Disaster Law

Disaster Resilience: Inching Forward, Sliding Back

We’re slowing improving disaster resilience. But there have been some notable setbacks.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.  The same is true for disasters. We are slowly getting better at mitigating disaster risks.  These improvements don’t generally take the form of dramatic breakthroughs.  Rather they involve incremental progress on a number of fronts. For instance, homes that were constructed […]

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Disaster Insurance

States (for wind) and the Feds (for water) provide insurance for hurricane victims. Here’s how.

Rebuilding takes money.  That makes insurance a crucial part of the equation. Insured losses are expected to be in the $70 billion range for Harvey and Irma combined.  This includes commercial insurance, but the payments for home owners will also be hefty. Those costs are generally covered by government-supported insurance markets. I’ve posted previously about […]

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Rebuilding: Lessons from Katrina and Sandy

Recent experience shows that rebuilding is a slow, frustrating process.

We’ve had experience with the rebuilding process twice in the past dozen years, after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The storm destruction takes place in a matter of days, but rebuilding takes years — just like the difference between the instant it takes to break a leg and the subsequent weeks of wearing a cast. Houston […]

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Guest Bloggers Rob Verchick and Matt Shudtz: Law Professors from Every Coast Ask SCOTUS to Weigh in on Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Case

Professors Argue Fifth Circuit Decision Upsets Federal/State Court Balance, Will Prevent States from Relying on Their Own Laws to Protect Important Natural Resources

Last month, more than two dozen law professors from around the country filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging a fresh look at a lower court decision with sweeping implications for the balance of power between states and the federal government. The issue is vital to Louisiana because it affects whether oil and gas […]

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The Dark Art of Estimating Flood Risks

The 100-year flood and the 500-year flood are both very rough estimates.

My title is a little unfair.  So far as I can tell, the people who are trying to figure out the 100-year or 500-year floods in various places are hard-working professionals, applying their expertise to a difficult problem.  But there are a lot of uncertainties that get concealed behind the final numbers.  The consequence is […]

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How Disaster Response Works

It’s a complex process involving many federal agencies and state government.

When people think of FEMA, they envision rescuers finding victims and taking them to safety. FEMA does provide emergency assistance, temporary housing and other services. But its main  job is to coordinate the response of many parts of the federal government.  And the federal government’s role itself is mostly supportive, with the main job of […]

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Houston’s Shockingly Poor Flood Control System

Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina about the need to prepare for catastrophic flooding.

The torrential rain in Houston would have caused bad flooding no matter what.  There’s no question about that.  But it’s also true that Houston’s flood control efforts have been badly managed. Houston failed to learn a key lesson from Katrina: the most important disaster response is done years in advance through risk mitigation.  Not only […]

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Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

Carbon emissions are set in decline in Texas, with less coal and more renewables.

At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, BUT this might not matter because “arguably, you’re seeing market-based decarbonization” due to technological changes.  Case in point: Texas. Market trends are pushing Republican-stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all […]

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Louisiana Flood Lessons for a Climate-Changed Future

Louisiana’s preparedness for a 1000-year flood, and implications of the slow media response for slow-onset climate impacts

The devastating floods in southern Louisiana a week ago left at least 13 people dead, tens of thousands in need of rescue, and 60,000 homes damaged. In one parish, nearly ninety percent of homes flooded. Cellular network failures, road closures, power outages, and sewage-contaminated floodwaters continue to threaten relief efforts. The American Red Cross is […]

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Former Massey Energy CEO Sentenced to Prison for Actions Leading to 2010 Coal Mine Disaster

What Broader Environmental and Worker Safety Enforcement Lessons Can Be Learned Here?

A federal district judge on Wednesday sentenced Don Blankenship, the former Chief Executive of Massey Energy, to serve one year in federal prison–the maximum term allowed by law–and to personally pay a criminal penalty of $250,000 for Blankenship’s acts of omission and commission that led to the notorious 2010 coal mining disaster at Massey’s Upper […]

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