Donald Trump scrapped Barack Obama's flood protection standards days before Hurricane Harvey

Changes are designed to speed up new infrastructure projects but critics described them as 'dangerous'

Benjamin Kentish
New York
,Emily Shugerman
Tuesday 29 August 2017 07:43 BST
Footage shows dramatic rescues in Houston after Hurricane Harvey flooding

Donald Trump signed an executive order just days before Hurricane Harvey that scrapped many of the flood protections introduced by Barack Obama.

Harvey has caused huge damage in Texas as 30 inches of rain in less than 48 hours resulted in massive flooding.

The current US President, however, has abolished a number of flood standards in an attempt to get infrastructure projects approved more quickly. The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is among those to have been rolled back.

In 2015, Mr Obama introduced measures that made it harder to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure in areas that were susceptible to flooding. Plans for such projects would legally have to take into account the impact of climate change and be built to withstand future changes.

While the new regulations had not yet come into effect, they have now been scrapped entirely after Mr Trump decided they were too likely to slow down plans for new infrastructure.

Announcing the decision earlier in August, the billionaire businessman said: “We're going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking, and the permitting process will go very, very quickly."

“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.”

However, some of those safeguards have now been removed. The order also introduces a two-year time limit for permission to be granted for major infrastructure projects, in which Mr Trump has pledged to invest $1 trillion.

The move was praised by business groups but strongly opposed by environmentalists.

Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists warned even before the executive order was issued that it would "put vital infrastructure that communities depend on at greater risk of flooding".

"It will lead to more costly and damaging consequences of these floods," she told The Independent, "And frankly, it's a waste of taxpayer dollars if money is invested in projects that will just get washed away."

She added: "Even as we're seeing flood risk growing in many places around the country – due to sea level rise, heavy rainfall, and other types of factors – it just flies in the face of common sense to turn back progress on greater flood prevention that communities depend on."

Hurricane Harvey has caused devastating flooding in Texas. At least five people have been reported dead and as many as 2,000 had to be rescued after the area received a year’s rainfall within the space a week.

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the US National Weather Service said on Twitter. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”

Returning to the topic of storm Harvey, Ms Cleetus said: "It would be a serious mistake to rebuild without taking account of future flood risks in the wake of terrible tragedies such as Texas is currently experiencing with Hurricane Harvey."

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