In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) founded Earth Day as a way to raise environmental issues to prominence on the national agenda. With the 49th Annual Earth Day this Monday, we take a closer look at some of the environmental health and safety issues on the rise this week.
LIKE IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a new rating system for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Risk Rating 2.0 now reflects the culture of preparedness at FEMA and seeks to “close the insurance gap.” The system, which will go into effect in April 2020, has its detractors in Congress, who claim the system will raise rates. The rates established through Risk Rating 2.0 will go into effect for single-family detached homes on Oct. 1, 2020. Advocates suggest that equitable rates should be based on risk, and are cautiously optimistic that the new structure may create a fair, transparent path to sustainability for the program.
OVERWHELMING ARMIES SWEPT AWAY
The Department of Defense (DOD) issued a report to Congress to assess the current and potential threat to the top 10 U.S. military bases most vulnerable to climate change within the next 20 years. The DOD concludes that some of the military’s largest and well-known bases, Ft. Hood in Texas, Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, and Hill Air Force Base in Utah are directly threatened by recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, thawing permafrost, and wildfires.
THEN FIRE CAME DOWN
In related news, California Governor Gavin Newsome, speaking publicly on his 100th day in office, unveiled a new report from the governor’s “strike force” on fires and climate change, which lays out the record-breaking blazes the state has experienced in the last few years, the breadth of areas still under threat, and recommendations for how to prevent future fires. The report will be presented to state lawmakers. Fifteen of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, with 10 in the last five years. Last fall, the Camp fire, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history, killed 85 people and burned down nearly 14,000 homes, leveling Paradise, California.
RENDER SLIGHTLY LESS TO CAESAR
In one additional climate related news this week, bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress would expand and extend the tax credit for electric vehicles (EVs). One driver of EV popularity and production has been a $7,500 federal tax credit. However, today only 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer are eligible. The Driving America Forward Act legislation would raise this cap to 600,000 vehicles per manufacturer, a move its advocates hope would spur additional manufacturing and purchases of EVs. We’ll report back on developments on these and other environmental issues as they arise.
The Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing on AB421, a bill that would reverse many of the changes lawmakers made in 2015 to curb lawsuits related to construction defect claims. Since the 2015 law was passed, the number of construction defect lawsuits in Nevada has decreased by 90 percent from the 2014 peak. The bill would increase from six to ten years the period after home construction in which a construction defect lawsuit can be brought and indefinitely if the defect is caused by fraudulent or willful misconduct. The bill also amends the definition of a construction defect beyond something that “presents an unreasonable risk of injury to a person or property” to include any defect done in violation of local law or ordinances.
And across the country, bi-Partisan lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature introduced a measure aimed at regulating the state’s multibillion-dollar new-home construction industry and address increasing consumer complaints. Under House Bill 879, the New Home Construction Consumer Protection Act, builders must register with the state, specify certain points in home construction contracts, notify consumers within three months of discovering a defect, and pay into a newly established Home Builder Guarantee Fund, although the maximum a consumer could recover from the fund is $30,000. We’re tracking construction-related measures this session.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, bi-partisan legislation introduced in the United States Senate this week would shield stakeholders in the cannabis industry from being punished by federal banking regulators. The SAFE Banking Act comes just two weeks after similar legislation cleared the House Financial Services Committee in a bipartisan vote of 45 to 15. In a noteworthy statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin endorsed bank access for marijuana businesses during hearings on Capitol Hill. In other news, analysts predict that marijuana sales in North America will double this weekend with the so-called “420” cannabis holiday occurring Saturday. The transportation sector is ready for the long and short haul, but is calling for more safety on the roads.
A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report says requiring tire makers to electronically identify tires is feasible. The report was mandated by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and requested by the Tire Industry Association, which represents tire retailers. NHTSA reviewed past research, journal publications, and met with safety advocates. The agency also conducted its own time/task study to determine how long it takes for someone to hand-record the four TINs on tires mounted on a vehicle. We will keep an eye on this transportation issue.
In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Kansas affirmed a decision of the state’s Court of Appeals and held that “idiopathic” is not a synonym for “unknown” in workers’ compensation. The injury involved a claimant, who was denied benefits after he inexplicably, and without witness, fell down a flight of stairs. The state’s high court stressed that the plain language of the statute rendered an injury non-compensable only upon proof the injury or accident arose directly or indirectly from a medical condition or medical event of unknown origin peculiar to the claimant.
Returning to our main story, a team of European researchers, using sea-level rise predictions and flooding statistics, investigated and determined which UNESCO World Heritage sites along the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of flooding due to climate change. A number of biblical cities in the region are included in the report. And speaking of, this weekend marks a Holy Week for many of our readers and colleagues across the country and around the world, as we celebrate Passover and Easter. Many blessings to you and your families as these Holidays intertwine.