How federally subsidized flood insurance can artificially increase the value of risky homes

With storms getting bigger and sea levels rising, why do people keep rebuilding along the coast? University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professor Chad McGuire and his colleagues analyzed more than 57,000 Massachusetts properties insured by the federally backed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to answer that very question. What they found will surprise you.

A UTLX tank car passes westbound through Rochelle Railroad Park in Rochelle, Illinois on May 29, 2005.

New rules for ‘oil trains’ fall short of recommendations

The Department of Transportation announced today a long-awaited set of new regulations for trains carrying petroleum crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids in the United States. But the rules, the first of which go into effect this October, fall short – significantly short, in some cases – of calls for greater safety measures by environmental and watchdog groups, as well as other agencies within the government. They also, in some cases, fail to address design flaws in train components linked to spills and leaks in major accidents as well as hundreds of minor incidents reviewed by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and WGBH-News.

The Birdseye plant, birthplace of the flash-freeze process, stood on a barrier beach in the center of “the Fort,” a historic neighborhood packed with marine industry in Gloucester, Mass. Torn down in the fall of 2014, it will be replaced by the Beauport Hotel. For the past century the plant was hit by Atlantic Ocean waves. Despite Massachusetts’ stance against development on barrier beaches like this, the state is providing $3 million for roads and other improvements around the controversial hotel development.

State pays millions to pave way for Gloucester hotel despite beach policy

On one of the grittiest stretches of the historic waterfront here, the peaks of the Beauport Hotel will soon rise above the truck noise and smell of fish. Yet when the last drop of water fills the rooftop swimming pool, the luxury hotel will be more than incongruous with the neighborhood theme. It will also stand as a challenge to even mild climate change predictions. For the past century, storms during high tide have flooded this neighborhood. In the next century, a two-foot rise in sea level, projected by an international consortium of scientists, would put the hotel’s property line underwater.

Lauren Owens-LEED-06-SW

In effort to be ‘green,’ property owners misuse coveted LEED designation

When Scott Hardin found a home four years ago for his real estate appraisal firm, The Appraiser Guy, at Woburn’s Trade Center 128, he was pleased to settle into the “green” building. Besides the convenient location on Route 128, the building was equipped with solar panels, low-flow toilets, and even bathroom towel dispensers that use smaller sheets of paper. The building’s advertised LEED credentials played a big part in Hardin’s decision to rent there. The LEED award – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is the building industry standard for environmental and energy efficiency used worldwide and issued by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. A bronze wall plaque in the lobby of the half-million-square-foot Trade Center, owned by Cummings Properties, features a USGBC logo.