The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that property owners with natural gas leases are no longer eligible for federal hazard mitigation assistance after a flood. The new policy, enacted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on May 5, has affected eight households in Pennsylvania in Wyoming and Lycoming Counties.
It means that FEMA will not buy out flood-prone properties or pay to assist raising or relocating homes and other structures if the owner has signed a lease with a developer.
The new policy was the subject of a Wednesday roundtable discussion at Wyoming County 911 Center in Tunkhannock, organized by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton. FEMA deputy associate director for mitigation Roy Wright attended, along with state and local emergency managers and gas industry representatives.
“We, right now, need to have some direction on what to do, how to get these mitigated,” Wyoming County emergency director Gene Dziak told Mr. Wright. “Next month is three years (since the flood). We need to get these people out of these properties.”
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency chief deputy director Robert Full told Mr. Wright he wished he had cleared all 21 households that applied for assistance after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee before the May 5 rule. It will only apply for future acquisitions, not those already approved, Mr. Wright said.
“We were very concerned from the moment it was announced,” Mr. Full said. “It was implemented like overnight.”
FEMA told the Times-Tribune that the policy may only be temporary and that it is watching for the results of studies from other federal agencies on the environmental impacts of shale development, including the controversial process of fracking wells to release oil and gas.