Before Hurricane Harvey, Trump Reversed Obama Flood Protection Rules

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The rules hadn't taken effect just yet, but they could have changed the standards for infrastructure projects so flood risks were taken into account.

Elderly woman waits for rescue with her poodle in flooded street.

Just before the devastating Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, President Donald Trump dropped a rule signed by President Barack Obama regarding flood standards — all because he wanted his infrastructure plan to be approved quickly.

The rules signed by Obama in 2015 hadn't yet taken effect. Still, they would change certain standards so that infrastructure projects would take into account climate change concerns before coming to fruition. Ignoring environmentalists, Trump signed the rules away in early August in order to keep them from standing in the way of his own infrastructure plans.

“We're going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking, and the permitting process will go very, very quickly,” Trump said during the rule rollback announcement.

Still, he added, “It’s going to be a very streamlined process, and by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it.”

But the now-obsolete rules would have forced any government taking on a new project regarding infrastructure constructions to ensure roads, bridges, dams, and the like would withstand the effects of rising sea levels.

Trump apparently thought this could end up delaying his plans as his team would have to prove that his infrastructure designs would take climate change into account. As he signed an executive order that would allow his own administration to ignore these rules, many pointed out he would be putting the risk of countless cities across the country in jeopardy.

At the time, environmental advocate Robert Moore wrote an op-ed urging the president to consider the importance of maintaining the standards, especially due to flood damage risks.

“While many Americans may think flooding is only a problem for coastal regions prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, it is far more widespread than that and can devastate any state or region across the country,” he stated. “In just the past five years, all 50 states have experienced flood damage.”

Despite the calls for a second look at the Obama policies, Trump decided to push through, believing the rule would drive the cost of infrastructure projects up. But now, after Harvey hit Texas hard, critics may have enough reason to grill the president for his decision.

As thousands of people required rescue and at least five people have been reported dead, authorities are urging people to stay home and avoid driving along flooded roads as more deadly accidents may occur.

Under pressure, Trump could end up rethinking his decision to lift Obama's infrastructure rules, especially if it is confirmed that the infrastructure impacted by Harvey could have held up better if built under the now-rescinded rules.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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