Federal Resilience Policy

Existing climate risk across the U.S. and the ability of communities, states and businesses to become resilience has been shaped by policies, some decades old, affecting building development, economic development, disaster preparedness and numerous other policy areas. Now, the nation’s ability to be resilient to climate change is still defined by these policies.  Notable legislation that affects climate resilience includes:

  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. It does so by providing affordable insurance to property owners and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. However, the NFIP runs at a growing deficit because the program insures repetitive-loss properties, some filling damage claims that totaled greater than the value of the property. NFIP premiums are subsidized for those living in high-risk areas incentivizing building in risky areas, putting homes, property, and people in harm’s way.  Following extreme natural disasters in 2017 there is a renewed push to reform the program and fund flood preparation and mitigation.
  • The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) mandates “replacement-in-kind” which keeps communities from rebuilding after disaster to be more resilient and prepared for the disaster. In 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) announced a policy that allows communities to consider sea level rise when rebuilding, but the Stafford Act must be changed to allow FEMA to upgrade infrastructure.
  • Funding mechanisms that can be used for resilience projects including: Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) which accelerates investment in water infrastructure and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a federal-state partnership that provides communities with a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that federal agencies prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, defining the potential environmental effects of proposed actions. The requirement applies to any major project on a local, state or federal level involving federal funding, work performed by the federal government, or permits issued by a federal agency. Courts have interpreted NEPA requirements to include non-federally funded projects requiring federal permits.