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After Harvey, Van Hollen seeks flood review for federal projects

As Florida braces for Hurricane Irma and Texas continues to recover from the damage caused by Harvey, three Democratic senators are pushing a bill Friday to ensure federally funded projects are built to withstand catastrophic flooding.

The measure, which Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen introduced Friday along with Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Cory Booker of New Jersey, would require federal agencies to review new federally funded infrastructure projects before they are built to ensure they will survive flooding.

President Barack Obama included a similar requirement in an executive order signed in 2015 as part of his administration’s response to climate change. President Donald Trump revoked that order last month as part of a broader effort his administration is making to speed up environmental reviews of major projects.

“Americans stand with the residents of Texas and the Gulf Coast as they face unprecedented flooding from Hurricane Harvey and possible devastation from Hurricane Irma,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “As we work to provide the federal support they need to save lives and rebuild after this storm, it is more important than ever to ensure our roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure are able to withstand the impacts of flooding.”

Congress approved a $15.3 billion emergency aid package for Harvey victims on Friday, which likely represents a down payment on what will eventually be needed in Texas and Louisiana.

Trump and others — including Obama — have complained about the time it takes to review federal infrastructure projects.

“We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively — relatively speaking — and the permitting process will go very, very quickly,” Trump said last month after signing his own executive order that revoked the flood review.

“No longer will we tolerate one job-killing delay after another. No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hardworking Americans.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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