E&E News reported yesterday that the Technical Mapping Advisory Council (TMAC), the federal advisory panel that’s supposed to provide scientific information to the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure that flood insurance rate maps are accurate, is entering a five-month work stoppage even as property losses mount against the backdrop of severe inundation related to climate change. TMAC is composed of 20 experts tapped by the FEMA administrator to answer complex questions about flood dynamics and flood risk in areas across the United States that are experiencing higher temperatures. Members of TMAC (some of whom have served previously and have had their memberships lapse) aren’t being vetted by the White House in a timely manner and what’s worse is that the FEMA administrator, Brock Long, resigned last week after a controversy over his use of government vehicles.
CNN explained that last fall, Long was the subject of a Department of Homeland Security probe into whether he was misusing government resources when he used government vehicles and personnel for six-hour drives between his home in North Carolina and FEMA headquarters in Washington. Additionally, FEMA spokesperson told E&E News last week that only four of TMAC’s members have passed required screenings by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. “The remaining members are currently pending appointment clearances. As a result … the TMAC does not have [a] quorum and cannot continue work,” the FEMA official said.
Why This Matters: Reports put out by TMAC help shape the National Flood Insurance Program which is the federal insurance provider that offers private property owners protection from flooding loses in exchange for their community enforcing a floodplain management ordinance. Currently, NFIP has nearly 5.1 million policyholders and is over $20 billion in debt after the payouts that started with Hurricane Katrina have continued as extreme weather events have become more frequent. It’s important that as climate change continues to intensify hurricanes, floods, wildfires etc., our President acknowledges these threats and leads the conversation to reform FEMA and clarify what the federal government’s capacity to provide flood insurance will look like in the future. However, this starts with doing what’s necessary to fully staff TMAC.