New Plans to Dismantle The Government's Catastrophe Insurance and Weather Science Infrastructure

Flood insurance to hurricane forecasting would be privatized under a new GOP administration, and weather service employees would be monitored for "obstructionism."

New Plans to Dismantle The Government's Catastrophe Insurance and Weather Science Infrastructure
President Donald Trump on September 1, 2019, describing Hurricane Dorian's projected path during the "Sharpigate" controversy, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Last week the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation released "Project 2025," an almost 900 page strategy document that it describes as a "well-conceived, coordinated, unified plan" for a new GOP administration to overhaul the executive branch if the party is successful in capturing the White House in the 2024 election.

The strategy includes several conservative priorities, especially around climate policy. As the New York Times and Politco point out, the majority of the planned actions revolve around climate change inputs, including dismantling recenlty enacted clean energy initiatives and greenhouse gas policies while shifting back to fossil fuel exploration and drilling.

But Project 2025 also offers surprisingly detailed strategies to cripple government run programs that insure Americans against the results of climate change, including gutting or privatizing the departments that measure extreme weather-events.

The targets of the conservative project for catastrophic insurance are the Federal Emergency Managment Administration (FEMA) and its oversight of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as the federal crop insurance subsidies.

Specifically, the plan says that a new administration would pass rules that would raise the "per capita indicator" for damages tied to FEMA disaster relief under the 1988 Stafford Act or impose new "state deductibles." The authors arguing that dollar-threshold regulations have not kept up with inflation and made "it easy" for states to make disaster declarations. "Reform of FEMA requires a greater emphasis on federalism and state and local preparedness, leaving FEMA to focus on large, widespread disasters," the the proposal says.

Federally-backed flood insurance and the NFIP "should be wound down" and replaced with private insurance, according to the GOP action plan. "Washington provides insurance at prices lower than the actuarially fair rate, thereby subsidizing flood insurance," the policy states. "These subsidies and bailouts only encourage more development in flood zones, increasing the potential losses to both NFIP and the taxpayer. "

Heritage Foundation headquarters in Washington D.C.

Another proposal would reduce the premium subsidy rate for crop insurance. "At a minimum, taxpayers should not pay more than 50 percent of the premium. After all, taxpayers should not have to pay more than the farmers who benefit from the crop insurance policies," Heritage says.

But the conservative think tank reserves a majority of its ire for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), saying that a new GOP administration should "Break Up NOAA" and have its parts absorbed by private market players.

That includes "commercializing" the National Weather Service (NWS) whose services, the authors say, has become "main drivers of the climate change alarm industry" and should be absorbed by "private companies such as AccuWeather."

"The NWS provides data the private companies use and should focus on its data-gathering services," the stratagey docusment says. "Because private companies rely on these data, the NWS should fully commercialize its forecasting operations."

It should be noted that President Donald Trump had nominated former Accuweather CEO Barry Meyers to head the NOAA in 2018 before the nomination was later withdrawn.

Another priority of the possible GOP administration would be to ensure NOAA appointees "agree with administration aims," to make sure "vulnerable to obstructionism," even down to monitoring data coming out of the National Hurricane Center and the National Environmental Satellite Service.

"Data collected by the department should be presented neutrally, without adjustments intended to support any one side in the climate debate," the document.

How weather and hurricane data are communicated was part of a controversy following Hurricane Dorian in 2019 when the NOAA issued an unsigned statement rebuking government forecasters that had contradicted the President Trump's own predictions regarding the storm's track.

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