FEMA Responds to Legal Bid to Stop NFIP Hikes
Mississippi lacks standing to sue the federal government for raising flood insurance premium rates, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in its reply to a lawsuit seeking to stop the rate hikes.
The state also has not demonstrated that it will suffer “imminent, irreparable injury” absent an immediate delay in implementing the rate hikes, FEMA said in the brief it filed late Monday in federal court in Gulfport, Miss.
The brief, and an accompanying motion seeking dismissal of the case, comes as both houses of Congress consider actions that would delay the rate hikes.
A hearing on the issue was scheduled Tuesday by the House Financial Services Committee, and efforts are underway by 23 senators to attach legislation, S. 1610, to the bill reauthorizing the National Defense Act that the Senate began debating Tuesday.
At the same time, Martha Coakley, Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts, filed a friend of the court brief in the case. The brief supports not only Mississippi, but other coastal states, such as Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, which have filed briefs seeking to delay the rate hikes.
The FEMA brief was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Insurance Department on Sept. 26 seeking to delay the rate increases, in some cases which raise rates exponentially.
The FEMA brief said the Mississippi lawsuit “does not take into account” that
“Congress explicitly found” in enacting the law that imposed the rate increases, that “ensuring the long-term financial stability of the National Flood Insurance Program was in the public interest.”
The FEMA brief said the provisions of the 2012 law that the lawsuit challenges are meant to further this goal by transitioning subsidized rates to actual risk-based rates for certain properties.
“Enjoining the implementation of these sections would contravene not only the language of [the law], but Congress’s intent in passing the law.”
The FEMA reply brief also said that Mississippi “significantly downplays the deleterious effects” that granting a preliminary injunction would have on the NFIP.
The brief said FEMA began implementing certain portions of the provision Mississippi seeks to delay implementation of, Sec. 205 of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012, “after many months of planning.”
The FEMA brief said it would take “many months more” for FEMA to reverse this implementation, and the NFIP would face increased costs as a result.
The Coakley brief makes different points than the other amicus briefs submitted to the court. The brief alleges FEMA failed to collect accurate data before rolling out its new rates.
Moreover, the brief said, “These new rates will devastate many families and businesses throughout Massachusetts.”
“The federal government should delay these changes until FEMA has followed all the steps required by law,” Coakley said.
“In setting these new flood insurance rates, FEMA not only failed to evaluate their economic impact, but also failed to gather all the data required to ensure the new rates are accurate,” the brief said.
In addition to failing to weigh the known consumer harm, the brief said that “FEMA ignored the opportunity to use tools provided by Congress,” and has engaged in “bureaucratic ostrich headedness.”