Cameron Parish joins suit against FEMA over flood insurance pricing system

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, June 1, 2023

Cameron is one of 43 parishes — and Louisiana one of 10 states — that has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency over its new flood insurance rules that they say are making it impossible for homeowners to afford their properties.

Families “are being driven out by the federal government,” said Louisiana State Attorney General Jeff Landry. “This flood insurance policy has now become a natural disaster of its own.”

Landry said FEMA’s “flawed flood insurance formula” — dubbed Risk Rating 2.0 — is forcing Louisiana families and homeowners into bankruptcy or foreclosure.

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“We are fighting to protect these hard-working people from this latest federal abuse,” he said.

FEMA released projections in April showing how much flood insurance rates could rise by state, city and zip code under Risk Rating 2.0. In some cases, insurance rates hiked over 700 percent.

Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill said the methodology does not accurately reflect flood reduction measures parishes have already put in place.

“We didn’t set out to sue FEMA,” she said. “We set out years ago to work with FEMA and try to get FEMA to cooperate with us and take advantage of the expertise we have here in Louisiana. Instead of taking advantages of those opportunities and that expertise, they shut the door on us.”

Though “we have enormous support, we’re sorry it had to come to this,” she said of the 112-page lawsuit.

St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell said he feels his parish is continually at war with the federal government.

“There’s always a battle to be had and it really shouldn’t be that way,” said Jewell, who has been calling for transparency for about Risk Rating 2.0 since November.

“FEMA has a catastrophe model it uses to determine flood insurance rates,” Jewell said. “We want to make sure the model they have is accurate and we want to see that the information they have is accurate. We want to make sure we’re actually protecting people and property.”

Jewell filed an independent lawsuit in April after a public records request for the information was denied.

“We’re trying to restore our coast and the federal government is throwing up environmental reviews and delay tactics and red tape that prevents us from doing that,” he said. “We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars protecting the metro area of New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana is safer than we ever have been. But once again, FEMA keeps moving that goal post on us. Risk Rating 2.0 is the next battle.”

Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans Link, said what FEMA is doing is “morally wrong and economically unwise.”

He said when the lawsuit is eventually won there will be sustainable flood insurance not only for Louisiana, but for all of America.