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As Climate Floods Surge, Taxpayers On Hook to Insure Homes of the 1%

NBC report shows FEMA redrawing flood maps to pass costs of storm insurance from ultra-rich to everyone else

Sarah Lazare

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is redrawing flood maps across the United States to pass the costs of massive storms — expected to worsen with climate change — from multimillion dollar coastal properties onto everyone else, according to an NBC investigative report penned by Bill Dedman and published on Tuesday.

Public records show more than 500 instances across the country in which FEMA re-mapped high-end condos and mansions to change their classification from being in a highest-risk flood zone to a lower-risk one, according to the report. FEMA has deemed at least some properties lower risk despite previous flood-related claims, and over the objections of local officials.

"Carving the flood zone map like a parent cutting a notch in a jack-o'-lantern to make a tooth, FEMA moves the lines on a map for one property, while leaving its neighbors in the higher-risk zone," explains Dedman.

The new classification saves owners of these high-end properties up to 97 percent on premiums paid to the National Flood Insurance Program. Yet, these same properties can still collect on federal insurance money when their properties are damaged. The result: from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, to Orange Beach, Alabama, wealthy coastal property owners are bailed out by U.S. taxpayers for the damage wrought by climate change.

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