1,000 Coloradans: 'Rejecting the TPP Is Most important Thing Congress Can Do'
Labor unions, environmental organizations and community, internet freedom and racial justice groups delivered more than 1,000 signatures from Rep. Diana DeGette's constituents Wednesday urging her to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is a trade deal negotiated in secret for years by 12 countries, including the U.S. On Feb. 4, the U.S. and the leaders of the 11 other countries signed the text of the pact. Now a Congressional vote to confirm the deal is imminent. If passed, the TPP will trump commonsense protections for workers, the environment, public health and food safety.
The groups urged Rep. DeGette to commit to vote “No" on the TPP and uphold her long-standing reputation as a champion for Colorado's working families, environment and food safety protections.
This month, a new Tufts University study found that the TPP would eliminate 450,000 American jobs and widen the income gulf between working families and the economic elites. Further, Malaysia and Vietnam are included in the agreement, countries that pay pittance wages and have histories of labor and human rights abuses.
“Rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most important thing Congress can do," said Dave Felice, political director for the Communication Workers of America, District 7. “This massive deal will destroy American jobs and our ability to protect the environment. Under the TPP, multinational corporations will take over our democratic government."
The TPP would provide another avenue for foreign corporations to undermine domestic environmental laws and food safety regulations. Last year, Congress repealed important country of origin meat labels because of a World Trade Organization tribunal. This January, TransCanada brought a $15 billion NAFTA lawsuit against the U.S. for rejecting the environmentally destructive Keystone XL pipeline.
“We've already seen existing mega-trade deals undermine regulations that protect our food," Sam Schabacker, western region director with Food & Water Watch, said. “The TPP—which is like NAFTA on steroids—will further erode our vital food safety protections and give foreign corporations new powers to challenge laws that were put in place to make sure Coloradans can trust the food they are eating. Representative DeGette must vote 'no' on this terrible deal."
Even though it will have a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of Coloradans and all Americans, leaders negotiating the TPP kept members of Congress, governors, the media and the public entirely in the dark about the details for seven years. In contrast, hundreds of corporations and business trade associations had a seat at the table as designated “trade advisors" and inserted their own special interest giveaways into the TPP text.
"The TPP would empower over 9,000 foreign corporations to sue governments at all levels (national, state and local) in tribunals outside the U.S. court system if the corporations believed laws undermined their 'future profits,'" Carolyn Bninski of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center said.
“This provision of the TPP, called the Investor State Dispute Resolution, undermines sovereignty, democracy and the powers of states and local control. The TPP constitutes a huge transfer of power from the people to foreign corporations. This is completely unacceptable."
President Obama has identified the TPP as his legacy foreign policy goal and can submit this trade deal for Congress' approval at any time. Once the deal is submitted, Congress will have 90 legislative days to vote on the measure.
"By now politicians should have learned that supporting policies like the TPP that threaten Internet freedom is a great way to invoke the wrath of constituents from across the political spectrum," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said.
“Policy that affects the Internet should never be made in secret and any member of Congress who votes in support of the TPP will become known as a supporter of censorship and an enemy of free speech."
The groups that participated in the delivery were, Food & Water Watch, Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado People's Alliance, Denver Area Labor Federation, Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans, Communication Workers of America,, District 7, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Care2, Corporate Accountability International and Fight for the Future.
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When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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