Месечни архиви: March 2015

New FEMA Guidelines Force the Climate Change Issue


New FEMA Guidelines Force the Climate Change Issue

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making some waves with a new requirement that forces states to take into account the possible impact of climate change in their risk assessments before they can receive certain assistance.

This requirement comes from an update made this month to the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, FEMA’s official policy on and interpretation of the natural hazard mitigation planning requirements.

FEMA’s updated guidelines for disaster planning don’t impact relief funding for natural disasters, such as hurricanes or flooding.

“State risk assessments must be current, relevant, and include new hazard data, such as recent events, current probability data, loss estimation models, or new flood studies as well as information from local and tribal mitigation plans, as applicable, and consideration of changing environmental or climate conditions that may affect and influence the long-term vulnerability from hazards in the state,” the guidelines state. “FEMA recognizes there exists inherent uncertainty about future conditions and will work with states to identify tools and approaches that enable decision-making to reduce risks and increase resilience from a changing climate.”

This has the effect of forcing state governments to acknowledge the risks of man-made global warming.

The guidelines made a splash, and they were not well received by all.

Following FEMA’s update of its guidelines earlier this month the media offered various interpretations of what that means.

“FEMA targets climate change skeptic governors, could withhold funding,” read a headline in the Washington Times.

Among the GOP governors who could face a difficult decision are Rick Scott of Florida, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Pat McCrory of North Carolina and Greg Abbott of Texas,” the article states.

Scott, if you recall, is under fire for allegedly banning the phrase “climate change” in at least one of the state’s departments. He has denied doing this, but efforts are underway to investigate whether this is true.

“FEMA To Deny Funding To States Without Global Warming Plans,” states a headline in The Daily Caller.

Jindal in a follow-up story in the Washington Times blasted the new rule that would make it difficult for governors like him who are skeptical of man-made climate change to obtain federal money to prepare for emergencies like floods and hurricanes.

“This preparation saves lives,” Jindal said in a statement to the paper. “The White House should not use it for political leverage to force acquiescence to their left-wing ideology.”

All this buzz has FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendrick too busy to respond individually to myriad queries from reporters, so instead she was emailing an official statement.

“Floods damage our public health and safety and property, as well as our economic prosperity,” she said in the statement. “Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages. The costs borne on the federal government are more than any other hazard. On average, more people die annually from flooding than any other natural hazard. Furthermore, with climate change, we anticipate that flooding risks will increase over time.”

In her response Hendrick that the purpose of funding this mitigation planning is for state, tribal, and local governments to assess risks from natural hazards, then to develop a strategy to reduce vulnerabilities and establish processes to implement the actions.

The guide goes into effect on March 6, 2016, for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval.

Hendrick cited statements by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a White House blog as a good explanation of the new guidelines.

“As Administrator Fugate has said, rising sea levels, higher average temperatures, higher ocean temperatures, and other effects of climate change will make extreme weather events more frequent and more severe,” Hendrick wrote in her email statement. “Earlier this year, NASA and NOAA announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, meaning that 14 of the 15 hottest years in recorded history have happened this century. That’s why when the federal government invested billions to help communities rebuild from Hurricane Sandy, we also committed to ‘build back better’ and more resilient – to rebuild infrastructure to a higher standard so it can withstand the increased risks posed by sea level rise and other climate impacts.”

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Germanwings Crash Shows Need for Protections Against Suicidal Crew Members


Germanwings Crash Shows Need for Protections Against Suicidal Crew Members

The suspected intentional destruction of a Germanwings jet by a pilot shows the need for new protections against suicidal crew members, a threat emerging as one of the worst in modern aviation, accident investigators say.

With French prosecutors saying the co-pilot apparently flew the Airbus A320 into a mountainside and evidence pointing toward the intentional ditching of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, there have now been three such disasters in 17 months. The incidents killed 416 people.

“We have viewed these kind of events in the past as a one-off aberration and not something that should generate new policies or new procedures,” said Peter Goelz, former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. “I think this has changed all that. The industry, worldwide, has to look at this.”

The challenge is how to guard against a pilot willing to destroy a plane and kill others while taking his or her own life. Even as safety specialists debate steps such as more psychological tests and a possible redesign of cockpit doors, the industry confronts the reality that an aircraft soaring miles above the earth is always vulnerable to the humans at the controls.

A U.S. requirement to always have two people on airliners’ flight decks — with an attendant or a pilot stepping in during a restroom break — “is a potential deterrent to extreme or unusual activity by the pilot remaining in the cockpit,” said Richard Healing, a former NTSB member who now runs Washington- based R Cubed Consulting LLC. “But it’s a limited deterrent.”

Cockpit Rules

Hours after French prosecutors offered their theory on the end of Flight 9525, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA said it was accelerating a change to require two crew members in the cockpit at all times. Air Canada is making the same change immediately, CTV television reported.

With the Germanwings crash, there have been at least seven such fatal crashes caused intentionally by pilots since 1982 and another unsuccessful attempt on a FedEx Corp. plane in 1994, according to Malcolm Brenner, a former NTSB investigator who has studied such accidents.

The most recent previous case was a LAM Mozambique Airlines crash on Nov. 29, 2013, when a pilot programmed an Embraer E-190 to descend into the ground after the other pilot left the cockpit. All 33 people on board were killed.

Common Threads

The list doesn’t include Malaysian Air Flight 370, a Boeing Co. 777 carrying 239 people that disappeared without a trace on March 8, 2014, and flew to one of the most remote parts of the globe, the Southern Indian Ocean. Investigators suspect that its flight path was deliberately changed.

Brenner, a psychologist who investigated the human side of accidents, said the pilots involved all exhibited mental-health issues. There were two other motivations as well, he said.

The most common is a pilot who wants to exact revenge on the airline. This was the case in EgyptAir Flight 990 on Oct. 31, 1999, that killed 217 people when the plane went down in the Atlantic Ocean off Massachusetts, according to the NTSB. Brenner was part of the investigation.

Another driver: Causing a crash in hopes of ensuring insurance payments to family members, Brenner said.

It would be easy for carriers to add psychological screenings to the physical checkups pilots undergo regularly, according to Jurek Grabowski, who was part of a suicide-by-aircraft study at Johns Hopkins University in 2005. Systems that let pilots report mental health concerns without fear of penalty also would help, he said in an interview.

Trust Issue

“Anytime you’re in a very stressful situation, there is a lot of trust being put into the captain and co-pilot, as well as the cabin crew,” Grabowski said.

The extent to which those exams would prove effective is another matter.

“A person who is absolutely determined to keep it from being discovered can probably do that,” said Healing, the Washington-based consultant. “They become comfortable with the idea and they realize any change in behavior might point people in their direction.”

Goelz, the former NTSB managing director, said pilot-caused crashes were a “straggering problem” for the industry.

They’re unfolding against the backdrop of decades of improvements in technology and training that have made air travel safer than ever.

“Now that everything else is becoming more reliable, we’re starting to see the failure of humans,” said Brenner, the psychologist and former NTSB investigator. “We belong to a species that murders other members of the species.”

–With assistance from Andrea Rothman in Toulouse.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg.

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Va Retailer Lumber Liquidators Faces Safety Inquiry


Va Retailer Lumber Liquidators Faces Safety Inquiry

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday it is investigating Lumber Liquidators Chinese-made laminate flooring following a national TV broadcast raised concerns over levels of formaldehyde.

Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said Wednesday the agency is taking the issue seriously and is working to get answers for consumers, but it’s too early to tell whether any flooring would be recalled.

“As a parent of young children, I completely understand and share the strong desire that parents and other consumers have to know as soon as possible whether these products present a health risk,” Kaye said.

It’ll likely be months until there will be some have “some sense of the answers,” he said, and the science “does not often provide the clarity” where consumers will know immediately whether they need to take action.

The agency is working with other federal organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

The move comes after a report on CBS’ “60 Minutes” earlier this month that said that Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring made in China contains high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have both called for investigations following the broadcast.

The Toano, Virginia-based discount hardwood flooring retailer has said it complies with applicable regulations for its products, including California standards for formaldehyde emissions.

In a recent email statement, Lumber Liquidators said that it wants to reassure consumers that its flooring is safe, and it looks forward to addressing the issues with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulatory agencies and lawmakers who have questions about its products. On Wednesday, the company said it is fully cooperating and already has provided a significant amount of testing and safety information to the agency.

Kaye said the investigation is focusing only the Chinese-made laminate at this time but could expand the investigation if the agency finds reason to do so. The testing will be a method that most closely replicates how the flooring is used in homes, he said.

The company’s executives also have criticized “60 Minutes,” saying that the television program “distorted the facts” and used a test for its report that was not a “real-world” test. The Federal Wood Industries Coalition said earlier this month that “deconstructive testing” removes a coating on laminate flooring that helps to reduce formaldehyde emissions and that the testing method is not required to meet California standards.

Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. has more than 350 locations in North America.

Shares of Lumber Liquidators have dropped 59 percent since Feb. 24, when it announced that the “60 Minutes” segment would air and said the federal government might file criminal charges against the company.

Related:

New York’s Schumer Requests Safety Probe of Imported Flooring
Va. Retailer Lumber Liquidators to Pay for Safety Testing of Flooring

 

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Maryland House Senate Pass Fracking Bills


Maryland House Senate Pass Fracking Bills

Legislation that limits when and how fracking could take place in Maryland passed Tuesday in both chambers of the state legislature.

Senators voted 29-17 for a bill that holds drilling companies strictly liable for injuries to residents or their property, and in the case of legal action companies would have to disclose what chemicals they use for drilling.

In a 93-45 House vote, delegates supported a three-year moratorium on the drilling practice and called for establishing a scientific review panel to look at impacts to public health and the environment.

“These bills are not mutually exclusive. I think there’s much more study that needs to be done on this, particularly the public health effects and environmental effects of fracking,” said Sen. Robert Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County who sponsored the liability legislation. “The law we just passed from the Senate holds the correct people responsible if there is damage. Why should taxpayers be on the hook for environmental damage caused by the industry?”

The hydraulic fracturing process pumps highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into the ground, shaking loose rocks and releasing gas.

Maryland currently does not have any fracking, but in 2011 then-Gov. Martin O’Malley created an advisory commission to study the potential for drilling in Maryland’s western Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, which sit atop the Marcellus Shale deposit.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania allow fracking, but New York banned the practice due to health concerns.

Health concerns prompted the House bill that sets a three-year moratorium on issuing, accepting and reviewing permits for fracking.

Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery County, chairs the environment and transportation committee that gave the bill a favorable vote. He said the bill is “sensibly … hitting the pause button.”

“What the House said here is we do not know what the long-term health effects of this technology are, we are unwilling to proceed until we get the science right,” Barve said.

But the worry, according to critics of the House fracking bill, is that too many regulations will keep drilling companies out of the state, along with jobs and economic development.

“Obviously this bill is an attempt to ban the practice altogether,” said Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett County, who submitted most of the failed amendments to the moratorium bill. “All these hurdles and things have been placed in front of natural gas development in Maryland. We’re surrounded in western Maryland by Pennsylvania and West Virginia where this activity is ongoing and occurring. So what reason would they even want to come into Maryland in face of this opposition that they’re getting?”

In the Senate, the liability law dodged an attempt by Sen. Stephen Waugh, R-Calvert County, to send the bill back to the committee level.

Each chamber will now consider the other’s bill.

Related:

Maryland Bill Moves Ahead to Protect Residents From Fracking Damage
Oil Industry Sues to Block U.S. Fracking Regulations
Obama Administration Releases Regulations on Fracking on Federal Lands
Environmental Groups Sue EPA to Force Fracking Chemicals Disclosure

 

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Storms Sweep Through Oklahoma with Tornadoes Hail


Storms Sweep Through Oklahoma with Tornadoes Hail

Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt announced that Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is now in effect for 25 Oklahoma counties after Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency due to tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding that hit the state on March 25.

The counties included in the governor’s declaration are: Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Garvin, Grady, Lincoln, Logan, Love, McClain, Murray, Oklahoma, Osage, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Rogers, Seminole, Stephens, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington and Washita.

“Last night’s storms led to wide-spread damage throughout a large portion of the state,” Fallin said in an announcement. “I appreciate the ongoing work of our first responders who have been working through the night to assist those in need. I also offer my continued thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the storms.”

The storms resulted in at least one death reported in the Tulsa suburb of Sand Springs, along with multiple injuries, the governor’s office said.

A mobile home community in Sand Springs was devastated and a local gymnasium was also destroyed, according to the Weather Channel.

The National Weather Service reported multiple tornadoes throughout the state, as well as widespread hail and high winds. At least one severe tornado touched down in southwest Oklahoma City, causing sporadic damage until dissipating in Moore, Okla., which was devastated by a tornado in 2013.

Pruitt warned Oklahomans cleaning up after the storms to be wary of criminals who stream into communities to target tornado-damaged homes and businesses with scams involving cleanup, removal, home repair, and tree trimming.

Oklahoma’s price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services during a state of emergency and for 30 days thereafter, the attorney general said. The act additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction.

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado Damage Estimated at More than $2B

Arkansas, Oklahoma, Warned of Hail, High Wind-Packing Storms

 

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Stewart Joins NORCAL Mutual in California as SVP in Underwriting


Stewart Joins NORCAL Mutual in California as SVP in Underwriting

San Francisco, Calif.-based NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co. has named Andre Stewart senior vice president of underwriting on custom accounts.

Stewart will be responsible for new business growth with a focus on multistate and national accounts, program business, unique risks and integrated delivery systems.

Stewart_AndreStewart has more than 25 years of experience in the medical professional liability industry. He comes from The Doctors Co., where he was chief underwriting officer and president of TDC Specialty. Prior to that, he was a vice president for CNA Insurance as part of its medical professional liability practice.

NORCAL Mutual is a policyholder-owned and physician-directed medical professional liability company.

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Legacy Risk in California Names Bolger joins Vice President


Legacy Risk in California Names Bolger joins Vice President

Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Legacy Risk & Insurance Services LLC has named Drew Bolger a producer and vice president.

Bolger is focused on increasing the firm’s client base in the middle market. Bolger will work with the team to expand the firm’s reach into new segments and develop relationships with key partners.

Bolger most recently worked for Wells Fargo Insurance Services in San Francisco, where he focused on developing and providing risk management and insurance brokerage services for a range of companies, including businesses in the life science and technology industries. Prior to WFIS, Bolger worked as an account manager at Arthur J. Gallagher.

Legacy Risk provides a variety of products, including boiler and machinery, general liability, crime, cyber liability, property, employment practice liability and workers’ compensation.

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Beecher Carlson Adds 2 From Graham Co in Philadelphia


Beecher Carlson Adds 2 From Graham Co in Philadelphia

Beecher Carlson Insurance Services LLC, a specialized large account insurance broker, has expanded its National Healthcare Practice with the hiring of Tim Folk as managing director and Christopher Rieser as senior vice president.

Folk and Rieser will work out of Beecher Carlson’s Philadelphia office and report to the healthcare president, Frank McKenna.

They will be responsible for risk analysis program design as well as timely and effective delivery of Beecher Carlson’s national healthcare services. Both previously worked with The Graham Company, where Folk was vice president and ran the healthcare team and Rieser was producer.

Beecher Carlson Insurance Services is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida-headquartered Brown & Brown Inc., which, through its subsidiaries, offers insurance and reinsurance products and services, as well as risk management, third-party administration and managed health care programs.

 

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Car Safety Tickets on Rise in New Jersey


Car Safety Tickets on Rise in New Jersey

Police in New Jersey are writing more tickets for safety violations in the nearly four years since the state ended motor vehicle safety inspections.

A review of court records by The Record newspaper finds police issued nearly 100,000 tickets for poorly maintained lights last year.

Tickets for chipped or broken windshields rose nearly 39 percent. There was a 10 percent increase of vehicles ticketed for worn tires.

Citations for faulty brakes, driving with no brakes and faulty mufflers dropped between 2009 and 2014.
The Motor Vehicle Commission has three mobile vans to make roadside inspections. About 69 percent of the vehicles that were spot-checked passed last year.

 

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Burns Wilcox Brokerage Hires Ascolese as Casualty Broker in NYC


Burns Wilcox Brokerage Hires Ascolese as Casualty Broker in NYC

Burns & Wilcox Brokerage has hired Jerry Ascolese as casualty broker for its New York City office.

Ascolese, who most recently served as senior vice president at R-T Specialty, will be responsible for providing casualty insurance services for clients with complex and hard-to-place risks. He will report to Burns & Wilcox Brokerage President Denis Brady.

Ascolese brings two decades of experience to Burns & Wilcox Brokerage, the last 10 of which were spent specializing in construction, energy and casualty brokerage products in New York City.

Burns & Wilcox Brokerage, which is an independent business unit owned by The H.W. Kaufman Financial Group, provides wholesale insurance brokerage.

 

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