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Speaker Deleo asks FEMA for delay on new flood insurance rules

Posted by Your Town  September 21, 2013 08:38 AM

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay implementation of a federal flood insurance reform so that FEMA, Congress and local officials can restructure the program he warns will have a detrimental impact on coastal residents and businesses.

DeLeo issued a press release on Friday morning explaining that he has reached out to FEMA Administrator William Fugate and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to work together to reform the program, which includes changes to insurance rates based on new flood risk calculations.

Rep. James Cantwell, a Marshfield Democrat, testified at a state legislative hearing this week that the new flood zone maps were “radically” increasing insurance rates and driving property values down in communities based on new maps that account for the rare possibilities of extreme storms.

DeLeo said the federal act, signed in 2012 and scheduled to be implemented over five years, will require more property owners to buy flood insurance.

“As a representative from a coastal community, I strongly believe that the sweeping changes enacted by FEMA will negatively impact property owners across Massachusetts,” DeLeo said in a statement. “While fortifying the nation’s emergency flood insurance program is an essential endeavor, I believe that we must approach these reforms in a targeted and equitable manner.”

Cantwell has filed a bill (H 865) that would direct the commissioner of insurance to regularly investigate how the National Flood Insurance Program rates are set and "make suggestions for changes to ensure the rates are not excessive."

Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Costello, who lives in Newburyport, this week said flood insurance was not under the purview of the committee, and recommended lobbying Gov. Deval Patrick for assistance.

- M. Murphy/SHNS

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