NC Needs Environmentally-Responsible Florence Recovery

Oct 10, 2018

Clean Air Carolina joins a consortium of North Carolina environmental advocacy groups in calling on state leaders to take a number of wide-ranging and environmentally-responsible recovery and future resiliency actions in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

See the complete document, Recommendations for Post-Florence Recovery here.

In short, these measures make clear the need for North Carolina to not only coordinate a strong, long-term recovery response but prioritize effective environmental planning in the face of a warming climate and sea-level rise. North Carolina needs effective leadership on environmental resilience that will better enable all of us to weather future hurricanes and catastrophic flooding with less harm to t

Some of these recommendations include that:

  • Environmental justice be made a priority during rebuilding with recovery done in a fair and equitable manner that respects the racial and economic diversity of the state. Low-income communities and communities of color in the hardest-hit areas of the state need the most support, and therefore should receive priority in cleanup, rebuilding, and future flood risk mitigation efforts. 
  • A bipartisan commission be established to address many public policy questions, including the health of the state and regional economies, infrastructure investment, tax policies and environmental management. 
  • North Carolina should update projections of sea level rise impacts to reflect the most recent scientific research. In so doing, the Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel (CRC Science Panel) should not be constrained to making projections to a maximum of thirty years, but rather should make projections that extend to at least the year 2100. 
  • A scientific advisory board should be convened to consider what the best science tells us about the frequency of high-intensity storm events and what standard references (storm definitions, flood definitions) need to be updated to reflect this. North Carolina has experienced three 500-year plus storms in less than 20 years, underscoring the probability that our estimated frequency of major storms and flooding is wrong, and/or is being altered by climate change. 
  • Convene a regional group of stakeholders to plan for resilience in western North Carolina, which can also benefit from more careful planning for resilience, but faces threats – such as wildfires and landslides – that are not common in the east; and mountain floodplains look different as well. 
  • Promote the use of microgrids for critical infrastructure in the coastal plain. Solar energy and battery storage microgrids can provide dependable power for critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, storm shelters, military buildings, fire stations, and police stations. 
  • Update the state Hazard Mitigation Plan to account for how changing future conditions – the potential for larger storms, increased rates of coastal erosion, development patterns, and population demographics – may affect future risks and vulnerabilities to natural hazards. Similarly, the state should update its Climate and Health Adaptation Plan to reflect these same factors. 
  • Planning should ensure that all new state construction is built to withstand extreme events whenever practicable. Similar standards have already been approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. These standards should utilize Living Shorelines and low impact development, which have been proven to be storm-resilient while also protecting water quality. 
  • NC Must Remove Threats from the Floodplain. The greatest damage from Florence – as from Floyd and Matthew – came from flooding. To minimize future flood damage, we should remove repetitive loss properties and sources of pollution from the floodplain. Such approaches could include: 
    • Use a variety of tools to buy out repetitive loss properties over the longer term such as a Resilience State Revolving Fund (Resilience SRF), funded with state or federal funds, to make below market rate loans to communities and property owners to reduce vulnerability to flood events. 
    • Establish incentives for and directly fund construction of affordable housing in upland areas to replace repeat-loss owner-occupied and rental housing in floodplains, and provide subsidies to help low-wealth residents afford housing. Buyout programs are good policy, but must be paired with programs to get displaced residents into affordable housing. Most of the residents in flood-damaged housing – renters or occupant owners – do not have the financial resources to find or purchase affordable housing on higher ground. 
    • Identify and phase out industrial pollution sources from the 100-year floodplain. Too many industrial facilities and waste disposal sites are still located in the 100-year floodplain, at risk of flooding that can contaminate surrounding properties and threaten downstream communities. North Carolina has a large concentration of industrialized hog farms, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs that fall into this category. 
    • Require removal of coal ash from all unlined pits beside rivers and require storage in lined landfills away from water and out of floodplains. Duke Energy owns unlined pits containing waste coal ash at 14 sites across the state, all of which should have their ash removed to lined landfills away from rivers.