Homes are surrounded by floodwater after torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey on August 31, 2017 in Orange, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi August 25, has dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in and around areas Houston. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)  


As we watch the flooding tragedy in Houston – and now Louisiana – unfold we know this: The cost to rebuild will be massive and pressure on Congress to act quickly to approve funding will be intense...

President Trump, however, has already put the recovery project from Hurricane Harvey at risk. This requires lawmakers to step in – and fast.

A reckless move days before Harvey hit

Just 10 days prior to Harvey’s landfall, the president issued a reckless executive order that affects all federal agencies and contractors involved in the rebuilding effort.

As part of his agenda to impose climate denial throughout his administration, Trump rescinded a policy directing federal agencies to consider worsening future flood conditions when planning projects funded by American taxpayers.

The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, an order President Obama issued in 2015, sought to improve America’s preparedness and resilience against flooding, and make sure that public funds are used wisely.

The order required federal agencies to use the best and latest information available when they invest in federally-funded infrastructure to withstand floods, to avoid construction in floodplains whenever possible, and to preserve natural floodplains that can minimize the threat to surrounding communities.

Just a year earlier, then-business man Donald Trump had the exact same concerns, mind you. In 2014, he pushed Irish authorities to allow him to build a new sea wall to protect his golf course that, his filing stated, was necessary due to “predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events.”

Members of Congress must step up and rebuff Trump’s executive order when they take up disaster relief, which they should do swiftly. 

It is one thing to rebuild a home. It is quite another to rebuild homes in a community that will be safer going forward as our climate becomes increasingly chaotic and destructive. Whether Houston will have that assurance is now very much in question.

Members of Congress must therefore step up and rebuff Trump’s executive order when they take up disaster relief, which they should do swiftly. The legislation should include measures that ensure federal agencies plan for the real world – including the worsening flood events associated with climate change ― as they deploy disaster response funds.

Trump’s order fits his scorched-earth agenda

By rescinding the 2015 flood risk standard, Trump is in effect encouraging federal agencies to look backward at the world decades ago even though history is no longer an accurate guide of what to expect in the future when it comes to impacts from climate change. Instead of taking into account the best science and changes that are already observable in the real world, they’ll see nothing but the same backwards reflection.

This action is part of the president’s scorched-earth approach to anything the government does on climate change – censoring scientific websites and reports, pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, rolling back clean air rules and appointing a polluter ally to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into the ground.

What will he tell people in Houston?

In fact, whereas Trump’s agenda seems to have stalled on most fronts, his war against environmental protection has been a model of efficiency and zeal. His moves are deeply unpopular with the public, but he has been aided by Washington’s deep-pocketed lobbying organizations.

When Trump killed the flood plain standard, both the American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Home Builders vocally applauded.

How do they plan to explain this to suffering people in Houston, Beaumont and Porth Arthur who need responsible leaders – not reckless ideologues – to take their flooded communities forward?


Jeremy Symons

Jeremy Symons 

Published August 30, 2017

Jeremy is EDF's Associate Vice President of Climate Political Affairs.

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