Judge hears oral arguments on Louisiana’s challenge to FEMA flood insurance maps

September 26, 2023 siteadmin Comments Off

Originally reported by Louisiana Record
By Michael Carroll

Sep 25, 2023

Oral arguments were held last week in a federal lawsuit spearheaded by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office that argues new federal flood-risk mandates will burden Louisiana homeowners with skyrocketing property insurance premiums. 

Among those testifying at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana was Wendy Thibodeaux, the assessor in Lafourche Parish. The impact of the new flood risk map developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency includes increases for parish homeowners’ flood insurance premiums from 126% all the way up to 752%, according to Thibodeaux.

“If they keep on increasing it to the point that homeowners can’t afford it, people will abandon their homes,” Thibodeaux told the Louisiana Record. She added that the pricing of parish residents out of their homes would erode the tax base, reducing budgets for governmental services such as fire protection, levee services and public education.

The new flood risk system emphasizes the distance of homes from waterways, according to Thibodeaux. The Bayou Lafourche runs down the center of the parish, affecting homeowners throughout the region, she said.

The new flood risk calculations also seem to ignore years of taxpayer spending in the parish that attempted to mitigate the risks to homeowners, such as raising the elevation of homes and raising the height of levees, Thibodeaux said.

“I’m optimistic that the judge will rule in favor of the injunction (to stop the premium increases),” she said. “I know the detriment it will cause to my parish.”

FEMA, however, argues that when Risk Rating 2.0 is fully implemented, it will incorporate more flood-risk variables, including river overflows, storm surges, coastal erosion and rebuilding costs. The new system will more equitably distribute premium costs to all policyholders, producing fairer outcomes, the agency says.

Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement that the new rules would disrupt housing markets and impair the economy.

“Over the next 10 years, the working families in our state paying hundreds (of dollars) for flood insurance now could be looking at payments of thousands in the near future,” Landry said. “This is unacceptable.”