Sept. 12, 2018 by Alice Kaswan, Alyson Flournoy, Robert Verchick

From Surviving to Thriving: State and Local Planning

This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report.

Three months before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the state relaxed what many had considered to be one of the best building codes in the country. That wasn’t an anomaly. A report by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found that many states along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts either lack building codes or have relaxed them in recent years.

When jurisdictions fail to plan, or plan too little, they squander the opportunity to avoid or mitigate significant problems. Houston and surrounding Harris County, have seen massive in-migration and development in the last 20 years on some of the least absorbent soils in the nation, but has not developed adequate stormwater infrastructure. Behind Orleans and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana, Harris County ranks third in the nation for the amount paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program over the last 40 years.

Hurricane Maria revealed Puerto Rico’s underlying vulnerability and poor resilience capacity, including its decrepit power system and lack of on-island basic necessities and services. That vulnerability was rooted in the island’s poverty. Looking ahead, the tragedy highlights …

Feb. 6, 2018 by Alyson Flournoy

On January 4, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released its draft proposed program for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The proposed plan would end a broad ban on drilling imposed by President Obama and allow leasing and drilling on over 98 percent of the OCS, including the waters off Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico is subject to a congressional moratorium until 2022, but the new plan would commence sales in that region in 2023.  

On January 9, after a brief meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that, contrary to the proposal, he was removing Florida's coast from any consideration for new "oil and gas platforms." Zinke's reported explanation for his decision referenced the governor, his leadership and trustworthiness, his work with the administration on Everglades restoration, Florida's …

Sept. 3, 2010 by Alyson Flournoy

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill offers a chance to learn a lesson that we should have learned five years ago.  Certainly, the two events differ in important ways – the hurricane itself was a force of nature, and the oil well blowout although powered by nature, was clearly the result of human activity. But the hurricane was not just a natural disaster. Its impact resulted from a series of human decisions and actions that exacerbated the hurricane’s effects and impaired the response effort.   The lesson we should learn from these disasters is this: numbers may not lie, but they will fool us if we let them. Numbers – like those that predict how likely a disaster is, or the cost of taking steps to prevent a disaster – can be a helpful tool as we make decisions, like what kinds of levees to build and …

June 30, 2010 by Alyson Flournoy

Senate Bill 3516, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Murkowski in response to the BP oil spill to reform the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), proposes many intelligent and much-needed changes (the Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today). Among these, the legislation would imposea long-overdue mandate for best available technology for oil exploration and extraction, require that proponents of drilling evaluate the possibility of a well blowout and develop a response plan for a blowout, require a review of royalty and bonding requirements, and increase from 30 to 90 days the timeframe for the agency to review exploration plans, with an option for an extension if needed. The legislation would also significantly improve the structure of what was MMS (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) to separate incompatible functions, enhance the agency’s enforcement and investigative …

June 2, 2010 by Alyson Flournoy

In following the oil spill disaster, it can be hard to think beyond the control effort du jour to the bigger picture. I was riveted by the latest of BP’s seven failed efforts to stop the flow of oil, hoping it would succeed and that the underwater tornado of oil devastating the Gulf, the coast, and the people whose livelihoods depend on these natural resources, would be contained, at least. And now that the top kill has failed, we’re all holding our breath for the next containment dome, hoping against all odds that this one will work.  Even if we do think a little more broadly beyond the control and response efforts, the most immediate question seems to be how to reform MMS, the agency whose oversight of BP and other oil companies was so compromised and inadequate. 

But it’s crucial that we wrench …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 12, 2018

From Surviving to Thriving: State and Local Planning

Feb. 6, 2018

Outer Continental Shelf Shell Game Leaves Florida's Coastline More at Risk for Drilling

Sept. 3, 2010

Painting by Numbers: A Recipe for Disaster

June 30, 2010

Bingaman-Murkowski Bill on BP Oil Spill Captures Low-Hanging Fruit But Leaves the Environment at Risk

June 2, 2010

Looking Beyond Deepwater to the Horizon: Government-on-Demand Doesn't Work (Surprise!)