Legal Alert

What the Feds, PA, and Philadelphia Are Doing to Limit the Impact of Violent Super Storms

September 12, 2021

Summary

Recent violent weather is prompting the government to attempt to control or limit the impact of increasingly frequent storms.

The Upshot

  • Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) soon will release the city’s flood control guidelines. 
  • The federal government is expected to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Pennsylvania legislators have several bills pending to mitigate flooding and improve recovery.

The Bottom Line

Ballard Spahr plans to host a briefing on the new measures with the City’s release of the new flood-control guidelines. We expect to include top L&I officials on the panel to help assess and understand the new guidelines.

The impact of Hurricanes Ida and Henri once again has focused the spotlight on federal, state, and local efforts to control or limit the impacts of more violent and frequent super storms. Ballard Spahr zoning and land use lawyers, with help from their colleagues in the Environment and Natural Resources Group and Government Relations Group, have been tracking such efforts to determine how they may impact future land use and development where we practice.

For example, in Philadelphia we are anxiously awaiting the release of the city’s flood plain control guidelines from the Department of Licenses and Inspections. The firm anticipates hosting a briefing on those new measures in conjunction with the release. We expect to include on the panel top L&I officials to help assess and understand the new guidelines.

At the federal level, in light of the estimated $8 billion in property losses at the hands of Ida, the most timely issue is to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by September 30, 2021. You can find out more about the NFIP at https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance.

In Pennsylvania, the legislature has been focused on several packages to provide flood relief and to bolster infrastructure and increase federal/state cooperation in responding to flood disasters.

  1. HB 1598―Designates PEMA to Oversee Flood Plain Management. Sponsored by PA State Rep. Karen Boback (R-Wyoming Co.)

    This bill proposes to designate the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) as the lead agency to oversee flood plain management. It amends Act 166 of 1978, by replacing the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) with PEMA. The amendment would provide PEMA with the statutory authority to administer and oversee the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at the state level, thereby providing PEMA with the necessary ability to work with municipalities to ensure that their programs meet NFIP regulations. Status: Referred to committee.

  2. HB 70―Creates the Flood Insurance Premium Assistance Task Force. Sponsored by PA State Rep. Perry Warren (D-Bucks Co.)

    This bill would establish the Flood Insurance Premium Assistance Task Force. The task force would issue recommendations regarding potential programs that provide premium discounts, programs that incentivize local governments to support flood mitigation efforts, and the implementation of any necessary changes, to state statute or policy regarding the administration of flood insurance. Status: Passed out of committee; waiting for full House vote.

  3. HB 1462―Notification to Residential Property Owners of Changes to Official FEMA Flood Plan Map. Sponsored by PA State Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks Co.)

    The Legislation would require municipalities to contact residents if their flood plain status has changed based on information received from FEMA. The required communication would include a written notice that a change in classification has occurred, as well as the contact information for the National Flood Insurance Program. In doing so, this will provide constituents with further clarification and afford them an opportunity to properly prepare for potential floods. Status: Referred to House Local Government Committee.

  4. HB 1760―Enhancements to C-PACE Program. Sponsored by PA State Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon Co.)

    Expansion of the Pennsylvania Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) will help property owners make vital upgrades to ventilation systems to improve indoor air quality and reduce COVID-19 transmission. Projects that increase resilience or improve the durability of real property, such as flood mitigation, wind resistance, energy storage, microgrids, and backup power generation―or others as defined by a local government― will be made eligible for C-PACE financing as well. 

The enhancements to C-PACE would expand eligibility to the following:

  • Multifamily commercial buildings
  • Indoor air improvements (e.g. COVID-19 mitigation), and
  • Resiliency improvements

Status: Referred to House Commerce Committee.

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