Disaster Law

When is a Flood a Government Taking?

Should the feds be liable for flooding during Hurricane Harvey?

A federal statute bars nearly all claims against the federal government for flooding.  Victims of flooding from Hurricane Harvey seem to have found a loophole by claiming that their property was taken without just compensation by flooding.  The facts are unusual, but the case raises some deep questions about financial responsibility for flood control. Here …

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The Thin Gray Line

Few people understand the role that the bureaucracy plays in keeping us safe.

“Bureaucrat” is just another name for public servant. It has been said that a thin blue line of police protects us from the worst elements of society. But it is a thin gray line of underpaid, overworked, anonymous bureaucrats who protect society against more insidious risks — risks ranging from nuclear contamination to climate change to …

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From the Wildfire Files

Wildfires are getting worse and worse. Here’s what we know about the situation.

I don’t normally do this, but given the terrible wildfires now hitting the state, I thought it was worth doing a reprise of some posts on the subject from earlier this summer. Of course, there’s more information in the original posts, if you want to click over to them. Spreading Like Wildfire In 2017, wildfires …

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Wildfires: Managing the Risks

How can we limit the spread of wildfires and save people and property?

Wildfires are already a serious problem, and climate change will only make the problem worse, as I’ve discussed in my two prior posts. Reducing carbon emissions can help keep the problem from growing, but we need to deal with the risks we’re already facing. That is going to require a portfolio of risk management strategies.  We …

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Burning in the Heat

Wildfires were bad enough already. Climate change is making them worse.

Fires have been unusually severe lately. According to one scientist, “’[I]n the late 20th and early 21st century, with these hot droughts, fires are ripping now with a severity and ferocity that’s unprecedented,’ says Tom Swetnam. . . . A fire in the Jemez Mountains Swetnam studies burned 40,000 acres in 12 hours, a ‘horizontal …

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Maladaptation

It’s not just that we’re slow in achieving resilience. It’s that often we’re moving in the opposite direction.

Some economic models of climate change come out with low damages because they assume smooth and effective adaptation efforts. That never made much sense. There’s a lot of inertia in social systems, and planning major projects can take a long time. Some of what we’re seeing lately is worse than that, however. We’re seeing cases …

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The Hurricane Outlook

The journalists are sure about the 2018 hurricane season. The scientists? Not so much.

I’m actually in Puerto Rico today for a conference on the situation here after Hurricane Maria. Since hurricanes are on my mind, I wondered what the forecast for this year looks like. As it turns out, the headlines give significantly different takes on what to expect. Here is a sample of news stories, all issued …

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Hurricane Recovery in Texas

It’s been eight months. What’s happened since the storm?

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the U.S. on August 25, 2017. That probably seems like ancient history to many Americans who live outside the area. The storm has certainly dropped out of the national media. It’s not easy to find information about how storm recovery is proceeding. But here’s where I could find. Let’s start …

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Disaster Law and Hurricane Harvey

This is the first in what will be a series of posts about disaster law.

As I write, Hurricane Harvey continues to hammer Texas, with rains and flooding expected to last for days. Because the storm is so slow moving, it may dump up to several feet of rain in some locations. For the same reason, it’s future trajectory is unclear, so we can’t even be sure of what areas …

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Disaster Law and Policy

A new textbook on the emerging field of Disaster Law.

I’m delighted to announce the publication of the third edition of Disaster Law and Policy. Although I might not normally use this blog to promote a new book, I’d like to think in this case this is more than just shameless self-promotion.  That’s for two reasons: the lion’s share of the credit for the improvements …

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