We are in the midst of the two-week period when the most intense mainland United States hurricanes usually make landfall. Historically, four of the five most intense hurricanes struck the U.S. mainland during a 17-day period between Aug. 17 and Sept. 2. In fact, Saturday marks the 15th year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We take a closer look at some of the extreme weather and governmental responses to climatological events across the United States this week.
Two tropical storms, in unprecedented succession, entered the Gulf of Mexico this week. After striking western Cuba as a tropical storm, Laura strengthened into a hurricane along the Gulf Coast. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall as a major Category 3 storm this week. The National Hurricane Center places the center of the storm 510 miles from Galveston, Texas, and it's expected to land at the Texas and Louisiana coastline imminently.
Multiple Gulf States were in danger of back-to-back powerful storms with Laura striking within miles and days of Marco, which made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Marco was downgraded to a tropical depression. However, meteorologists anticipate that Marco will sit over coastal Texas and Louisiana and generate up to five inches of precipitation. Keeping tabs, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was previously authorized through Sept. 30, 2020, and provides the sole source of flood insurance for more than 5 million homes and businesses across the U.S., including 500,000 in Louisiana, with a combined value of just over $7 billion.
In opposing relief, California continues to see troubling shifts in unpredictable winds, rising temperatures, and lightning strikes that could ignite new wildfires across an already ravaged state. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) reports that firefighters have been battling more than 625 blazes, sparked by a staggering 13,000 lightning strikes that have ignited 17 major fires, including some of the largest in CA history. More than 1.2 million acres have burned. This is an area that would eclipse the size of the Grand Canyon. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports that an integral part of the state’s fire protection efforts, state prison inmate firefighters, are unavailable to battle the wildfires because they are on COVID-19 release.
Damage estimates have returned from the powerful derecho that hit the Great Plains earlier this month. The storm destroyed some 37.7 million acres of farmland across the Midwest, including 14 million in Iowa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the derecho affected 58,000 holders of crop-insurance policies with liability exceeding $6 billion in Iowa alone. Incidentally, in the days preceding the storm, the USDA issued a grace period for crop insurance renewals because of COVID-19.
The Nevada Climate Initiative (NCI), the first-of-its-kind official state resource to provide a Nevada-wide framework for climate action launched this week. A key pillar of the initiative is robust public engagement and input from Nevada residents to help inform and guide Nevada’s climate action. As such, the NCI website includes an online public survey and a schedule of virtual listening sessions to provide all Nevadans with the opportunity to share their input and perspectives to help guide development of a new State Climate Strategy as required under Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D-NV) Executive Order on Climate Change.
Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards (D-LA) signed an executive order setting a state goal for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At least 23 other states and the District of Columbia have set greenhouse gas targets. In Boston, representatives in the House of Representatives introduced an Act Creating a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth that establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice parameters. We’ll keep our ear to the ground on these issues, particularly as we head towards November, where Democratic nominees for President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, have expressed support for a framework for state and federal climate litigation.
EFFICIENCY IN LICENSING
Lawmakers in the New York State Assembly introduced two bills that would cut consumer costs and streamline the claims adjusting process. The first measure, Assembly Bill A10952, would eliminate a policy that requires independent insurance adjusters to hold a surety bond, bringing New York in line with the 30 states requiring an independent adjuster license that do not have such requirements.
The second measure, Assembly Bill 10948, would modernize the independent adjuster insurance application process by eliminating the requirement that an adjuster procure character references from five different individuals. A leading claims administration trade association lauds this provision, which adversely affects claims adjusters who relocate to New York and work for organizations who diligently screen applicants in the corporate hiring process. Your authors at The Way will remain engaged in these efforts and report back on theses outcomes in Albany.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The New Jersey Supreme Court limited the powers of Newark’s fledgling civilian review board to investigate police misconduct. The 6-1 decision struck down key parts of the city’s 2016 ordinance that created a civilian-complaint review board. This would have been one of the strongest agencies of its kind in the nation. The court ruled the board does not have subpoena power, and without legislative approval, it may not conduct investigations concurrent with the police department’s office of internal affairs.
The U.S. Supreme Court set a November 10th hearing date for the Trump administration’s latest attempt nullify the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The court will hear arguments one week after Election Day. The case stems from a legal challenge to the law’s individual mandate provision. Previously, the individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, and was remanded to the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, to determine whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law. More news will follow on this.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that Washington State has a right to create laws giving workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation (Hanford) easier access to the benefits they deserve if they become ill because of their work at Hanford. The appellate panel of three judges struck down the Trump Administration’s claims that a 2018 Washington state law protecting Hanford workers is unlawful and held that that Congress gave authority to the states to provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured contractors on federal lands.
To help the food industry navigate changes to operations related to COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) teamed up with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a new checklist, “Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The checklist pulls from existing FDA, CDC, and OSHA guidance to create a quick reference guide to help the food industry assess employee health, social distancing, and food safety within workplaces as operations may be impacted by COVID-19.
NATIONAL DOG DAY
Back to our main story this week, today is #NationalDogDay. As we continue to work safely from home, we “paws” to give special thanks to our adjunct production, research, and editorial team members at #GBTheWay. Until next week, stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.