the flood insurance market to the private sector.  The Government Accountability Office has noted that expanding private insurance options could allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to focus on better flood mapping and mitigation (E&E News PM, April 27).  According to a report the watchdog released last month, a larger private footprint and a more focused FEMA "could address the policy goal of reducing federal fiscal exposure while promoting flood resilience."
Schedule:  The hearing is Wednesday, June 7, at 10:30 a.m. in 2128 Rayburn.

2017 Hurricane Season Preview (NEW - Shore Protection Office Newsletter)

Bag Ban Repeal, Topsail Dune Rule Advance

Coastal communities preparing for hurricane season

The World is Running Out of Sand 

Business View: ‘No Good Reason For Drilling’

Trump Opens Carolina Coast To Seismic Blasting 

Funding ‘for now’ for NC beach projects  

With Feds Reversal on Seismic, What’s Next?

Trump budget kills offshore oil revenue sharing for Louisiana, other Gulf states

How Rising Seas and Coastal Storms Drowned the U.S. Flood Insurance Program

Beach Nourishment Project Update for Buxton 

Voice TV: Get a close-up look at beach widening in Duck

Myrtle Beach awarded long-awaited money to rebuild its beach

Army Corps of Engineers is using Norfolk as a model to fight off coastal flooding

Charleston port on its way to East Coast's deepest harbor with federal dollars in hand

Bogue Inlet getting new navigational channel 

Big dredge arrives off Duck; nourishment could start overnight 

BOEM Aids Dare County, North Carolina, in Rebuilding Coastal Shoreline This Summer

Report: Inland Cities Could See Influx Of Residents As Sea Level Rises

Study: Rising seas could influence NC migration patterns 

The Netherlands to Increase Beach Nourishment Activities

Going deep: Ports in Virginia and Charleston compete for bigger ships, deeper harbors

Bogue Inlet more confusing

South Carolina beaches get ready for tourist season; Edisto on the rebound from Hurricane Matthews

Focusing on military's approach to sea level rise, filmmaker hopes to disarm some disbelievers 

No red, right, return

KDH Planning Board denies proposal to limit home sizes 

New Video on Connecting Channel Dredging Released by Dare County

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
May 22, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

Coast Guard temporarily discontinues navigational aids in Bogue Inlet

NEWS RELEASE - US Coast Guard to Remove Aids to Navigation in “Old” Bogue Inlet Connecting Channel; Is Expected to Re-position ATON to “New” Channel in June

PLF asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear Nies case

5/17/17 Update - 

Meet the floating vacuum cleaner that's moving 1.7 million tons of sand from the bottom of the bay to Ocean View

Feds announce re-start of seismic testing process

Report: Sea level rise could threaten 65,000 Beaufort County residents, even inland (SC)

It’s time for new shoreline vision for Hunting Island

Oak Island dune repair on hold

Get off the beach mound. Officials say it’s not a sandbox, it’s a hurricane-damaged dune.

Permit shows North Myrtle Beach ok’d seawall construction in 2007 

Murrells Inlet: County will dredge deeper in Marsh Walk channels

Feds push new seismic testing in Atlantic 

Hold line against offshore oil


5/15/17 Update - 

Beach nourishment set to begin off Duck around May 20

5/11/17 Update - 

NEWS RELEASE - DOI/BOEM Processing Applications for G&G Survey Permits in Atlantic 

Department of Interior announces re-start of seismic testing process

Work expected to begin in Duck beach nourishment project

Cahoon Gavels First CRC Meeting as Chair

First OBX sea turtle nest found; earliest since 2002 

Geodynamics: Mapping Beaches, Inlets

Q&A: Renee Cahoon ready for her new role as CRC chair 

One more time: N.C. 12 closed to rebuild dune in Kitty Hawk

Carolina Beach nourishment money 'in limbo'

Tips now that turtle nesting season is underway

Outer Banks oceanfront rental: With 24 bedrooms, is it still a single-family home?

5/8/17 Update - 

Saving Brunswick County beaches might cost when you go out to eat

Irish beach washed away 33 years ago reappears overnight after freak tide 

Editorial: Imprudent planning

5 things to know about California Supreme Court case on seawalls 

Get down with it: The dredge Liberty Island helps shore up a Norfolk Beach

The Trump administration may expand oil drilling. Local mayors say it’s a bad idea. 

Court to decide if state can cap sea walls at 20 years
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter, May 5, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO — California Supreme Court justices yesterday scrutinized state rules on sea walls in a case that could impact myriad homes on bluffs and beaches affected by climate change.  Nine high court justices heard oral arguments in Lynch et al vs. California Coastal Commission. It focuses on Encinitas, Calif., homeowners Barbara Lynch and neighbor Thomas Frick, who sued the commission after the agency put conditions on a replacement sea wall. They needed it after extreme storms in 2011 destroyed an earlier barrier.  The commission issued a permit but said it expired in 20 years. The agency required Lynch and Frick to file with the San Diego County recorder deeds attached to their homes that stipulated the conditions.  The court's decision could establish a major precedent on the state's ability to police sea walls more stringently as seas rise. The concrete structures contribute to sand loss, the commission argues. With the walls acting as a fixed back of the beach, higher water could make the sandy beach disappear.  Questions from the justices focused heavily on the state's contention that the homeowners waived their right to legally appeal because they accepted the permit the commission issued in 2011 and erected a 100-foot concrete structure beneath both homes.  John Groen, attorney for the families, argued that's separate from the state law giving residents the right to sue if they file papers within the required time frame.  "So actually undertaking the construction in no way waived their rights?" asked Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, who was nominated for the court by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).  Groen, who works for the Pacific Legal Foundation, said that the families erected a sea wall that met all the requirements of the coastal commission, and that those criteria mitigated environmental losses. The Lynch family has said the wall plus legal fees have cost $1 million. It should last 75 years, he said.  Justice Carol Corrigan, nominated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said, "Now there's a great big wall there, which is quite different from a piece of paper."  She added that the families had the right to challenge the commission's permit conditions they disliked, "but they went ahead and built the great big sea wall, and that changes the circumstances going forward."  Hayley Peterson, representing the California attorney general's office, said the commission imposed the time limit on the wall "based on the impacts the wall could have in 20 years." She later added that "with sea-level rise and the great uncertainty, and the uncertainty about how quickly" it will happen, there needs to be a mechanism to look at the permit again.  Outside the courtroom, Groen said the justices focused on the waiver issue because they have to get past that before deciding whether the coastal commission acted within the purview of the California Coastal Act when it imposed the 20-year cap on the permit. The Pacific Legal Foundation is handling the case for free. Groen said the other issues in the case are covered in legal briefs.
Potential for broader impact
The California Supreme Court typically releases a decision within 90 days.  The case comes as the state Legislature is looking at sea walls. Assemblyman Mark Stone's A.B. 1129 would change the rules on erecting the barriers. Under the bill, any structures that alter natural shoreline processes could receive permits only if the home they protect was built by Jan. 1, 1977. That's when the Coastal Act took effect.  Right now, there are limits on sea walls for houses constructed after the Coastal Act took effect. The commission has said those people need to find a way to build a safe home without a wall.  Jon Corn, an attorney who represented the Lynches and Fricks in San Diego Superior Court, said currently the commission asks people in that situation to waive their right to a wall. But if their home is in danger, they can still build a wall. A.B. 1129 would change it so any homes built after Jan. 1, 1977, could not get a sea wall, he said.  In addition to the state precedent likely to be set by the case, it could have broader impacts. Barbara Lynch died in 2016, and her adult children are advancing the case. Her daughter Jennifer Lynch said if the families lose and the Pacific Legal Foundation continued to act pro bono, they'd likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jennifer Lynch, who is an attorney, said it would be a good case for the federal high court, as her family's suit raises the issue of the constitutional rights of homeowners to protect their property. The state high court, she said, is trying to balance that with the California Coastal Commission's interests.  Lynch said she's concerned that the coastal commission might ask the Legislature for additional authority over sea walls if the agency loses the case.
"It seems like they're trying to step on the property rights of owners," Jennifer Lynch said.  She attended the hearing with her sister, Peggy Lynch, and Marian Frick, wife of Thomas Frick.  Groen said in the hearing that the 20-year limit on the sea wall is aimed at giving the commission another review of the barricade if there is a change in state policy on the walls. The Legislature could decide, he said, to deny sea wall permits or change the existing rule that the state must allow a sea wall to protect existing structures.  Corrigan asked, "What if there is a change in the ocean, where the tide is hitting the sea wall" or the bluff on either side is eroding?   Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar, who was appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson (R), said there's a legal argument that the 20-year limit on the sea walls amounts to a legal "taking" of the homeowners' property because it greatly affects property values.  Peterson with the state attorney general's office responded that "most land use regulations cause a diminution" in property values. She contended it wasn't the 20-year cap that presents the problem, but rather that the home had been built on an 80-foot bluff.  Werdegar responded that the owners, if they tried to sell, would have to tell a prospective buyer about the 20-year limit.  Peterson said that "the fact that the commission may deny this in 20 years does not constitute a taking today." Groen later said that the current lawsuit does not claim a taking but that "there may be a taking in the future, there may be a taking now." It depends on whether the commission's 20-year condition on the sea wall is upheld.

Families: With bluff homes, sea walls can't wait
There were questions about whether the commission should have waited to issue the permit for the sea wall, knowing the homeowners had filed a lawsuit. Peterson said that commission staff "has no discretion to withhold a permit once the conditions have been met." If they had withheld it, she said, "there would have been a different lawsuit filed."  Associate Justice Goodwin Liu, a Brown appointee, said because of this case, it seems like "one of two things will happen." The commission could hold permits until all litigation is finished, or there could be a flurry of litigation after people get permits with conditions they dislike because there's "nothing to lose."  "Neither seems very palatable as a result," Liu said.
Justices asked whether the families should have applied for an emergency permit to build the sea wall instead of using the one that had conditions. That came after Groen said the homes were in danger without the wall, and it was unrealistic to ask the families to wait, given that the permit was approved in 2011 and the case took six years to reach the state Supreme Court.  "They're hanging out there with a home on a bluff," Groen said.  He said the homeowners already were trying to secure a permanent permit when those storms hit. It would impose extra time and costs for them to have to go back and apply for an emergency permit after winning the permanent one with the 20-year limit.  Peterson said there are at least three sea walls with emergency permits within 1 mile of the Lynch and Frick homes.  The homeowners also sought to replace the lower part of a staircase to the beach in 2011 that the storm destroyed. The commission denied that, saying it was inconsistent with the city of Encinitas' local coastal plan, a development rulebook required by the commission.  Peterson said that the bluffs in Encinitas are subject to landslides, and that bolting staircases into the hillside contributes to their erosion. Groen said President Obama declared a disaster area in the region after the 2011 storms. The homeowners don't need a permit to replace property destroyed in a disaster, he said.  The families pay for sand replacement as one of their environmental mitigations. Peterson said when they calculated their fee for that, they based it on 30 years, not 75, even though they've claimed that the wall they erected will last for 75 years.  In the commission staff's experience, she added, most walls only last two decades as they're battered by waves.  Generally, you need to make significant repairs or replace the existing sea wall," Peterson said.

Mitigation funding key to flood insurance reform
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, May 5, 2017
Money for mitigation efforts is key to bringing the National Flood Insurance Program out of debt, a panel of experts told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee yesterday.  "Mitigation is how we work our way out of it," said Larry Larson, senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers.  Up for reauthorization this year, the National Flood Insurance Program is $24.6 billion in debt, and lawmakers have spent weeks hearing from experts about possible solutions.  Michael Hecht, speaking for the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance, said the group supports gradually increasing insurance rates to make them more representative of the actual flood risks properties face.
But flood mitigation could help relieve the potential burden on policy holders, he said, by decreasing their risk of needing to rely on those policies.  "To the degree that we can put funds into mitigation upfront, and do that mitigation upfront, that will allay the need to subsidize policies down the road," Hecht said.  Steve Ellis, vice president for Taxpayers for Common Sense, agreed. "The best way to reduce rates is to reduce risk," he said.  
That idea had traction among committee members from both sides of the aisle. "We need to do a lot more on mitigation," said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). "That is part of how you control cost."  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called mitigation "a vital part of NFIP's flood resilience efforts." She said, "Low-interest loans to elevate or proof structures could lower premiums and decrease government subsidization."  Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) agreed. "If we help subsidize mitigation," he said, "then the property is safe."  Lawmakers have previously expressed interest in privatizing a segment of the flood insurance market as a way to lessen the burden on NFIP.
That's a view Ellis said he supports, noting private insurers could also compete with NFIP and provide more affordable rates, particularly to people living in low-risk floodplains.  "We want to see more people with flood insurance," he said.  Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said he thought private insurance could be a good option for wealthier homeowners who live on the coasts, noting that the NFIP caps its payouts at $250,000.  "Those home values are way beyond what NFIP can handle," he said. "That's where private insurance comes in."

5/4/17 Update 

Team Tracks Ocean Energy From Land, Sea (Part II of II)

Legal Action Taken Against Offshore Drilling 

Tybee Island mayor looking for federal funding for beach, dune development 

The Shape of the Coast and the National Flood Insurance Program 
(Click LINK)

Wealthy Homeowners Take on Oystermen in War for the Coast

Updates on Ocracoke and Hatteras Dredging Projects

County chips in $12.5 million for Nags Head project

Project Looks to Tap Gulf Stream’s Energy 

What Trump’s offshore drilling plans mean for NC coast 

Dare OKs covering half of Nags Head’s $26 million beach project 

Residents react to the first dredge of the Cherry Grove canals

Seismic companies appeal for permits to do Atlantic oil and gas surveys 

Economics of Atlantic oil plan still don't add up

Supreme Court to decide who wins beach protection as tide rises
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
ENCINITAS, Calif. — Barbara Lynch once saw her home on a coastal bluff here as a dream retirement sanctuary, a place to gaze at a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and gather with grandchildren. Then, in late 2010, a series of severe storms savaged the region.  The hillside beneath Lynch's home partly collapsed. A wooden wall erected at the base toppled over. An engineer deemed the 80-foot-high bluff in danger of further structural failure.   Now the modest, two-story brown house bedecked with brightly colored flowers — and the one next door — sits at the center of a California Supreme Court case likely to set a statewide precedent on homeowners' rights to erect sea walls and the state's ability to police those structures.  The California Coastal Commission in 2011 granted a permit for a replacement sea wall but put a 20-year duration on it. The Lynch family and next-door neighbors Thomas and Marian Frick must obtain authorization for a new permit in 2031. The homeowners said that amounted to a financial taking of their property. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in the lawsuit Thursday.  It's the first case to reach the high court that looks at a key climate change issue. It pits the rights of homeowners to protect their property from sea-level rise against the state's desire to constrain sea walls, in order to preserve beaches for all residents. Concrete structures contribute to sand loss, experts said.  
Barbara Lynch died in 2016. Her adult children now are advancing the case. Before her death, Lynch appeared in a video made by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which now represents the homeowners. She talked of her love for the home and lamented the Coastal Commission's action.  "The bluff was our property to keep up. It was our responsibility," she said. "All of a sudden, it's [the Coastal Commission's], which is a little hard to understand, why they can just take that property and say what they can do with it or what we are allowed to do with it."  The Coastal Commission said it needs to protect the beach. While not specifically talking about the Lynch-Frick case, Madeline Cavalieri, coastal planner at the agency, said Californians cherish state beaches and want to keep them healthy. The commission has jurisdiction over most development in 15 counties along 1,100 miles of coastline.  "It's easy to think about it from the perspective of the homeowner," Cavalieri said. "We need to keep thinking about it from the perspective of the public, for our economy, for our resources and really for our way of life in California, because our way of life is so tied to the beach and access to the beaches."  Sea walls and similar protections take up space where visitors otherwise could sit. They also stop the beach from moving landward as the shoreline erodes, she said.  "As the sea level rises, the erosion, the inland migration of the shoreline, is going to increase a lot more," Cavalieri said. When shoreline protection is fixed in a location, "the beach becomes inundated more and more by water, to the point where eventually it will be lost completely, narrowed until it's eliminated."

Wide-reaching implications
The case could reverberate across the Golden State as climate change causes the seas and rivers to rise. That has prompted the California Building Industry Association, the California Association of Realtors, the League of California Cities, the California Cattlemen's Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Surfrider Foundation and others to file legal arguments.  If the court rules for the homeowners, "it would not bode well for future efforts by California governments at the state and local level to try and plan, and act proactively, to keep their options open to assess the future impacts of sea-level rise and storm surges along the coast," said Rick Frank, director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at the University of California, Davis.  Should the court side with the state, he said, it will give planning agencies some security that "it's permissible to make their permitting decisions and make their land-use planning decisions with a firm eye on climate change" and its future impacts.  The Supreme Court hearing comes as a number of lawsuits on sea walls move through lower courts in California, said Deborah Sivas, a professor of environmental law at Stanford University. There is notable beach erosion in places like northern San Diego County, and homeowners, green groups and cities are fighting over rules.  It also could cause ripples beyond California, Frank said. Other states similarly are grappling with how to deal with climate change and property rights, he said.
"My hunch is this case, depending on how broadly or how narrowly it's written, and regardless of which way it goes, could have significant influence in other states, as well, not just in California," Frank said.  If the high court sides with the state, the families could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it's an unconstitutional taking of private property, Sivas said. She wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in the case for the Surfrider Foundation, which supports the Coastal Commission's ability to police sea walls.  The case has three components. The first is procedural. The Coastal Commission in its decision put the 20-year limit on the wall and required that Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick record that condition with the county, as part of deeds tied to the homes. The families did so. As a result, the state argues that they accepted the terms. There was no option for accepting the authorization under protest, the state argues in court filings.  There's a chance that the state Supreme Court could just address that component, Sivas said. If that happened, the case's ruling would likely have no impact on sea walls.  The other two parts of the case focus on a request to replace stairs to the beach destroyed by the storms and on the reach of the California Coastal Act, an expansive protection law. A major goal of that law is to protect the beach for all residents, a state filing in the case said.
"The Legislature adopted the Coastal Act to 'protect, maintain and where feasible restore the overall quality of the coastal zone environment and its natural and artificial resources" and to "[m]aximize public access to and along the coast," the state told the Supreme Court. It's to be done "consistent with sound resources conservation principles and constitutionally protected rights of private property owners."  In the Lynch-Frick lawsuit, the state argues the Coastal Commission has the purview to look at the appropriateness of a sea wall in 20 years, given how much the beach could transform in that time with climate change.  The Coastal Act mostly prohibits sea walls for homes built after the passage of that law in 1976. Houses built before that were grandfathered in. But if homeowners make revisions beyond half the home's value, it's then considered new and then would not qualify for a sea wall.  The Coastal Commission right now isn't using the 20-year limit imposed in the Lynch-Frick case. Instead, for grandfathered-in homes that qualify, it's allowing sea walls based on the economic life of the property protected. That's generally considered 75 years. If there are home changes of more than 50 percent of the value, however, in general it must be built without a sea wall.

Eminent domain vs. 'managed retreat'
The homeowners after the Coastal Commission decision sued and won in San Diego Superior Court. The state Courts of Appeal overturned it, deciding for the Coastal Commission. The families appealed to the Supreme Court.  John Groen, an attorney for the families, said, "The right to protect your property, it's protected by the California Constitution; it's also protected by the [California] Coastal Act." Groen works for the Pacific Legal Foundation.  Putting a 20-year permit on the sea wall "really reaches too far," Groen said. "It converts what's allowed under the Coastal Act as a permanent structure and turns it into a temporary structure." Expecting homeowners to reapply for a sea wall after 20 years isn't reasonable given their expense, said Jennifer Lynch, daughter of Barbara and Jack Lynch, who died in 2001. The sea wall, including analyses, permitting and construction, cost about $500,000. Including attorneys' fees, the family has spent more than $1 million on the case, she said.
"It costs a fortune to go through this process," Jennifer Lynch said. "That was extremely stressful for my mother; she went through most of her assets. She also was literally afraid for quite a while" that "the house might fall into the ocean. She couldn't sleep well" and suffered mini-strokes.  The Coastal Commission, Jennifer Lynch said, is seeking "managed retreat," or having the bluffs moved backward naturally as the sea rises. If the state decided to use its power of eminent domain, or seizing the land for the public good, it would have to pay for coastal homes. But it can't afford to do that, she said.  "Eminent domain means you get a hearing and you get compensation," Jennifer Lynch said. She said the commission instead wants "to let things fall into the ocean and not let properties be protected by owners."  The Lynch family argues erosion of the beach isn't simply caused by sea-level rise or sea walls. Construction of a pier to the north in the city of Oceanside has resulted in less sand, they said. Inland infrastructure also has lessened sand flow into coastal lagoons and river mouths, Jennifer Lynch said.  Jack Lynch bought the house in 1970, paying $88,000, Jennifer Lynch said. The family lived in San Bernardino, to the east of San Diego, and her father worked as a surgeon. They rented out the house for income. He planned to live in it after retiring.  The house caught fire in 1984. When rebuilding, Jack Lynch needed money and sold half the lot to the Fricks. They designed and built their house next door in 1991. They planned to live there for the rest of their lives, Marian Frick said. While they're still in the home, the court battles have caused great stress, Frick said. She fears they'll have to remove the sea wall in 2031.  "It devalues the property also because it's hanging over everyone's heads," Frick said.

'That's the rub'
Of the two homes in the court case, the Lynch home is most at risk. The Fricks, because they built their home after the rules changed, had to install caissons down to the bedrock. They weren't allowed a sea wall until after the 2010 storms, when it was determined the homes were in danger.  The homeowners argue they were hurt by bureaucratic delays when they sought to update their protection. Before those storms, the homes had a 100-foot-wide wooden wall in front of the bluff and a wooden wall in the middle section. They asked the city of Encinitas in 2003 for permission to replace the walls and part of the shared stairway with a concrete sea wall system. Encinitas approved it in 2009. It then went to the California Coastal Commission.  While the application was pending there, the powerful storms hit. The homeowners then asked to build a new 100-foot concrete structure beneath both homes, with an additional 75 feet of protection below the Lynches' house. They sought to replace the lower part of the stairs that had been destroyed.  The commission after extensive back-and-forth allowed the sea wall with the 20-year cap on it, plus the requirement for recording the deed restrictions. The families put up the wall and stairs after the agency's decision.  "We objected to some of the conditions, but the wall was necessary for the safety of the residence," Jennifer Lynch said.  Angela Howe, legal director at the Surfrider Foundation, said the state must respond to the effects of climate change.  "Sea-level rise is happening. We have to do a better job managing our coastline," Howe said. "The Coastal Commission is trying to do that by merely taking a second look at these sea walls in 20 years when the shoreline will have surely changed."  Howe, who lives near the beach, added that "I feel for these people" facing sea-level rise. But, she said, in terms of a Coastal Commission decision forcing homeowners to repeatedly fight for sea walls, "that's the rub. Living in this dynamic area along the coast does have some liabilities and some risks."

5/1/17 Update 

Planned new Rodanthe bridge is controversial among Hatteras neighbors 

OBX beach widening to go on all summer, night and day 

Inside the dredging of the Ocean View beach replenishment project 

Trump Administration reopens offshore energy drilling 

Trump, reversing Obama, will push to expand drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic 

South Carolina leaders, from mayors to congressmen, give thumbs down to Trump's offshore drilling order

Sea level rise poses serious threat to Charleston

Could NC regulators make beach nourishment easier, cheaper?

Nourishment project prepares Atlantic Beach for summer

Beach nourishment in Buxton scheduled to start May 21

The beach is back at Edisto

Trump to sign order aimed at expanding offshore drilling

Trump To Sign Executive Order On Offshore Drilling And Marine Sanctuaries

Trump order could expand drilling, roll back sanctuaries
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
President Trump tomorrow will call for sweeping reviews of recent federal offshore energy development and conservation policies, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said tonight at a White House briefing.  The reviews, to be led by Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, will be required by an executive order targeting offshore oil and gas leasing plans, regulations and permitting standards put in place by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill as well as marine sanctuaries and monuments created by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.   "One thing that does not change between administrations is a commitment to safety," Zinke told reporters. "Good stewardship of our lands and waters and responsible offshore development are not mutually exclusive."
The executive order also will seek to reverse a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in most Arctic waters and portions of the Atlantic Ocean that Obama put in place under a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. But it is unclear whether Trump has the authority to undo those leasing withdrawals (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016).  Zinke emphasized that the order won't immediately open up any areas of the outer continental shelf to drilling. But it will set in motion a two-year public process to reconsider which areas are suitable for leasing for oil, gas and wind development as part of a new five-year plan. The review will tackle lease planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Arctic.  Zinke said the administration had not heard any oil companies express interest in Arctic drilling and that he wasn't sure how the plan would take into account melting Arctic ice.  "I have not thought about climate change," Zinke said. "I'm sure we'll look at that."
Zinke and Ross will work together to streamline the seismic surveying process, which will include a review of Commerce guidance on minimizing harm to whales and other marine mammals.  Ross also will be instructed to reconsider within 180 days all protected marine areas created within the past decade. Zinke said the process would be similar to the review of national monuments that Trump directed the Interior secretary to undertake earlier this week (Greenwire, April 25).  The order also will call for Interior to reconsider blowout preventer regulations, the well control rule and Arctic drilling requirements.

Privatizing flood insurance could stabilize program — GAO
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
Expanding the private flood insurance market could allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to focus on better flood mapping and mitigation, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.  The idea to expand the private flood insurance market has been gaining traction in Congress as the National Flood Insurance Program comes up for reauthorization (E&E Daily, April 27).
Supporters of increased privatization see it as a way to minimize the financial burden for NFIP, which is $26.4 billion in debt.
According to the GAO report, a greater private footprint and a more focused FEMA "could address the policy goal of reducing federal fiscal exposure while promoting flood resilience."
But, knowing expanding privatization won't be easy, the GAO report presented lawmakers with issues potentially needing reform.  For one, FEMA currently prohibits the use of subsidized rates for policies with a lapse in NFIP coverage for more than 90 days. So if a homeowner who qualified for a subsidy switched to private insurance and then wanted to move back to an NFIP policy, he or she would no longer qualify for subsidized rates.  GAO also noted that NFIP data on flood losses and claims are currently not available to private companies interested in entering the flood insurance market.  "Access to such data would allow private insurance companies to better estimate losses, price flood insurance premiums, and determine which properties they might be willing to insure," the watchdog said. FEMA has been reluctant to share the information because of privacy concerns under the Privacy Act of 1974.
GAO said Congress could circumvent these barriers by clarifying the mandatory purchase requirement for flood insurance to include private policies, directing FEMA to allow private coverage to satisfy NFIP's continuous coverage requirements, and amending the Privacy Act to allow the government to enter into confidentiality agreements with private insurers.  Reforms are not without pitfalls. GAO found that more private-sector involvement "could cause a greater portion of NFIP's portfolio to be composed of higher-risk policies," driving it further into debt.  A greater presence by private companies in the flood insurance market was one of six potential reform ideas GAO examined in its report.  
The government watchdog also delved into other ways to solve the program's debt. One idea, raising NFIP premiums to reflect risk of loss, would have the benefit of reducing the number of government subsidies.  It would also better communicate risk to policyholders, who may be more willing to live in frequently flooded areas because of low insurance rates, and would allow private insurers to better compete on the market.  However, raising policy rates could also make the NFIP less affordable and decrease the number of policyholders overall, GAO found.

Brunswick County looks to reopen, maintain Lockwood Folly Inlet 

NC looks to tweak protected species list

UNC-IMS researchers seek participants in high water recording project

Dredge arrives at Big Foot Slough

South Carolina legislators put hold on environmental stall tactic bill 

Flooding an ongoing threat for state

Republicans introduce sweeping ESA reform bill
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 27, 2017
Republican lawmakers this week revived legislation that would significantly limit the Fish and Wildlife Service's ability to protect imperiled animals and plants.  Shepherding the "Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act," S. 935, are Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Dean Heller of Nevada.  Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced a companion bill in the House, H.R. 2134, the text of which was not yet publicly available.
The Senate package is an expanded version of the Endangered Species Act reform bills that Paul, Heller and Luetkemeyer backed last Congress.  S. 935 would amend the ESA to require Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees FWS, to obtain the consent of governors before making management decisions that would affect species within their states.  It would also require congressional approval of the endangered and threatened species lists and automatically remove plants or animals after five years.  Furthermore, the bill would require federal power marketing administrations to include the direct and indirect costs of complying with the ESA on customers' monthly electricity bills.
An indirect cost, the measure says, would include the "forgone power generation costs and replacement power costs, including the net costs of any transmission power."  S. 935 would also make it easier for landowners to seek compensation from the federal government and prevent groups that successfully sue FWS under the ESA from recouping their attorneys' fees.  A new provision this year would weaken protections for ravens and calf-killing black vultures, neither of which is a listed species.  "We can better protect endangered species by empowering state leaders to implement a strategy more tailored to their specific circumstances," Paul said in a statement. "Instead of continuing Washington's 'one-size-fits-all' approach to regulation, this bill puts local needs first and guards against bureaucratic overreach."  While many Republicans have shown an interest in updating the ESA, the drastic reforms put forward by Paul, Heller and Luetkemeyer may struggle to win widespread support. Neither the House nor the Senate versions of their bills made it out of committee during the 114th Congress.

Buxton beach nourishment project on track for an early summer start 

Leatherback sea turtle found dead behind Isle of Palms sea wall

Climate change could spell 'extreme poverty' in coastal NZ towns

4/24/17 Update 

Battling erosion an endless job for South Carolina beach towns 

Debate simmers over Atlantic oil, gas exploration

Pamlico Sound Ferry Routes to Run Limited Schedules Due to Shoaling

Seven public art projects to call attention to climate change, rising sea levels 

Keeping the coastal freeway clear  

Coast Guard pulls navigational aids from Lockwood Folly Inlet 

Oak Island doubles sea oat output to fortify dunes

Judge Dismisses Topsail Dune Rule Case

Nesting sea turtles face difficulty this summer; more monitors are requested 

KDH Planning Board votes against raising hotel heights

Insurers face 'enormous' losses from sea-level rise
Erika Bolstad, E&E News, April 20, 2017
Sea-level rise and its future risks must be factored into any reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, warn the actuaries who assess risk for insurers.  A public policy report released yesterday by the American Academy of Actuaries calls on Congress to consider sea-level rise — among many other factors — as part of the reauthorization of the federally backed flood insurance program.  The prospect of rising seas is the change to global climate that's "the hardest to overlook," the report says. The U.S. is especially vulnerable to large property losses because of the amount of valuable property in at-risk coastal areas.  The Academy of Actuaries also suggests that better mapping and data might help people with homes at risk of flooding by opening up the market to greater participation by private insurers and reinsurers. The program remains $24 billion in debt, in part because of large losses after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as losses last year after flooding in Louisiana and after Hurricane Matthew in the Carolinas.
The report found it would be impossible to maintain current premiums coverage and eligibility in the face of sea-level rise, without severe limits on construction or massive investments in infrastructure. Otherwise, the U.S. faces exposure to "enormous program losses" and additional debt.
However, improvements in how flood risks are assessed and modeled already are reducing the uncertainties surrounding flood risk, the report notes.  "Better data and more advanced models are giving us a clearer view of flood risk, which opens up additional opportunities for private insurers and reinsurers to underwrite flood risk," Rade Musulin, the academy's vice president for casualty, said in a statement.  Most Americans support updates to how flood insurance is managed, according to the findings of a national survey released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Flood-Prepared Communities project (Climatewire, April 6).  Most Americans surveyed said they think that when a house is sold, the sellers should have to disclose whether it has ever been flooded. They also think that construction in flood-prone areas should be required to better withstand the impacts of flooding. The poll's finding had broad bipartisan support, a key factor as Congress reauthorizes the program this year.
The American Academy of Actuaries and several partners last year released the Actuaries Climate Index, a way of tracking the frequency of extreme climate events. It's also designed to help actuaries, policymakers and the general public understand climate trends and their potential impact.  The Actuaries Climate Index is a way of tracking the frequency of extreme climate events. The first index showed that the frequency of heat waves and extreme rain events is on the rise, along with sea levels (Climatewire, Dec. 1, 2016).  The index provides a quarterly measure of changes in extreme weather events and sea levels. Risks measured in the index, which spans from 1960 to 2016, are compared against the average frequency of the same events during the reference period.  The index looks at the frequency of temperatures above the 90th percentile, the frequency of temperatures below the 10th percentile, the maximum five-day rainfall in a month, consecutive dry days, winds above the 90th percentile and sea-level rise.  Eventually, insurance companies could use the information in their models to look at what leads to insurance claims and better understand how climate is affecting their claim costs.

4/19/17 Update 

When Rising Seas Transform Risk Into Certainty

Jousting over the Jug-Handle

Return to shorter Hatteras ferry route faces strong currents 

Dare County Awarded Increase in CRS Ranking

Ready to visit Hunting Island next month? A bus ride might be required

Battle over landmark law already raging out of public eye
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, April 17, 2017
With most of Washington focused on fights over government funding, Obamacare and Russian meddling, a few congressional aides and outside advocates are quietly preparing for what could be an epic battle over the Endangered Species Act.  The contentious conservation law was protected by President Obama's veto from Republican efforts to ease restrictions on farmers, energy companies and developers.  But with Republicans now controlling Capitol Hill and the White House for the first time since 2004, the endangered species law — which hasn't been significantly updated since 1988 — appears vulnerable. On one side of the fight are staffers for House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who said last year that he wants to repeal and replace the law (E&E Daily, Dec. 9, 2016).  But in the 115th Congress, Bishop is instead focused on narrow sections of the ESA that Republicans and industry groups find problematic.  His first hearing this year centered on a provision requiring input from the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service — agencies that jointly administer the ESA — on government-approved or -funded projects that could "jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of such species"(E&E Daily, March 29).  The hearing was held by the increasingly important Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, a panel Bishop created after winning the Natural Resources gavel two years ago (E&E Daily, Jan. 14, 2015).  Led since January by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Oversight has seven full-time GOP staffers — more than any other Natural Resources subcommittee, according to data from LegiStorm, a congressional staff tracking service.  Oversight staff director Rob Gordon, a veteran of the Hill's periodic ESA fights, and counsel Megan Olmstead, a relative newcomer, will provide Republican lawmakers with most of the legislative ammunition they need. They and many other staffers featured in this story were not made available for interviews.  Gordon, who spent seven years at the conservative Heritage Foundation before returning to the Natural Resources panel when Bishop took over, also served as the Trump transition team's advisor on regulatory reform (E&E Daily, Jan. 22, 2015). He has been working for decades to overhaul the law.  
"The time is ripe to amend significantly the Endangered Species Act," he wrote in a 1994 article for Heritage's now defunct Policy Review journal. Had the law been in existence during biblical times, Gordon wrote, Noah "might have been reviled as an animal-hater, fined, and kept from launching his ark" because he wouldn't have thought to bring aboard certain reptile and insect species.  At the time, Gordon was the executive director of the National Wilderness Institute. The Vanderbilt University graduate left the oil industry-funded environmental group in 2004 to support the failed ESA reform efforts of former Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).  Olmstead is working closely with Gordon on the committee's reform efforts. After graduating a decade ago from the University of Portland, a Catholic school in Oregon, she bounced between Capitol Hill, the Idaho governor's office and the University of Notre Dame's law school before ending up with Natural Resources in September 2015, her profile on the social networking site LinkedIn shows. In law school, she studied the gray wolf's status under the ESA.
Senate players
Across the Capitol, staffers for Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) are also formulating an overhaul strategy.  So far, Barrasso has held one hearing that sought to build bipartisan consensus for ESA reform and marked up a bill that he introduced with ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) that would revive and bolster several wildlife protection programs and launch annual innovation prizes for endangered species management and other conservation challenges (Greenwire, April 5).   Matt Leggett, the committee's deputy chief counsel, and Andrew Harding, who took his first Hill job as counsel in September 2016, are two of Barrasso's lead ESA reformers.  Leggett began working for the chairman in 2012 as policy counsel for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, which Barrasso then led. The University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University Law School graduate also worked in corporate law and served on the House Agriculture Committee and in the offices of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). As an intern, Leggett worked with Robert Spencer, when he was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Erskine Bowles, when he was chief of staff to President Clinton.  Soon after joining the committee, Harding helped get last year's water infrastructure bill (S. 612) passed into law. He is now mainly focusing on wildlife and oceans policies.  Harding previously worked for corporate law firms, President George W. Bush's Energy secretaries and USA Synthetic Fuel Corp., a bankrupt coal liquefaction company. He earned his bachelor's degree at Washington and Lee University and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, according to LinkedIn.
The counselors' efforts are overseen by staff director Richard Russell, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Yale University, and deputy staff director Brian Clifford, who has worked for Barrasso in a variety of roles over the past decade.  Any reform legislation Barrasso's team produces will need to secure the votes of at least eight Democrats on the Senate floor to beat a filibuster. Their first challenge, however, will be winning over Mary Frances Repko, Carper's deputy staff director.  "If you have dealt with the environment, if you have dealt with energy, or if you have dealt with the history of the Senate and the House on energy legislation and environmental legislation over the last 20 years, you know Mary Frances Repko," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a January floor speech honoring her for a decade of service in his office. The Maryland Democrat also noted she had worked closely with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on "fighting partisan anti-environment riders."  Repko headed to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the following month, the committee she staffed from 2003 until 2007, when she left to join Hoyer. She has also served on the staffs of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).  Prior to coming to the Hill, Repko worked on water issues for the World Wildlife Fund, a conservation group, and the Great Lakes Commission. The native of East Lansing, Mich., earned her bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University and a master's from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Outside voices
Republicans' push for an ESA overhaul is likely to draw support from the Western Governors' Association.  Under the leadership of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) in 2016, the conservative-leaning organization began advocating for ESA changes. At the same time, WGA endorsed a policy position urging Congress to reauthorize the law and this year convinced the National Governors Association to adopt a similar resolution (E&E News PM, March 2).  While Mead is no longer WGA chairman, policy adviser David Willms is still leading a series of meetings with a broad coalition of participants that aim to produce a specific set of recommendations that could make the ESA work better.  "We took some of the ideas that came out of that first year and have made them the subject of work sessions during the second year of this initiative," Willms said in a phone interview from Cheyenne, Wyo., which he, his wife and two young daughters call home.  The sessions will wrap up in May, and the WGA hopes to have a list of fixes ready to promote by midsummer.  "Whether that is a set of recommendations that is taken to the Fish and Wildlife Service for regulatory changes, whether it includes recommended statutory changes, policy changes — all of that is to be determined," he said. "But that's what we're moving towards, is seeing if there are places where there is consensus."  The recommendations are being put together by representatives from state and federal government as well as groups representing sportsmen, environmentalists and the energy, lumber and agriculture industries. But Willms, who has also served in the Wyoming attorney general's office and worked in private practice, declined to say exactly who is involved at this point.
One unlikely participant: the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.  "I certainly believe fundamentally that the Endangered Species Act could work better," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president and CEO of Defenders. "And if there are ways to work better, we want to help that effort."  Rappaport Clark, who was President Clinton's Fish and Wildlife Service director, and her staff are also involved in the initiative in hopes that they can steer it more toward administrative reforms. That way, she said during an interview in her glass-encased corner office suite, "we can maybe save the battle legislatively, because it's going to be pretty dramatic."  But if a GOP reform bill emerges, Rappaport Clark — who often works seven days a week and uses a treadmill desk when she's in the office — is ready to lead the fight against it.  "I don't see a reform effort strengthening the law" in this Congress, she said. "I can only see a reform effort that will undermine and weaken the law's ability to achieve its purposes."  Rappaport Clark, an avid equestrian who lives in Virginia horse country with her husband and teenage son, is already working to educate Democratic senators about the damage that Defenders fears Republicans could do to vulnerable species and habitats. She is also attempting to rally other more broadly focused conservation groups, which are busy fighting to prevent the rollback of climate protection regulations and other environmental policies.  Her pitch is that the ESA is essentially the law of last resort for the environment.  "When the Clean Water Act fails, when the land laws fail, the Endangered Species Act will save enough," she said. "We're not going to allow extinction."  That should be enough to rally the progressive community of Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists, minority groups, labor unions, religious groups and human rights organizations, Rappaport Clark reasoned.  "If — maybe I should say, when — the Endangered Species Act is truly under an assault, I have every expectation that folks will be there with us," she said, before tapping her desk for good measure. "Knock on wood, please. They'd better be."

4/17/17 Update 

The Release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Bogue Banks Master Beach Nourishment Plan (BBMBNP), on Bogue Banks Barrier Island, Carteret County, NC
DEIS  - 

April 2017 Meeting Materials for the Coastal Resources Commission & CRAC

Nags Head beach nourishment in 2018?

Inventory Tracks ‘Armoring’ of Beaches, Inlets

Locals seek action to keep Lockwood Folly Inlet open

Update on the Connecting Channel – and Some Highly Anticipated Good News

McMaster cool to offshore drilling

Environmental groups concerned about off-shore drilling executive order

D.C. Circuit Removes Hurdle to Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Designation Challenge

4/13/17 Update 

Realtors plant sea oats as part of ‘Action Day’

Company mapping, surveying Carteret County's shoreline 

Shoreline Stabilization; Terminal Groins in Ocean Isle and Holden Beach 

Coastal Towns Brace For Beach Funding Cuts 

Manatee Reclassified from Endangered to Threatened 

Appeals court revives industry lawsuit over owl habitat
Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter, Tuesday, April 11, 2017
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that lumber companies had legal standing to sue over the Obama administration's decision to designate more than 9.5 million acres for the threatened species.  The Fish and Wildlife Service's argument that the designation won't decrease the timber available for companies to harvest "defies basic common sense," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee, for the court.
Judges Thomas Griffith, also a Bush appointee, and Sri Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, joined the opinion, which reverses a lower-court decision to dismiss the case.  The northern spotted owl has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990. It's found in coniferous forests from British Columbia to central California.
In 2012, FWS finalized its critical habitat for the owl, an area stretching through Washington, Oregon and California.  Kavanaugh noted that the area covered a "huge swath" of forestlands: "For Easterners, imagine driving all the way up and then all the way back down the New Jersey Turnpike, and you will get a rough sense of the scope of the critical habitat designation here."  Trade organization American Forest Resource Council, labor union Carpenters Industrial Council and various lumber producers sued FWS and the Interior Department over the designation. Washington counties also intervened in the case, arguing that they will be harmed by increased regulatory burdens, lost revenue and growing wildfire threats.
FWS initially didn't challenge whether the entities had standing to sue. To show standing, plaintiffs must show that they've sustained or will sustain a concrete injury stemming directly from the action at issue and that that harm is redressable by the courts.  But while the litigation was ongoing, the D.C. Circuit ruled in a separate case, Swanson Group Manufacturing LLC v. Jewell, that some of the same parties lacked standing to challenge a Bureau of Land Management decision on federal timber contracts required by the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937.
Based on that decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last year granted the government's motion to dismiss the spotted owl case.  On appeal, the lumber industry argued that it would suffer because the habitat designation would "clearly" reduce the amount of harvestable timber available.  One company testified in court that it had already suffered a $287,000 loss after the designation blocked three of its timber sales and forced it to purchase more expensive replacement timber on the open market (E&E News PM, Sept. 15, 2016).
The Obama administration, on the other hand, argued that claims of harm were too broad.  The D.C. Circuit ruled that industry had met the standing threshold.  "The decrease in the timber supply is likely to be significant," Kavanaugh wrote. "After all, we are talking about an area roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey, much of which could previously be harvested for timber but which is now substantially off-limits to logging."  Unlike the district court, the D.C. Circuit found that the decision in Swanson focused on particular allegations that weren't relevant to the challenge to the spotted owl habitat.  Instead, the court relied on an earlier case, the D.C. Circuit's 1996 decision in Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Glickman, which found that firms can sue over government acts that constrict their supply of raw material.  There's a "substantial probability" that the decrease in timber harvest caused by the owl habitat designation is likely to cause timber companies "some economic harm," Kavanaugh wrote for the court.  "Unless the company can fully replace the source of supply at zero additional cost to the company (and by zero, we mean zero), then the company has suffered an economic harm," the judge wrote.  "That is Economics 101 and Standing 101," he said.

4/10/17 Update - 

Is Trump getting ready to put Atlantic oil drilling back in play? 

Trump Preparing Order to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

The Long And Tortured Road To Reach The North Rodanthe Bridge Option 

Plan Streamlines Re-Nourishment Permitting

Is a 24-bedroom Outer Banks house a single-family dwelling or not? 

Ferry Division April meeting on Tuesday to focus on Hatteras Inlet 

Most in U.S. think flood policy needs a fix
Erika Bolstad, E&E News reporter, April 6, 2017
Most Americans think that when you sell your house, you should have to disclose whether it has ever been flooded.  They also think that construction in flood-prone areas should be required to better withstand the impacts of flooding, according to the findings of a national survey released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts Flood-Prepared Communities project.  The survey demonstrated overwhelming and consistent support for policies to reform how current flood issues are handled, said Lori Weigel, a pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the poll for Pew.  It was a rare example of support for a national policy initiative that extends across party lines, Weigel said.  "These are things that people think just intuitively make sense," she said. "That support level ran across party lines; it ran across the country. It was something that just intuitively made sense to the voters that we talked to."  
The poll found that 53 percent of American voters have been affected by flooding of some sort.  Three-quarters of those surveyed support prioritizing federal buyouts of repeatedly flooded homes in environmentally sensitive areas. Roughly the same number of people surveyed said they support policies that would "enable communities and the nation to do more to prepare for and respond to the next floods."  Two out of three American voters support requiring people to pay more for flood insurance if their communities don't make investments to reduce the risk of flood damage. And people in those communities agreed. Of those who live in coastal communities, 86 percent supported building to higher flood standards, Weigel said.
The findings of the survey come as Congress considers the National Flood Insurance Program, which is $23 billion in debt and up for congressional reauthorization this year. Lawmakers have already introduced multiple bills to address problems with the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Among them are proposals requiring communities to better map the locations of repeatedly flooded properties. Many of the bills have bipartisan support.  Those surveyed had a shaky grasp of the NFIP, however. More than eight out of 10 were unaware of whether the program had a deficit or a surplus.
Flood insurance is expected to be a critical part of adapting to climate change. In recent years, catastrophic flooding, often driven by unexpectedly heavy rain events, has swept through many states. Some were tropical systems, like Hurricane Matthew. Many more were big rain events that caught people by surprise in places like Houston and Baton Rouge, La. They overtook communities where few people carried flood insurance, because they were not in floodplains or didn't think they needed it.  Such events are expected to only worsen in the coming years. The 2014 National Climate Assessment predicted that many communities will see such extreme precipitation events more often as global temperatures rise. Because there's more water vapor in the atmosphere caused by higher global and sea temperatures, the intensity of extreme precipitation events is on the rise.
The poll surveyed 1,000 registered U.S. voters across the country. Half were interviewed on a landline telephone and half on a mobile phone. The survey was conducted from March 11 through March 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


4/5/17 Update - 

Bills would ease rules on sandbags, pumping sand from shoals

Pamlico Sound Ferry Runs Soft Aground Near Ocracoke 

Let’s end war with ocean

CoBRA Pilot Project Resurfaces (NEW - Shore Protection Office Newsletter)

Wrightsville Beach takes another step forward on flood map appeal 

Waterway maintenance, property offers among commissioner discussions

Owner of OBX home sues Currituck

Bills to Cut Streams, Shoals Regulations

How Will Offshore Wind Power Get to Grid?

What Hilton Head officials are now saying about restoring the sand dunes

3/31/17 Update - 

Oak Island council approves $3.6-million spending for emergency sand placement

Ocean Isle Beach Dredging Work Ends

Is Atlantic drilling back on the table?

Community effort needed to rebuild Hilton Head sand dunes

Rabon files Sunset Beach deannexation bill 

Speak up for Captain Sam's Spit

Nags Head pushes ahead toward 2018 beach re-nourisment 

Expanded Holden Beach has a 'whole new look'

Dredging along the coast benefits Beaufort Inlet and area beaches 

ORV Corridor Established near Cape Point 

Editorial: Base shoreline rules on science, not politics (Ga) 

House GOP lawmakers aim to reform consultation provision
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, March 29, 2017
In the face of Democratic opposition, House Natural Resources Committee Republicans yesterday took the first step toward updating the Endangered Species Act by targeting the law's consultation requirement.  At issue was a provision of the ESA that requires input from the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service, which jointly implement the law, for projects approved or funded by the federal government that could "jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of such species."  Such consultations are inconsistent, increase process and legal costs, lack certainty, and severely hinder "our nation's ability to provide necessary public services and discourages investment in critical projects needed to boost our economy," said Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). "Reform is needed to improve consistency between regions; adherence to timelines; and to hold the employees of the services accountable for completing consultations in an efficient, timely and effective manner."  Republicans invited witnesses from the mining and construction industries as well as a property rights lawyer to discuss the costly delays that they had encountered in their work (E&E Daily, March 27).
But Democrats and Ya-Wei Li, vice president of endangered species conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, sought to highlight the role other legal or regulatory requirements played in complicating the projects elevated by the witnesses.  "Today's hearing is the latest in a series of attempts by the majority to blame bedrock environmental laws for holding up infrastructure projects despite copious amounts of evidence to the contrary," said ranking member Donald McEachin (D-Va.).  Li co-authored a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of consultations during the Obama administration that was cited by lawmakers on both sides of the dais. It found that consultations hadn't blocked or significantly altered any development projects during the Obama administration (E&E News PM, Dec. 14, 2015).  The conservation group executive argued that the study also showed consultations rarely exceeded the 135-day window allowed for such project reviews. The median duration of informal consultations, he noted, was 13 days and formal consultations was 62 days.
Republicans, however, pointed out that those figures didn't include sometimes lengthy pre-consultation efforts that agencies undertake or the protracted litigation that may result if environmental groups oppose the outcome.  Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the full committee, vowed to continue examining the issue as lawmakers consider reforms to the ESA, which hasn't been significantly amended in three decades.  "One of the issues I want to address this year is really talking about what consultation is," he said at the end of the 90-minute hearing. "This is something that needs a clear definition so we can actually find out when that clock needs to start ticking and who actually gets to consult and in what manner those consultations need to be addressed and considered by the federal agencies."  
There are efforts underway in both chambers to update the law.  Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) presided over an ESA reform hearing that was both broader in focus and friendlier in tone.  Nevertheless, early signs from the Senate suggest that an overhaul will be difficult to get through the upper chamber (E&E Daily, Feb. 16). At the same time, lawmakers are also pushing a series of piecemeal ESA reform bills.  For example, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) reintroduced the "State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act" earlier this week with the support of Barrasso and Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Pat Roberts of Kansas.  The bill, S. 735, would require disclosure to states of the basis of determinations under such law and require the use of data provided by state, tribal and county governments in the decision-making process.

Council approves dune-repair contract 

New Hyde County digital flood maps to be available at public meetings 

Public hearing scheduled on moving sand to Capt. Sam's project on Kiawah Island 

Emergency federal beach renourishment funding could still come to Myrtle Beach 

Shore Protection Act tabled after it stalls in Senate (Ga.) 

Listen to science about shoreline protection (SC)

3/26/17 Update - 

One of Hunting Island’s last cabins will remain ... for now (SC)

PUBLIC NOTICE - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Charleston District is currently involved in the planning phase of a beach emergency repair in the Grand Strand (Myrtle Beach) of Horry County, South Carolina. 

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
March 27, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm 

Norfolk Prepares For Battle With Rising Sea Level

Freeman Park zones set to close this spring due to dredging 

Bumblebee listing buzzes by Trump reg freeze
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, March 21, 2017
The Fish and Wildlife Service today quietly added a wide-ranging insect to the endangered species list.  The rusty patched bumblebee listing was finalized in early January, but it was prevented from taking effect by a 60-day freeze on new regulations that President Trump imposed on his first day in office (E&E Daily, Jan. 23).  That executive order pushed back the effective date of the listing until today, FWS announced in a Federal Register notice Feb. 10 — the day the bee was originally supposed to receive Endangered Species Act protections.  No additional announcements were made about the listing today by the Trump administration.
Pesticides, habitat loss, climate change and disease spread from commercial honeybee colonies have put the species on the brink of extinction, according to FWS. The rusty patched bee lives in scattered populations in 12 states and one Canadian province, covering just 8 percent of its historical range.  Now the pollinator is the first federally protected bee in the continental United States. The rusty patched bee's endangered status makes it a crime to knowingly harass or kill the insect, which as of 20 years ago could be found in 28 Eastern and Midwestern states and Washington, D.C.
The agriculture, energy, timber, and commercial and residential development industries have long feared the economic impacts of protections for the bee (Greenwire, Sept. 18, 2015).  FWS didn't calculate those costs when it proposed listing the species last year but said they would be estimated when the agency issues a recovery plan for the bee (Greenwire, Sept. 22, 2016).  Those costs — which could be substantial — are likely to count toward a separate executive order calling for agencies to prevent adding new regulatory burdens in fiscal 2017.  The order may also require FWS or its parent agency, the Interior Department, to repeal at least two existing regulations to offset the listing rule (Greenwire, Feb. 2).
Interior didn't directly respond to a question about the implications of the deregulatory executive order but said the regulatory freeze order probably didn't significantly harm the bee.  "Fish and Wildlife Service scientists have noted that the brief delay is not expected to have an impact on the conservation of the species since FWS is still developing a recovery plan to guide efforts to bring this species back to what they believe is a healthy and secure condition," spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. "The Department will work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry, and developers in the areas where the species is native."  Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which along with the Natural Resources Defense Council sued FWS in 2014 to speed consideration of protections for the bee, celebrated the long-awaited listing rule taking effect.  "We are thrilled to see one of North America's most endangered species receive the protection it needs," said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society. "Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces — from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases."  The only other bees protected by FWS are seven species found only in Hawaii, which were declared endangered last year (Greenwire, Sept. 29, 2016).

Flood maps put downtown housing program on hold 

FEMA's updated flood map for Charleston County shows a smaller high-risk flood zone 

Senator Tillis, state senators promise an investment in our coast

Developer seeks state permit for Capt. Sam's Spit beach restoration on Kiawah Island 

New permit program in place for ORV users at Cape Lookout National Seashore 

PUBLIC NOTICE - The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) received an application from the United States Coast Guard seeking Department of the Army authorization to modify an existing authorization in order to conduct new dredging within the existing mooring basin, associated with the US Coast Guard Sector Field Office at Fort Macon, in Carteret County, North Carolina.

Oak Island weighs beach funding options

Legislation would allow half-cent tax on prepared meals to support beach, waterfront needs

Listen to science about shoreline protection 

Park Service Invites Public to Weigh In on Plan 

Federal regulation could impact coastal beaches

A Threat by Any Other Name

A Primer on the Buxton Beach Nourishment Project 

NPS initiates program for ORV users 

North Myrtle Beach gets $10 million to repair damaged beachfront 

Avangrid Renewables wins bid for Kitty Hawk offshore wind farm lease 

Operator of Pasquotank wind farm wins offshore lease bidding 

Kitty Hawk wind farm lease awarded to Avangrid Renewables

Bill would allow for more oil and gas lease sales
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, March 17, 2017
The Interior Department would be able to add oil and gas lease sales to its existing five-year plan under a new bill from Louisiana senators.  Sens. Bill Cassidy (R) and John Kennedy (R) joined North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in introducing the "Unleashing American Energy Act." S. 665 would hand Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a shortcut to change a leasing plan that took years for the Obama administration to finalize.  The current plan does not include Arctic and Atlantic leases, limiting new sales to the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet until 2022 (Greenwire, Nov. 18, 2016). Under the new bill, Zinke could reverse that, according to the senators.  "The restrictions that have been placed on our energy sector from the previous administration have stunted our economy and cost us thousands of good paying jobs," Kennedy said in a statement. "This bill will provide more job opportunities for hardworking Americans and will help our country realize our goal of energy independence."  The bill would not reverse withdrawals President Obama made under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Those withdrawals — comprising most Arctic waters and some areas in the Atlantic Ocean — were made under an obscure provision in an attempt to permanently remove them from oil and gas leasing (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016).

Cuts could complicate flood insurance reauthorization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 17, 2017
House lawmakers yesterday grappled with how proposed spending cuts to flood mapping might affect their reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program.  The Trump administration is pushing to zero out discretionary funding for the flood hazard mapping program as part of its "skinny budget" released yesterday.  The White House justified the $190 million reduction by arguing that government services should not be "subsidized by taxpayers who do not directly benefit" from the program.  The budget request would also cut funding for the Army Corps of Engineers by $1 billion. The proposal did not specify whether those cuts would affect the agency's flood control programs.  "It is extremely disappointing to see the president's budget would eliminate discretionary funding for mapping," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), ranking member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, said during a hearing.  "If anything," said Cleaver, "we should be increasing the budget for that."  Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, agreed, saying the cuts would be "devastating" to the program.  "Mapping is the cornerstone of everything else NFIP does," he said. "It impacts mitigation, land use, insurance, everything."  Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Berginnis whether the cut would hurt NFIP and private insurers' "ability to properly assess risk and discourage building where it is particularly dangerous."  Berginnis replied: "It would degrade that capability significantly. That degradation will increase over time as the maps get older."  The Trump administration proposal comes as Congress races to reauthorize NFIP, which expires in September. Lawmakers have already introduced a number of bills to reform the program.  One of them would require communities to better map the locations of repeatedly flooded properties. Another would require the Government Accountability Office to ensure NFIP uses accurate mapping. Those bills have bipartisan backing.
More private insurance
Currently, federal spending and NFIP fees help pay for mapping efforts. Federal policy fees also help pay for flood mitigation and technical assistance programs.  During the hearing, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) expressed concern that allowing further privatization of the flood insurance market would reduce funds for mapping and other services. Private companies do not contribute.  She asked, "If we see private insurers take market shares from NFIP and then the proposed budget cuts to FEMA materialize, what will happen to mapping in this scenario?"  Evan Hecht, CEO of a company called the Flood Insurance Agency, said he would support private insurers instituting a similar fee on their policies to help support mapping.  "We are going to use independent mapping but also have to use your mapping, so I am a big supporter of our participation in your effort," he said.  Republican members of the panel argued that private companies would be a boon to the insurance market. Further privatization is a key point of contention in the NFIP reauthorization talks.  Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who is sponsoring a bill to increase privatization, said he thought the legislation "would help consumers and show that this Congress wants a flood insurance market that is affordable and accessible to all consumers."  Hecht tried to quell concerns from lawmakers that allowing more privatization in the flood insurance market would lead to increased rates.  He argued that most of the 18,500 policies his company has taken on would be subsidized under FEMA, thereby saving NFIP money.  "While it is understandable that some might believe the private market would only want to write FEMA's best risks and leave all the poor risks to NFIP, almost exactly the opposite is taking place," he said.  Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) told Hecht that his comments "give me confidence that the private sector can fill the void."  But Hecht qualified his words, saying severe repetitive loss properties, which account for 2 percent of NFIP policies but 24 percent of claims, could not receive competitive rates on the private market. "Of course we would not want to write severe repetitive loss properties at rates that are competitive with FEMA because FEMA charges much too little for those properties," he said. "The rate of those properties have to be coincident with risk."

Corps OKs Ocean Isle’s Terminal Groin Plan

Dredge work awaits signed Hatteras Inlet agreement 

Interior set to auction N.C.'s first offshore wind farm
Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter, March 15, 2017
The Trump administration will broker its first offshore wind energy deal this week as the Interior Department auctions development rights to 122,400 acres of the Atlantic Ocean near North Carolina's Outer Banks.  The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area, covering 191 square miles of outer continental shelf roughly 24 miles from the beaches where the Wright brothers achieved first powered flight in 1903, has an opening bid price of $244,810, or $2 per acre.  For a business-minded administration committed to an "America first" energy policy, the sale could come as a welcome exercise in government-supported free-market competition. As many as a half-dozen firms are expected to participate in the auction, including some of the world's largest energy firms.  "While it appears President Trump's energy policy is still being worked out, his ambitious economic and job-growth agenda would undoubtedly be strengthened by a robust all-of-the-above energy approach, which would include a strong U.S. offshore wind program," Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said in a statement. "This is clearly a growing market, which should only grow stronger as technology and infrastructure develops."
Wind energy areas in N.C.
Evidence of offshore wind's promise can be found in the most recent lease sale held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a 79,000-acre parcel off New York's coast. Statoil ASA, the Norwegian energy conglomerate, paid a record $42.5 million, or $535 per acre, for rights to explore and possibly develop the New York lease area (Energywire, Dec. 19, 2016).  But it remains unclear whether the Kitty Hawk site, which has been studied for nearly a decade, will draw similarly strong interest.  Key questions facing the site involve the economic viability of offshore wind power in a market like the Carolinas, where coal, gas and nuclear power remain cost-competitive and renewables account for just a small fraction of total generation.  Three of the initial nine companies that qualified to bid in the auction have since pulled out, including Shell WindEnergy Inc. of Houston, Apex Clean Energy of Virginia and Toronto-based Northland Power Inc.  "There are excellent winds off the North Carolina coast and lots of shallow water that extends way offshore," said Catherine Bowes, director of the National Wildlife Foundation's Atlantic Offshore Wind Campaign. "What North Carolina doesn't have is a viable state market for selling offshore wind power, at least for now.  "But that's almost certain to change," Bowes added, "and smart businesses know how to get in on the ground floor and wait for that market to develop."
Trump officials remain noncommittal
There is also uncertainty about the Trump administration's disposition toward wind power, which the president himself has derided as an unsightly, bird-killing technology, even as wind has solidified its place as the nation's leading source of commercial-scale, emissions-free electricity.  Since taking office, Trump and his surrogates have said little about where federal renewable energy policy is headed.  Wind power advocates have touted the industry's meteoric growth over the past decade and the sizable economic benefits wind farms bring to rural America through land leases and tax revenue. Others were heartened by Trump's selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as secretary of Energy, noting Perry's long experience with conventional wind energy in Texas.  But offshore technology is new to the United States and only recently began to establish its footing along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The nation's first offshore wind farm began operating at Block Island, R.I., late last year, while several other large projects are still in the development phase, notably the 1,000-megawatt Bay State Wind project off Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  Federal officials, including the head of BOEM, declined to be interviewed about the Trump administration's position on offshore wind power.  In written responses to E&E questions, BOEM acting Director Walter Cruickshank said the agency "expects to be busy in both our oil and gas and our renewable energy programs." But he added that until the Interior Department's new leadership team has settled in, "we won't speculate on how [Trump administration] policy goals will translate into specific actions in BOEM."  A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who took office March 2, was also careful not to commit the administration to renewable energy, either onshore or offshore.  "Secretary Zinke and President Trump are committed to creating public lands jobs that provide affordable and reliable energy for America," the spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said in an email. "The administration supports a comprehensive energy solution, and renewable energy will play a role so long as that energy is affordable and reliable."  But if there's uncertainty at the top levels of the Trump administration, it hasn't dampened enthusiasm among the companies that are vying for U.S. offshore leases.
Among the firms expected to bid in tomorrow's lease sale are Statoil Wind U.S. LLC; Avangrid Renewables, the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola SA; Enbridge Holdings (Green Energy) LLC, the renewable energy division of the Canadian pipeline company; and PNE Wind USA, a subsidiary of Germany's PNE Wind AG.  Last week, Statoil and PNE Wind also asked BOEM to open an additional 440,000 acres of wind energy areas off the Massachusetts and New York coasts, where officials estimate the continental shelf could support as much as 4 gigawatts of turbines.  BOEM said the two companies' unsolicited applications were sufficient to initiate a new competitive lease process, which could draw even more developers into the Northeast offshore wind market.

Senators debate paths to privatization
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 15, 2017
Senators explored how to best expand privatization in the flood insurance market during a Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing yesterday.  The National Flood Insurance Program is up for reauthorization in September, and some congressional Republicans have been pushing to expand the private sector's abilities to provide insurance as a way to lessen the burden on the federal program, which is $24.6 billion in debt.   Testifying before the committee, Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Associate Administrator Roy Wright said he thought Congress should set aside portions of the housing market, like new construction, for private insurers.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) cautioned against that strategy. "You may be working at odds against yourself if you let new construction be outside the program because you will only be taking on older homes," he said.  Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who last week introduced a bill to accelerate development of the private flood insurance market, also questioned whether the strategy could "put NFIP at a greater risk situation" with private insurers taking up lower-risk new construction.  
But Wright argued that he would rather cede a broad space for private companies to have as their own rather than allow them to cherry-pick which of NFIP's current policies they want to take over.  "If we are going to give some space, let's give it on the new side," he said. "What I don't want them doing is arbitrarily combing through the book and leaving us as the insurer of last resort, because at that point, I am convinced we would require infusions of cash every single year."  Wright added that, at the end of the day, the priority should be that people living in flood zones are insured, regardless of whether their policies are with NFIP or private companies.  "From a public policy perspective, the more people insured, the better," he said.  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) suggested the program should let private companies take over insuring second homes instead of having taxpayers help foot the bill.  "If you can afford a million-dollar beach estate in Nantucket, you don't need the downtrodden to support you," he said.  Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) asked Wright about the possibility of simply requiring private insurers to include flood damage in home policies, which could create a risk pool broad enough for companies to make money, potentially eliminating the need for the NFIP.
But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she was concerned that ceding too much of the market to private insurers would affect NFIP's ability to also work on mitigation efforts and other aspects of the policy's "core mission."  "We have got to make sure we are still maintaining these other resources," she said. "Someone has to pay for funding mapping and flood-plain management. Over time, letting private plans crowd out federal plans and skip out on that bill could destroy that funding."  Wright agreed, saying he wanted to make sure private companies entered the market in a way that provides "mutual gain."  "If that happens, all of us are better off," he said. "If their gain simply comes with culling and reducing my policy base, that is the point in which our income goes down."  Wright also urged senators to make flood insurance rates reflect the risk, saying that "the solvency of the program depends on it."  He said, "Given concerns related to affordability, it may take some time, but the program needs to be on a course to eventually arrive at full risk rates for all policyholders."

Virginia Beach may fund Croatan beach replenishment

NTB expecting to earn more than $620,000 from property auction

Nags Head commissioner appointed to head N.C. Coastal Resources Commission

New Hanover Resident Steps Down As Chair Of Coastal Resources Commission

Coastal Commission Chair Gorham Resigns

Charleston County residents could be affected by new flood maps

Lawmakers grapple with $24.6B debt (NFIP)
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, March 10, 2017
Congressional mandates are keeping the National Flood Insurance Program from paying off its debt, its head told a House subcommittee yesterday.  Roy Wright, Federal Emergency Management Agency deputy associate administrator, said he did not know how the program could repay the $24.6 billion it owes the Treasury under current conditions.  "I don't have the ability to do so," he told the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.
Wright blamed Congress requiring the flood program to subsidize insurance for low-income residents living in flood plains.  "There is not a practical way for us to repay this debt based on the discounts and subsidies that I have been directed to give under the National Flood Insurance Act," he said.  Repayment "would require an exponential" increase in policy premiums, Wright told subcommittee Chairman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).  A number of major weather events, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, as well as major flooding events this year in North Carolina and Louisiana, have contributed to the program's debt, Wright said.  But he rebuffed accusations from Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) that "FEMA did a poor job of accounting for risk."  "We are collecting the premiums allowable under statute," Wright said. "Eighty percent of my book is actuarially sound, the other 20 percent is based on statute."  The hearing yesterday came as Congress begins the reauthorization process for the NFIP, which will expire at the end of September.  Duffy was among several lawmakers who argued that keeping NFIP policies "accessible and affordable" is one of lawmakers' top priorities. But they disagree on how to do that.
Partisan divide
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), ranking member on Financial Services, said she believes Congress should forgive the program's debt.  "There is no way you could plan to pay this debt by raising the premiums or doing something else," she said.  Duffy and other conservatives on the panel, however, expressed interest in allowing private insurers into the flood insurance market as a way to lessen its burden.  Wright suggested that Congress could set aside portions of the housing market, like new construction, for private insurers.  "Give us an opportunity to create dedicated space to let the markets take hold, take root and flourish," he said.  But Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) argued that private insurance would likely offer more expensive rates than the NFIP and that requiring new construction to go private could inhibit growth.
'Draw the line'
Lawmakers also asked Wright how to best tackle properties that flood repeatedly. Those represent about 1 percent of total policies but add up to 25 to 30 percent of the claims and about $12 billion of the program's debt.  Wright suggested that Congress limit how many times a property can flood, or how much money it could receive from the NFIP, while still receiving subsidized insurance rates.  "There is a point by which we've got to draw a line that says if you exceed 150 or 200 percent of your policy limit that at least we need to take the subsidies and grandfathering away from you and you pay the actual face value premium or we tell you to get on the private market," he said.  But, Wright acknowledged, some properties that flood repeatedly are "in places where the homeowners are of less means" and could not afford such policies.
Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of NFIP bills in recent days. Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced S. 563 to accelerate the development of a private flood insurance market. Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) introduced a companion, H.R. 1422, in the House.  Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 1423 to improve oversight over the NFIP's "Write Your Own" program, which allows insurance companies to service standard flood insurance policies in their own names.  The bills join an ever-growing list of flood insurance legislation already introduced that may eventually be incorporated into a final reauthorization (E&E Daily, March 8).

Upcoming Buxton Beach Nourishment Project Outlined in Detail at Public Meeting 

Southern Shores Council OKs beach nourishment 

N.C. looking for new fisheries director
NCDEQ Press Release - 

More people are driving on Hatteras beaches while record number of sea turtle nests are found 

DHEC board spurns staff, allows use of controversial seawalls 

One Stop Carteret County Dredging & Beach Nourishment Update - Spring 2017

Bald Head Island Seeks to Mine Shoals Sand

Southern Shores OK’s nourishment project for later this year

Even outside flood zones, insurance now a must
Erika Bolstad, E&E News reporter, March 8, 2017
NEW ORLEANS — To understand how ill-prepared for flooding most Americans are, and how vast the flood insurance problem is in the United States, take a look at South Carolina, the state's insurance commissioner told a panel yesterday.  In October of 2015, South Carolina weathered such a downpour that rainfall could be measured in some places by the foot. It was a record-breaking amount of water that drenched the middle part of the state, a swath of South Carolina not only unaccustomed to such deluges, but also mostly outside flood zones.  Then came Hurricane Matthew a year later, said Ray Farmer, the state's insurance commissioner.  "If you look at South Carolina, my position is our entire state's in a flood zone," Farmer told a panel at the annual RES/CON Global Resilience Summit here. "Everyone, unless you're living on top of a rock, everyone needs to have flood insurance."
Over the past several years, catastrophic floods, often driven by heavy rain events, have swept through many states. Some were tropical systems, like Hurricane Matthew. Many more, though, were big rain events that caught people by surprise — in Houston; Baton Rouge, La.; West Virginia; South Carolina; and beyond. They swamped places where few people carried flood insurance, because they did not think they needed it.  With rising global temperatures, the 2014 National Climate Assessment predicts that many communities will see such extreme precipitation events more frequently. Climate scientists know that the intensity of extreme precipitation events is on the rise because there's more water vapor in the atmosphere caused by higher global and sea temperatures.
Such storms have also exposed one of the greatest weaknesses in the National Flood Insurance Program, known as NFIP: People often don't have insurance outside high-risk flood areas because local governments have successfully petitioned to have the rates lowered by proving they've invested in levees or other defenses.  "The most gut-wrenching part of it is person after person after person would come up and say, 'I have no coverage at all. I lost my home. What do I do now?'" Farmer said.  Many panelists also worried about some of the incentives in NFIP, which is $23 billion in debt and up for congressional reauthorization this year.
Many communities successfully protest their flood zone ratings to help homeowners lower their rates. When they do so, it also allows many homeowners to exit the program, said Ned Dolese, who started a private flood insurance company, Coastal American Insurance Co., after growing frustrated with the cost of insurance after Hurricane Katrina. Coastal offers flood insurance as a policy on top of a regular homeowners insurance policy, and it is working to enter additional state markets.  "Are we cannibalizing the program because a community can then say, 'I no longer want to be in the flood zone?'" Dolese asked. "Where we're sitting today, a lot of this area that flooded during Katrina is no longer a flood zone. That's a political process. That has no basis in science or actuarial science or anything else. It's politically driven."
Few panelists addressed climate change outright. Instead, they focused on the more sweeping topic of the conference: how to build greater resilience in communities.  That should start by preparing before the water rises, said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), whose district includes the areas flooded in Baton Rouge. Local officials have a responsibility to adequately assess their vulnerability, he said. "We've got to flip this whole paradigm over," Graves said. "There is a responsibility of local governments ... to make sure that your building codes and that your zoning ordinances are really compatible with the areas that these people are moving to. To make sure that you're not, as a county official, as a parish official, as a city official or as a state official, that you're not actually creating more liability by building roads to areas that are vulnerable."

Bipartisan flood insurance bill linked to rising seas
Hannah Hess, E&E News reporter, March 8, 2017
Bipartisan flood insurance legislation from two Florida congressmen would extend rate caps to the owners of second homes and rental properties, in the latest bid to address the challenge of sea-level rise.  Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican who represents the Keys, partnered with Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist yesterday to introduce legislation to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. Congress is working toward reauthorizing the program, which would otherwise expire in September (E&E Daily, March 6).  Crist said his panhandle-based district, which he called a peninsula on a peninsula, "is ground zero for climate change and the impact of rising sea levels and storm surge."  "In the face of these threats," Crist said, "it is more important than ever to work across the aisle to keep flood insurance affordable for Floridians protecting their homes and businesses."
Raising awareness about the repercussions of rising seas presents unique challenges, said a recently published paper in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science.  The initial focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions may have prevented action — and public communication — on how to respond to the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, said co-authors Karen Akerlof, Michelle Covi and Elizabeth Rohring.  Public opinion polls rank sea-level rise as a lesser concern than other global warming impacts, even in some of the most affected parts of the world, they note.
Curbelo is co-chairman of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, a group he launched last year with fellow South Florida Rep. Ted Deutch (D) to educate members on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore mitigation and adaptation. Crist joined the caucus last month (Greenwire, Feb. 9).  "Across the country, rental properties like those affected by this bill not only serve as primary income for many landlords but also provide reasonably priced housing for the workforce in our coastal communities," Curbelo said yesterday.  Though his statement on the bill did not refer to climate, Curbelo has spoken out recently about the impact sea-level rise is having on roads and infrastructure in his low-lying district.  "The 2015 king tides led to flooding that lasted more than three weeks in several neighborhoods, causing damage to homes and businesses, and leaving my constituents unable to move freely to and from their homes," Curbelo said in a recent speech on the House floor that commended local planning efforts.
Curbelo advocated for federal transportation infrastructure research grants to "help ensure we have the best engineering at our disposal" and mitigation policies.  With President Trump pushing to work with Congress on infrastructure, Curbelo has urged for funding to address sea-level rise to be part of the package.  Curbelo said after Trump's recent address to Congress that infrastructure could provide a lot of opportunity for lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are concerned about climate impacts (E&E Daily, March 1).

Coastal scientists draw a line in the sand after new Shore Protection Act passes House

South Carolina groups sue to protect Endangered Species Act

100 homes have been raised above Dare County flood areas in last 20 years

Trump action on water regulation garners praise, concern along N.C. coast 

Legislators Eye Beach Sand Funding, Rules 

Beach committee continues review of how best to pay for long-term shore protection

Some Virginia barrier islands are shrinking by the day: "You can just feel it"

Ocean Isle Beach has all permits for terminal groin 

Oak Island seeking bids to place 156,000 yards of sand on areas of eroded beachfront

Trump Orders ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule Changed

NC must act now to avoid a disaster as sea levels rise

Work Continues on Rich Inlet Biological Study

North Topsail leaders to finalize decision on contract for hardened structure project 

Few Weeks Left In Holden Beach Renourishment Program

Bill offers new definition of sand dunes in Georgia 

Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016

'Deadline' lawsuits largely determined FWS's focus — GAO
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, 2/28/17
The Fish and Wildlife Service faced 122 "deadline" lawsuits between 2005 and 2015, prompting the agency to negotiate settlements that largely dictated which species were considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.  The GAO report is an overview of so-called Section 4 deadline lawsuits. Under the Endangered Species Act, outside groups can sue FWS or the National Marine Fisheries Service for not meeting statutory deadlines for listing petitions.  Republicans have long criticized the process, sometimes saying it allows environmental groups to force species listing. The GAO report does not support that contention, concluding that settlement agreements "did not affect the substantive basis or procedural rule-making requirements" under ESA.
But the settlements did eat up resources.  "For fiscal years 2005 through 2015, FWS officials said they have focused much of their Section 4 program on completing actions required under settlement agreements and court orders," GAO analysts wrote, adding that a multispecies settlement in 2011 made that focus particularly evident. "To fulfill its commitments under these agreements, FWS's efforts related to listing have required the use of substantially all of its petition and listing budgetary resources, according to FWS documents."  ESA sets a firm deadline of 90 days for FWS and NMFS to review petitions for changing, adding or removing animals and plants from the endangered and threatened species lists. If the agencies find a petition presented "substantial" information in support of action, they then have 12 months to determine whether the move is warranted.  The result is that FWS and NMFS usually settle deadline lawsuits, because they can't dispute that they missed a required deadline.
Between fiscal 2005 and 2015, plaintiffs filed 141 deadline suits against FWS and NMFS, involving 1,441 species. More than half the lawsuits came from two groups: the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.
CBD pointed out that the report shows that the number of lawsuits filed has declined since 2011, when FWS agreed to consider listing more than 250 species over five years. The group also emphasized that some imperiled species wait years for protection.  "Lawsuits have targeted species that in many cases have been waiting decades for protection and ensured they at least get a decision about that protection," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at CBD. "The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, has still largely determined the priorities for which species get protection, and in no cases have settlements determined the outcome of decisions or cut industry or states out of the process. This is clear from the GAO’s report."  The agencies negotiated settlements for 72 percent of the lawsuits, while 22 percent were dismissed voluntarily because actions were completed.  Only nine lawsuits — all involving FWS — were resolved by court order, according to the report. The court dismissed six of them.
House Natural Resources ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who requested the report, said today that the report confirmed that such lawsuits "do not force the government to list species."  "Now it should be clear to everyone that the GOP 'sue and settle' conspiracy theory belongs in the garbage along with its claims of global cooling and massive voter fraud," he said. "Instead of targeting American citizens and the conservation groups that help them hold the government accountable for breaking the law, congressional Republicans should adequately fund species conservation efforts so that agencies can actually meet statutory deadlines." 
But Republicans saw the report differently.  "Litigation is driving ESA decisions and taxpayers are paying millions in attorney's fees to the groups that sue the government on those cases," Parish Braden, spokesman for the Natural Resources Committee, said in an email.  Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has said the ESA should be repealed and replaced, and Braden reiterated today that ESA was a "broken" policy. He also criticized Grijalva for serving on the advisory board of CBD's Climate Law Institute. The institute aims to wage "legal and public-pressure campaigns" to prevent extinction amid global warming.

Who should pay for beach nourishment? 

Oak Island and other coastal communities work to restore beaches

Long-awaited beach nourishment project along Outer Banks set to start in May 

Mason Inlet catching more boaters

Oak Island closes street to accommodate Publix; pursues tax to prepared meals

Numbers against offshore oil 

NEW - Final Report to Congress: John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System Digital Mapping Pilot Project  

Topsail Beach’s Request for Sand Site Stalled

Offshore drilling opponents re-gear for new round of battles

Myers: Modernize Endangered Species Act

Widening will work its way down the beach in 1,000-foot chunks 

Dredging could benefit Holden Beach, Intracoastal boaters

Oak Island seeks prepared meals tax (for nourishment)

Acting Ferry Division director urges islanders to support passenger ferry and the Dredge Report 

Challenge to DeBordieu seawall starts over (SC) 

‘Last standing’ no more, Hunting Island’s Little Blue torn down

Creating ‘Virtual Storms’ To Help Design Coastal Defenses

Updates on Upcoming Inlet Dredging Presented at Waterways Commission Meeting 

Hilton Head Island looking at changes to the beach management plan

Cape Hatteras National Seashore has opened the Cape Point Bypass Road extension to the public. 

Want to help rebuild Hunting Island? You might have the chance soon

Rep. Iler updates transportation group on highway funding and projects, ports spending 

GOP senators reintroduce bills cracking down on lawsuits, wolf policy
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, February 16, 2017
Republican senators are supporting a series of bills that would make it harder for the Fish and Wildlife Service to resolve Endangered Species Act lawsuits and would force the agency to provide more information on proposed protections for Mexican wolves.  Two of the three ESA bills introduced Tuesday were from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip.  The "Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act," S. 375, would require the Interior Department to provide public notification of when ESA suits, often from environmental groups, are filed and would set a lower standard for when outside groups, such as interested businesses, can intervene.  Introduced by Cornyn in both 2013 and 2015, the legislation also seeks to require judges to obtain the consent of affected local governments before approving settlements and would block litigants from obtaining legal payments.
"By giving states, counties, and local landowners a seat at the table, this bill will bring some much-needed transparency to the ESA settlement process," the majority whip said in a news release. "This will ensure Washington bureaucrats can't run roughshod over Texas landowners and job creators."  Cornyn also reintroduced the "21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act," S. 376, which would require the secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, who jointly implement the ESA, to publish any scientific and commercial data online that are used for adding or removing animals and plants from the endangered or threatened species lists. But the bill would also prohibit the posting of landowners' "personal information."
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) resurrected the "Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act" as well.
The bill, S. 368, seeks to shape the forthcoming update to the species's three-decade-old recovery plan.
The revision is required by December as a condition of a settlement the Obama administration struck last year with conservation groups and some states to resolve a series of lawsuits related to the recovery program for the wolf subspecies, one of the most endangered mammals in North America (Greenwire, April 27, 2016).
Flake's legislation would require FWS to set "an enforceable maximum population of the Mexican gray wolf" within a range below the current boundary line of Interstate 40 that is acceptable to ranchers, landowners, recreation interests and county governments in Arizona and New Mexico — the only two states in which the wolf is currently found.  Regulators would be require to describe "acceptable and unacceptable impacts on wild game, livestock and recreation" in those states. It also would set a process for state wildlife officials to assume authority of the recovery effort if they find FWS is in noncompliance with the revised recovery plan and would make them eligible for federal grant funding.  "The federal government's outdated management of Mexican gray wolf populations is harming ranchers and our state's rural communities," said Flake, who is up for re-election in 2018. "This bill will ease the burdens on rural Arizonans by enhancing local stakeholder participation and state involvement in the recovery process."  The sole co-sponsor of the bill last session was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was re-elected in 2016. He hasn't signed up to support the most recent package.

Wilmington Chamber Pushing For State Beach Fund

An Approach to Climate Change that Even Deniers Can Support

Work to begin soon on Willoughby Spit storm damage reduction project 

Shifting currents for proposed wind farms off N.C. coast 

State coastal agency gathers local feedback following Hurricane Matthew 

Barrasso hopes to sell Democrats on reforms (Endangered Species)
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter, February 13, 2017
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week will take a fresh look at reforming the Endangered Species Act — a long-held Republican priority that may now be possible with the party's unified control of Congress and the White House.  But to get any ESA reform bill past a Senate filibuster, Republicans will need to secure at least eight Democratic votes.  In a sign of the seriousness with which EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is approaching that endeavor, the majority of planned witnesses for this week's hearing have Democratic ties.  Lawmakers will hear from Fish and Wildlife Service directors who led the agency during the Clinton and Obama administrations, a former Democratic governor of Wyoming, the president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and the executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The witnesses highlight the fact that the ESA is an issue that presents challenges across the political spectrum — not just for Republicans — and throughout the United States," a committee source said in an email.  Not all of the witnesses are likely to offer full-throated support for reform. Defenders of Wildlife CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark, who was President Clinton's FWS director, has been critical of past attempts to tweak the law by making it less protective of species or their habitats.
But the viewpoints of other guests are less clear. For example, Dan Ashe, CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said while serving as President Obama's FWS director that "I do believe that the Endangered Species Act should be reauthorized, and I think there could be room for improvement of the law" (E&E Daily, May 7, 2015).  The Obama administration, however, went on to push a series of ESA regulatory reforms and explicitly closed the door on supporting any statutory changes (Greenwire, May 18, 2015).  "We hope that the hearing will initiate a serious and thoughtful discussion regarding the challenges with the ESA and potential opportunities to modernize the statute," the committee source said. "We need to make this Act work more efficiently towards achieving its basic conservation purpose."  Barrasso, long a critic of the law, has made overhauling the ESA one of his top legislative priorities (Greenwire, Jan. 17).
The Western Governors Association has also called for an update. The bipartisan group released a policy blueprint for such an effort last year and is currently at work on specific legislative proposals (Greenwire, Dec. 15, 2016).  House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), on the other hand, has said the law should be repealed and replaced.  "I'm not sure if there's a way of actually reforming the Endangered Species Act or if you simply have to start over again," he told E&E News last year (E&E Daily, Dec. 9, 2016).  Enacted in 1973, the law currently protects more than 1,600 U.S. species, but critics note that it has only led to the recovery of 47 animals or plants. It has been nearly 30 years since the ESA was last amended.  Schedule: The hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.
Witnesses: Former Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal (D); Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife; Dan Ashe, CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; James Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; and Gordon Myers, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and president of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

There have never been this many beach-expansion projects on the Outer Banks, and experts don't know why 

CRC: Let’s talk flood maps

Court lets agencies pause critical habitat litigation
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, February 10, 2017
A federal judge has granted a two-month delay in litigation over critical habitat rules, allowing the Trump administration to get up to speed on the issue.  More than a dozen states filed the lawsuit in November, challenging a series of controversial updates to rules under the Endangered Species Act (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2016). The states assert that the changes allow federal agencies to designate "entire states" as habitat for imperiled species.  The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service filed an unopposed motion yesterday asking for a stay in the proceedings. Judge Katherine Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granted the motion today.  "A 60-day stay of proceedings will allow Defendants time to brief incoming administration officials with decision-making responsibility about this case, so that they may become familiar with the subject matter and issues presented," the agencies wrote in the motion. "Requests to continue proceedings to allow time for new administration officials to become familiar with cases under their authority are customary."  Eighteen states filed the original lawsuit: Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Missouri and Idaho later joined as plaintiffs.  A critical habitat designation mandates that federal agencies consult with FWS or NMFS before approving or funding any projects in the area. The states' lawsuit takes aim at a rule that gives the agencies more flexibility to designate land that is not the current home to the species.  The agencies previously could only consider unoccupied habitat if they determined that the species could not recover without it. Now they can consider both unoccupied and occupied habitat at the same time.  The states argue that the rule change, among others, unlawfully expands the government's control over state lands and waters.

DEQ Secretary makes leadership announcements

Court Halts Cooper’s Cabinet Confirmations

Sandbags remain hard problem to solve along N.C. coast

County to pay up to $500K for Southern Shores nourishment 

County to help fund Southern Shores project

House committee report says state should step-up role in maintenance of ocean inlets 

Area officials taking flood map concerns to Raleigh

Fearing tourism losses, Outer Banks property owners sue NCDOT to stop NC 12 bridge

NTB to allow swimming pools on oceanfront setback

PUBLIC NOTICE The Wilmington District, Corps of Engineers, received a request from the Village of Bald Head Island to dredge Frying Pan Shoals and discharge the dredged material along the shoreline of Bald Head Island, including West Beach and South Beach, for groin fillet maintenance and beach nourishment. 

Group calls for U.S. flood insurance revamp as program deadline nears

Officials to talk impact - Draft federal flood maps focus of meeting in Raleigh

“Low Risk isn’t No Risk,” and Other Things you Need to Know about the Preliminary Flood Maps

4 ways coastal meeting could impact locals 

Lawsuit by group of OBX homeowners claims state cut illegal deal with environmental group 

Virginia's Barrier Islands Are on the Move 

Orrin H. Pilkey: Heading over the coastal cliff in North Carolina

Industry sees opening to revamp species protection law
Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter, February 3, 2017
About 30 baleen whales live year-round in an underwater canyon off the Florida Panhandle, in an area of the Gulf of Mexico that is currently off-limits to oil and gas activity but could be reopened in 2022.  The subspecies of Bryde's whale may be the most endangered whale in the world, and right now, one U.S. law prohibits companies and agencies from killing or harassing them: the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The 45-year-old law has avoided tinkering by Congress since 1994, when provisions were added to address fisheries that inadvertently harm marine mammals. But the oil and gas industry has long found the act's permitting process burdensome — and it sees a possible opening for updates with a Republican Congress and a Trump administration.  Like other statutes, the MMPA "should be reviewed and reauthorized from time to time to reflect current-day realities," said Dustin Van Liew, director of regulatory and government affairs at the International Association of Geophysical Contractors. "The act has predominantly fulfilled the original intent of Congress, ending the threat of extinction and allowing for increasing populations of marine mammals across the board in response to the regulation of overhunting, overfishing and unscrupulous trade."  Van Liew said the IAGC "welcomes a discussion" with Congress and the administration on how to modernize the MMPA. The National Ocean Industries Association declined to comment on the MMPA, referring a reporter to IAGC.
It's unclear whether the MMPA will interest GOP lawmakers who have historically focused on higher-profile laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Antiquities Act. But several environmental groups are already sounding the alarm.  The Natural Resources Defense Council included MMPA on a list of the policies that it worries could be weakened by the Trump administration and its "GOP allies." Oceana has also identified it as a possible target of the current Congress.  "In terms of 'modernize,' I would point out that's language we often hear from industry affected by environmental laws and regulations," said Lara Levison, senior director of federal policy at Oceana. "The law has done a great deal to protect marine mammals, but its work is far from accomplished."  Michael Jasny, director of NRDC's Marine Mammal Protection Project, said he doesn't know of any specific plans to amend the MMPA. But he pointed to past industry criticism of the incidental harassment authorizations required under the law for any project that might harm or disturb a marine mammal.  "It's hard not to be worried about everything," Jasny said. "This is a dark age for anyone who is concerned about the environment or public health."
'Why should it take so long?'
Broadly, the MMPA prohibits anyone from harassing or killing a marine mammal without permission from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service routinely gives that permission to various companies, groups and federal agencies, along with a set of requirements to mitigate the effects of a project on marine mammals.  A company conducting seismic surveys, for example, usually is limited to operating its underwater air guns during certain times and within certain areas. That's because the air guns — used to find mineral deposits beneath the seafloor — can mask the calls of whales, as well as interrupt their feeding and cause hearing loss.
Those mitigation measures can be a source of controversy, with environmental groups sometimes arguing that they are not stringent enough. Most recently, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of NRDC and others in holding that NMFS failed to adequately consider the impacts of the Navy's sonar testing system on marine mammals (E&E News PM, July 15, 2016).
For the oil and gas industry, a main frustration has been the length of the permitting process. IAGC pointed to its members' attempts to get authorization for seismic surveys in the Atlantic.  The permits were rolled up into a broader controversy over the Obama administration's initial proposal to open the Atlantic to drilling. The administration eventually decided to not allow oil and gas leasing off the East Coast — and eventually denied the permits for seismic surveys.  But by then, NOAA had spent more than two years reviewing applications from companies for geophysical surveys. The delay was brought up at least once in a congressional hearing, with an IAGC witness asserting that seismic surveys don't hurt marine mammal populations (E&E Daily, July 15, 2015).  "Seismic surveying can be conducted safely, causing no harm to marine mammals, so why should it take so long to get a permit?" Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said at the 2015 hearing. "I have yet to hear a reasonable answer to this question."  That same year, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas and Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi — along with then-Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana — proposed changes to the MMPA process in a bill to expand oil and gas activity to the eastern Gulf, home of the Bryde's whale (E&E Daily, May 13, 2015). Among other things, the bill would have set hard deadlines for NOAA to act upon or deny requests for incidental harassment authorizations.
Van Liew of IAGC said yesterday that MMPA, "as applied today, is imposing regulatory burdens that are impossible for the federal government to meet."  "Offshore energy development is threatened with major delays and unnecessary restrictions due to the inability of federal agencies to implement the MMPA's vague or overly protective standards," he said.  Environmentalists pointed out that the Atlantic is new territory for oil and gas activity, as well as home to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Gathering and analyzing the best available science for an incidental harassment authorization would take NOAA longer than usual in that case, they said.  At a time when the ocean is becoming more dangerous to marine mammals — thanks to increasing ship traffic, noise and energy development — Jasny and Levison said the MMPA is an important protection.  "Trying to open up a statute to undermine it in any way, it's inappropriate," Jasny said. "It would meddle with a statute that is working well, and it would go against the passionate interest and concern of the American public."

North Topsail Looks to Fast-Track Groin Study

Sandbag assessments on hold as legal challenge continues 

Challenge filed in federal court to block Rodanthe bridge 

Sand flows from inlet channel onto Garden City (SC) 

County considers 'engineered' beaches (Georgetown County, SC) 

North Topsail leaders to hear presentation on hardened structure project

Beach repair a must for South Carolina’s money making counties, argues senator 

Edisto Beach begins project to replenish sand  

 L/onger bypass for four-wheel drives at Cape Point now open

Carteret County Beach Commission Meeting Agenda
February 6, 2017; Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 2 pm

NC Coastal Resources Commission Meeting Agenda
February 7-8, 2017; DoubleTree; Atlantic Beach 

Carolina Beach dune-rebuilding event sees record turnout, eyes Kure Beach for 2018

New Jersey Opinion - A tale of three beaches after the storm: One done right and two done wrong

A Scientists’ March on Washington Is a Bad Idea

Flood mapping methodology concerns raised in Carteret County 

Video: Learn more about how flood maps could affect you

State Floodplain Mapping Office holds public meetings 

Park Service superintendent to visit Ocracoke today about new beach access changes, FEMA specialists on island. 

White House Chief of Staff Orders Freezing of Pending Regulations (Endangered Species related)

UNC Collaboratory Set to Begin Research 

Southern Shores moves closer to beach nourishment 

Kitty Hawk wind farm sale set for March

Barrier-island migration drives large-scale marsh loss

From Forest to Beach

Nags Head Officials Ask Feds For Beach Renourishment Help

Hurricane Matthew destroyed Hunting Island. Here’s the plan for the park’s new look

North Topsail Beach leaders moving forward on hardened structure

In Corova, Battle Rages Over Development

Edisto begins beach renourishment project after Hurricane Matthew damage

Photos: Holden Beach nourishment project

Reflections on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge 

Public meetings to address county preliminary flood maps (Onslow)

Contractor for beach work in three towns plans to start in May 

Matthew blamed for loss of a third of Nags Head’s new beach

Southern Shores hires firm to examine beach nourishment 

Southern Shores takes step toward beach nourishment 

FEMA maps generate a flood of concerns

US to lease Atlantic Ocean for offshore wind farm off Kitty Hawk

Dredge to return to Ocracoke tomorrow 

More dredging at Ocracoke ferry channel could interrupt service 

Flood maps meeting attracts property owners seeking answers 

Preliminary flood maps explained at packed Hatteras Island meeting 

Park Service superintendent, staff to visit Ocracoke about new beach access changes 

Maritime forest a thorny issue for Sullivan's Island

N.C. 12 bridge to be built much faster and much cheaper than expected 

Contract awarded for bridge bypassing northern Rodanthe 

Whales are washing up on Outer Banks beaches more often. Why? That's disputed.

Topsail Beach to defend itself against resident lawsuit

County, state closing in on interim solution to Hatteras Inlet shoaling

Oak Island council approves beach-repair plan

Oak Island council initiates sand program, lets wedding and parking rules alone 

Some Sea Pines homes could remain at risk for damage through next hurricane season (SC) 

Obama administration denies seismic testing permits 

Morehead City plans flood mitigation meeting

Oak Island to decide how to replace dunes 

Getting to the Point

Plans for seismic tests off Virginia coast rejected by federal officials

Federal agency rejects applications for seismic surveying 

NEWS RELEASE - BOEM Denies Atlantic Seismic G&G Permits

Judge Halts Topsail Beach Building Permits

Old Christmas Trees Can Build New Dunes

Study: Coastal NC Officials Not Willing To Prepare For Sea Level Rise 

Hilton Head Island beach renourishment wraps up for the year

How will Hunting Island be rebuilt?

Group Urges Denial of Seismic Permits 

Activists disappointed new drilling ban excludes N.C.

The push is on to improve tide forecasts across Hampton Roads 

Public meetings planned on preliminary flood insurance rate maps (Dare Co.) 

Isle of Palms $19 million beach renourishment plan under review 

The Air Force demolished 15 Civil War cannonballs in Charleston. But should they have? 

Several opportunities to recycle Christmas trees 

Carolina Beach recycling Christmas trees to shore up dune systems

Trees add ongoing protection to beach dunes 

Future of beach sand, financing the subject of January 4 Oak Island Town Council session 

Sea turtles, shrimp fishermen tangled in government's net proposal 

Charleston-area beach parks struggle to recover from Hurricane Matthew