Trump Revoked Obama-Era Flood Protection Rule Just A Few Weeks Before Hurricane Harvey


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Evacuees hug their grandmothers' dogs that have just been pulled out of the rising waters caused by Hurricane Harvey. Bloomberg via Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the Trump administration did something rather petty. This isn’t surprising, of course – whether you’re talking about an Obama-era regulation designed to stop litter in National Parks, or an Obama-era measure designed to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, anything with the former President’s name on it appears to be up for the chop, no matter how sensible it was.

The latest casualty came in the form of flood protection, as reported by Buzzfeed. The mandate, which was again signed into law under the Obama administration, maintained that all new federal buildings and infrastructural projects must take into account floods and build in defensive measures.


This required buildings to take into account not just current sea level extremes, but future sea level rises – you know, the type associated with climate change. In some cases, this required them to be constructed several feet off the ground.

The original flood rule took into account the extremes of a once-in-100 year flood event; Obama updated this to take into account a once-in-500 year event.

This 2015 mandate affected anything the government was fully or even partially involved in constructing. Hospitals, schools, universities, and military installations all came under this particular umbrella, as would any houses rebuilt by the government after a natural disaster of any kind.

Trump revoked this clearly practical rule a few weeks back for no reason other than “streamlining”, according to the Washington Post. You could, of course, say that about anything: if you streamlined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to remove volcano monitoring, then yes, there is less to read through – but if a volcano erupts, America would never see it coming.


Now, we don’t know if you’ve noticed, but something appears to be happening in Texas right now. A hurricane named Harvey is causing unprecedented flooding in what experts have considered to be a one-in-1,000 year event. Houston is essentially underwater as the volume of a small sea (seriously) has fallen on it in just a few days.

This catastrophic flooding is exactly the reason this 2015 rule was brought it. It is meant to save lives and stop millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Removing it was clearly ridiculous.

Obviously, that ruling wasn't put in place in time to be of much use to Houston, but when future natural disasters strike, its revocation could make the difference between life and death.

“HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming,” the President himself declared on Twitter. “Spirit of the people is incredible. Thanks!”


We’d argue that people’s spirits can only do so much against the power of a natural disaster. They need actual flood protection. Ultimately, they need scientifically influenced policy, no matter what people like the President or his bellicose minions claim.


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