Energy. Environment. Economy.

FEMA: no flood assistance for property owners with natural gas leases

In this Sept. 15, 2011 photo, Paula Fenstermacher shows pictures in front of a FEMA office in Montoursville, Pa., of her parents' flood-damaged home along the Loyalsock Creek in Lycoming County.

AP Photo/Genaro C. Armas

In this Sept. 15, 2011 photo, Paula Fenstermacher shows pictures in front of a FEMA office in Montoursville, Pa., of her parents' home along the Loyalsock Creek in Lycoming County. The home was damaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Lee.

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.

More from the Times-Tribune:

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.

You can read the FEMA policy issued on May 5 by clicking here. 


  • Ladderback

    Apparently the land will be owned by a local municipality and kept as open space after FEMA buys out the owner, and the ability of a gas company to drill on that property is not in conformance with open space activities. Is that the reason behind the refusal to buy the affected properties?

  • BillN

    Ladderback: I believe that’s the legal rationalization. Although I don’t know if this applies to elevating buildings in place or only for buyouts. A buyout must result in permanent open space and there must be a clean deed to do that. I’m told that this is creating problems beyond fracking leases in that some places have mineral leases that go back to the 19th century.

  • BobSchmetzer

    Drilling in a floodplain , I believe is illegal. The federal floodplain insurance policy has very strict rules. Its because they are running out of money when people rebuild where it floods. Also, there is no way to contain the waste from a well. More research needs to be examined in this area.

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