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10 states and scores of local governments sue FEMA over higher flood insurance rates

Floodwater surrounds a house on Sept. 01, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. Hurricane Ida made landfall as a powerful Category 4 causing flooding and wind damage along the Gulf Coast.
Brandon Bell
Getty Images
Floodwater surrounds a house on Sept. 01, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. Hurricane Ida made landfall as a powerful Category 4 causing flooding and wind damage along the Gulf Coast.

Ten states and dozens of municipalities are suing the Biden administration over rate hikes in the National Flood Insurance Program. That program offers coverage in high-risk flood areas and is administered by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A lawsuit filed Thursday (the start of the Atlantic hurricane season) in New Orleans federal court seeks to block the higher premiums.

When FEMA's new Risk Rating 2.0 pricing plan went into effect in April, the agency said it was more equitable and better reflects flood risk. The result is rate increases that will average more than 100% in coastal states like Louisiana and Florida. Some parishes in southeast Louisiana will see rates go up on average more than 500%.

"The Risk Rating 2.0 flood insurance policy has now become a natural disaster of its own," said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

He says the higher rates could price some residents out of their homes. "This policy is completely disrupting to the housing market and business climate of our state."

The lawsuit says FEMA is not properly taking into account community flood mitigation efforts, and has exceeded its authority.

FEMA declined to respond to the new lawsuit, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

In addition to Louisiana, states signing onto the federal lawsuit include Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. All have Republican Attorneys General. The lawsuit is against the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FEMA and Administrator Deanne Criswell, and the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration.

Some 43 Louisiana parishes, and a dozen levee boards are also plaintiffs.

"This is crucial to the survival of everyone in Louisiana," says Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove. "We've seen Louisiana and the parish spend billions of dollars into protecting the people of Terrebonne Parish. And at the last hour, FEMA comes along with a 2.0 rating system which totally destroyed basically what we worked for."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.

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