Tag Archives: Guest contributor

Filling Virginia’s Flood Insurance Gap

by Lisa Miller

A new Federal Emergency Management Agency report is shocking: 69% of Virginia homes in high risk flood zones do not have flood insurance. Another report reveals 17% of Virginia properties should be listed in high risk zones – but are not. Congress’s continued failure to reform an increasingly expensive National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), coupled with last year’s record-setting floods and now Hurricanes Michael and Florence, has created an urgent need to improve the availability and affordability of flood insurance. The Virginia General Assembly and legislatures in other states can help address this dangerous situation by encouraging a larger private flood insurance market.

There is only one private insurance company writing primary flood insurance in Virginia, defined as up to $250,000 in coverage. Although 106,000 Virginians have NFIP coverage, FEMA’s report, “An Affordability Framework for the National Flood Insurance Program,” found that only residents with higher incomes are buying it, leaving an ever-growing majority of others unprotected.  While FEMA studies the situation, the private market is moving ahead and delivering more affordable flood insurance where it can.

New catastrophe models are allowing insurance companies to better understand risk and thus accurately price flood premiums – down to the individual property – providing greater consumer choice and alternatives to the federal NFIP. When state government encourages it, a vibrant, competitive environment emerges as it has in Florida where, in just 3 years, almost 30 companies are offering better coverage at a cheaper price. In Miami-Dade County, ground zero for Hurricane Andrew in 1992, one private insurer’s average premium is $677 compared to the NFIP’s $980 average.

Catastrophe models, model law. The use of catastrophe models in setting rates isn’t new. But it’s usually used together with claims data, something the NFIP hasn’t been willing to share, citing privacy concerns. Also, greater consistency is needed among individual state insurance departments on how catastrophe models may be used in submitting rates.

The National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) has begun reviewing a simple two-page proposed draft law, based on Florida’s, whose concept is, “If you build it, they will come.” The draft law permits companies, as an example, to test market rates in order to promote competition and choice, with the regulator approving policy language if a state requires a review (some do not) to ensure policies meet or exceed NFIP coverage.

The model law also ensures that insurance agents educate consumers about the dangers of going without coverage, and that insurance commissioners certify that policies are adequate to meet mortgage banking requirements. The safeguards in this simple model law will reduce our reliance on federal flood insurance.

Some in the insurance industry are concerned that this proposed regulation is overreaching or unnecessary. It is nonetheless designed to provide suggestions to regulators and those regulated on how to work together to launch and grow a successful market. What isn’t in dispute is private flood coverage’s cost savings, improved benefits, and greater consumer choice.

Start the conversation. NFIP premiums are rising an average of 8% this year but in some areas by 18%,the maximum annual increase allowed under law. So it just makes sense for state legislators and regulators to begin the conversation to fast-track the growth of a private market, which has the added benefit of spreading the risk to private insurers and away from U.S. taxpayers.

Too many Virginians are unprotected from the hazards of flood waters. There’s an urgent need to improve the availability and affordability of flood insurance so more homeowners are able to buy protection for their property and families. While Congressional paralysis stymies needed NFIP reforms, we must work toward model private flood insurance legislation to let Washington know “we got this.”

Lisa Miller is a former Florida Deputy Insurance Commissioner who served as an advisor on passage of Florida’s key laws encouraging a vibrant private flood insurance market. She is CEO of Lisa Miller & Associates, a Tallahassee, Florida-based consulting firm. @LisaMillerAssoc

Forgotten Battles, Missing Landmarks


by Cliff Page

On an abnormally warm early Spring day, I took a 150-mile motorcycle ride from Portsmouth to Stony Creek, Va. That’s where my Great Great Grandpa was captured by federal forces in 1864. He rode with the South Carolina 6th Insurgent Calvary (Aka: the Dixie Raiders), which fought in nearly every major engagement in Virginia from 1862 until the surrender.

Before visiting Stony Creek I had no idea of the importance of the place. I presumed that it was just an outlier to the defense of Petersburg. But from talking to some old timers who live there today, I learned that Stony Creek was a critical logistical hub for the Army of Northern Virginia and a focal point of the lengthy siege of Petersburg, the loss of which precipitated General Lee’s calamitous retreat towards Appomattox and the end of the Civil War.

Stony Creek lies to the west of Interstate 95 between Emporia and Petersburg. During the siege of Petersburg between June 1864 and March 1865 nearly all the supplies to the Confederate defenders — including those from Wilmington, N.C., the only Confederate port not blockaded on the East Coast at the time — came up the Petersburg and Weldon (now CSX Railway) into the Stony Creek depot. Goods were offloaded from the trains and put onto wagons and hauled on plank roads through the back woods and swamps to Petersburg, 25 miles to the north.

During the siege of Petersburg, a largely static affair, a series of engagements were fought over Stony Creek. In June, the Confederates turned back a Yankee cavalry foray, but not until the raiders had torn up 60 miles of railroad track. General Grant ordered another raid in December, which the defenders likewise repulsed. But the attack disrupted the vital supply line, doubling the distance supply wagons had to travel and exacerbating the Army of Northern Virginia’s shortages of ammunition, food, and medical supplies.

By March it was clear that Lee could no longer hold on. After a series of reversals, he evacuated Petersburg. In full retreat, the Army of Northern Virginia would fight only a couple more engagements before being forced to capitulate at Appomattox Court House on April 3rd.

I don’t know exactly where my Great Great Grandpa Randolph Page was captured at Stoney Creek, or where he was imprisoned. Many Confederate Calvary POWs were incarcerated on the Eastern Shore. But one thing is recorded – he was given ten dollars in gold, at discharge and walked on foot back to Landrum, S.C. Upon arriving at his log cabin and farm, he stripped off his lice-infested uniform, burned it, shaved off his hair and scrubbed his body down with lye soap in the creek. Thereafter he returned to the plow and put the war behind him.

Today Stony Creek is a little rural community in sad shape, and hanging by a thread. Cars and trucks whiz by on I-95 and and pay no mind. The BBQ pit and little antique shop, once easily accessible on old I-301, are off the beaten track. The billboard next to the BBQ displays the rust of over 50 years, as worn sign paper and gauze wisp gently in the breeze like curtains to the past.

The town’s history is being forgotten as those who remember get older. But the rail that brought in supplies and ammunition is still there, as are the winding roads where muleskinners ported supplies from the depot to Petersburg. A cannon abandoned in the swamp rests on the main street. The one-room Sappony Baptist church — where Confederate infantrymen fought off a company of Yankees before friendly cavalry ran them off — still stands. The church bears the scars from where a Yankee cannon ball punched through the front wall and a bullet hit the church Bible. Today, the wall’s hole is patched with tin and the church is sided with vinyl.

A wealth of knowledge about the Civil War resides in small communities like Stony Creek, but it is dying. I talked to the locals and encouraged them to print a flyer with a brief history of Stony Creek and a map showing the battlefields and the plank road routes that channeled supplies to Lee’s defenses. Virginians in communities across the state should do likewise, and put up materials on a common statewide History and Tourism website. Tourists could download and print these maps and history as guides or view them on their smart phones.

This would be a great project for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, indeed a project in which all Southern states could participate. Creating a platform for small communities to tell their story of Virginia’s defense and the Confederate cause would lift local spirits and stimulate tourism. History could be brought to life for a new generation, as folks discover the little places, now forgotten, that played significant roles in history.

Stony Creek is a great day trip on a motorcycle or an open convertible on a warm sunny day. I encourage Virginians to visit the place and learn about the history of which we all are apart.

Cliff Page, a sculptor, lives and maintains his studio in Portsmouth. 

Why Offshore Drilling Is Good for Virginia

By Mark Greene

According to a recent study, safely tapping Virginia’s offshore natural gas and oil reserves could provide nearly $1.8 billion of private investment annually in the Commonwealth. While many are quick to judge this initiative, all of the facts should first be considered.

For example, federal revenue sharing could help transform the state economy by sending billions in royalties, rentals and fees to our state coffers. By putting revenue-sharing programs in place -– like those already working for the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -–Virginia could benefit from offshore energy development to the tune of $235 million per year, according to the study. And that’s in addition to industry spending and high-paying jobs created that would help boost our economy.

“So, what’s trying to stop a reasonable exploration of what job creating resources might be available off our coast?,” asks former delegate Chris Saxman in a Roanoke Times editorial. “Fear. Fear accelerates order to disorder and hinders economic growth that will pay for the promises we have made.” He goes on: “Done properly, offshore exploration can create thousands of jobs that pay an average over $100,000 a year while providing tax revenue to also pay our hard working public employees like teachers, police, fire, and rescue personnel or we can dedicate that revenue to fixing interstates like I-81.”

To elaborate on Saxman’s point about the kinds of economic benefits offshore access could bring – here’s the picture of the Virginia projections if we were to develop oil and natural gas off of our coast, recently released by API:

Virginia

  • $2.1 billion in federal revenue sharing over the forecast, reaching $236 million per year at the end of the forecast.
  • $19 billion in industry spending over the forecast, reaching $1.8 billion by the end of the forecast.
  • $22.3 billion added to state GDP over the forecast.
  • 24,664 jobs gained by the end of the forecast.

Numbers likes these illustrate big economic opportunity for the whole state if we are included in a new federal offshore leasing plan now under development. Despite any kneejerk reactions that may have taken place initially, economic benefits of this size should compel policymakers to consider the needs of entire states when discussing offshore development.

At a House hearing last fall, former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said natural gas and oil industry employment long has benefited her state. “We have men and women graduating from high school that are going to work in the oilfield and they don’t make minimum wage,” Landrieu said. ”They can make $80, $90, $100,000 a year. And that means a lot to their families, and it sends a lot of kids to college from south Louisiana.”

Offshore energy would be privately financed – reflected in the industry spending numbers above. That’s spending throughout state economies by natural gas and oil companies and their employees. It’s a boost to economic growth for portions of our state, like Southwest Virginia, that haven’t seen much growth for years.

Offshore energy is compatible with other ocean uses, including the military. It is safer than it has ever been and is always improving, thanks to technology, industry standards, safety management systems and employee training. No human enterprise is without risk, but industry’s premium on technology and safety – to protect its workers and the environment – properly manages this risk while producing energy and national security benefits for today and decades into the future.

“Interior’s offshore proposal is a critical first step to advancing a strong energy future for Virginia,” said Miles Morin of the Virginia Petroleum Council. “Not only can offshore energy exploration and development help provide reliable and affordable energy for Virginia’s consumers, but it can also be the cornerstone for economic growth and investments in our state.”

This is American energy that should be safely harnessed to benefit all Virginians – both on the coast and all across the Commonwealth.

Mark Green is editor of Energy Tomorrow, a publication of the American Petroleum Institute.