TALLAHASSEE — Florida has joined nine other states in a federal lawsuit challenging a review of the National Flood Insurance Program, arguing that the new system is flawed and will increase premiums for many homeowners.
The lawsuit, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, was filed Thursday in the Eastern Federal District of Louisiana against defendants, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It came after the program changes, which were phased in starting in 2021, went into effect on April 1.
The program plays an important role for Floridians, many of whom are required to carry flood insurance because of their home mortgages. A filing in the lawsuit says the program includes about 1.391 million Florida policies, with total coverage of nearly $367 billion.
Louisiana, Florida and the other states are challenging the new system, known as “Risk Rating 2.0: Equity in Action,” which changed the methodology for pricing flood insurance. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that the system incorrectly considers “what if” future risks and fails to adequately account for mitigation projects to protect properties from flood damage.
“While the agency (Federal Emergency Management Agency) paints a picture of nuanced calculations using massive data repositories that reveal individualized risks to a property, the reality is much simpler: Flood insurance will be much more expensive for almost all of them,” the lawsuit says. saying.
A section of the lawsuit that focused on Florida said that “high insurance rates will cause people to leave the state of Florida because they can no longer afford to live in the state. In addition, it will depress property values, particularly in areas where flood insurance is required.”
But FEMA said on its website that the revamped system takes into account more variables that affect flooding and will result in rates “that are actuarially sound, fair, easier to understand, and better reflect a property’s flood risk.” He also, for example, said that the previous system did not take into account the costs of rebuilding homes.
“Policyholders with lower home values may have been paying more than their share of risk, while policyholders with higher home values may have been paying less than their share of risk,” the agency said. “Risk Rating 2.0 was not just a minor improvement, but a transformative leap for the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).”
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office signed the lawsuit for Florida. Along with Louisiana, other plaintiffs include Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and numerous local governments in Louisiana.
The 146-page lawsuit makes a series of allegations, including that federal officials violated a law known as the Administrative Procedure Act by making changes that were “arbitrary and capricious.” As part of that argument, he pointed to FEMA’s climate change consideration, which he said “doesn’t relate to the risk a property actually faces today.”
“Equity in Action uses catastrophe models, which take into account hypothetical future events, including hypothetical events resulting from climate change,” the lawsuit says. “The agency does not disclose what these hypothetical events are, nor does it explain how the hypothetical events change based on hypothetical future climate activity.”
The lawsuit, in part, seeks an injunction against the new system and a requirement that federal officials disclose the methodology and data that have been used.
By Jim Saunders, Florida News Service