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Current Projects

1. Examination of the legal regime governing post disaster response recovery in North Carolina and proposals for addressing flaws, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters, and the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence - Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure and Emergency Management (DIEM). Funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

This project recognizes that the response in the United States to natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires is woefully inadequate, and that climate change will presumably exacerbate the problems we are already experiencing. CLEAR and its affiliates are examining these issues and seek to find optimal solutions to improve post disaster response.

2. Examination of whether greenhouse gas offsets are "regulatorily eligible" to be considered and offset under additionality criteria, in conjunction with the Research Triangle Institute and the Nicholas Institute at Duke University. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This project is part of a study on how offsets in a greenhouse gas regulatory system are to be certified. Other issues being explored by grant partners include the issue of "stacking" of greenhouse gas credits with other environmental commodity credits.

3. Examination of options for the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, in conjunction with the Nicholas Institute at Duke University.

This ongoing project examines the legal authority and potential regulatory vehicle for the U.S. EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

4. Study of the issues the inner coast of North Carolina will face over the next one to two decades, in conjunction with the North Carolina Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center at UNC. Partially funded by a grant from North Carolina SEA Grant.

One aspect of the planned study is an examination of the impact of climate change and rising sea levels on freshwater resources and other coastal infrastructure. The CLEAR portion of this project recognizes the need to examine the management of inner coastal development. Most of the coastal plain lies only a few feet above sea level, so any significant rise in sea level will have significant consequences for the many coastal communities and lands lying along North Carolina's coastal rivers, coastal streams and estuarine waters. There have been many studies concerning the coastal barrier islands, but fewer studies examine the inner coast even though it is coming under tremendous development pressures with, in some cases, little planning or land and water use controls.

NC Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center (2009), Developing a Management Strategy for North Carolina's Coastal Ocean (Report of the Ocean Policy Steering Committee).

5. Comparative examination of the impacts of climate change on resources and society, and the legal responses to those impacts, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters, and the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence - Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure and Emergency Management (DIEM).

In order to more fully understand the needs of areas facing climate change challenges, this project compares how different legal regimes address climate problems. In particular, this study will examine Alaska, New Zealand and the Netherlands. CLEAR has a particular expertise in the mineral leasing laws, U.S. environmental and resource laws, and Native Alaskan legal status.

6. Weatherization Working Group - a student-run pro bono project aimed at developing a weatherization program for low-income public housing in the town of Chapel Hill.

Students and a faculty adviser are working with the town of Chapel Hill to design a program to weatherize the town's low-income public housing. Eventually, with CLEAR researchers, this knowledge will be used to design a prototype weatherization program for small towns across the country.

7. Examination of the failure of various insurance regimes to give proper economic incentives with respect to natural disasters and climate change.

Using examples of insurance problems from coastal communities in the United States and around the world, CLEAR hopes to examine sustainable coastal insurance practices in the face of increasing natural disasters due to climate change.

Daniel E. Peterson, Financial Adaptation through Parametric Insurance Products: Utilizing the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility as a Model for a Proposed United States National Catastrophe Risk Consortium.

Work has already proceeded on the North Carolina insurance system. The North Carolina Insurance Underwriting Association ("the Beach Plan") is a residual market mechanism that was created by the state to serve as an "insurer of last resort" for properties on the coast that are otherwise unable to find insurance, particularly to cover wind and hail damage. Membership is compulsory for all insurance companies that write property insurance anywhere in the state, regardless of whether they insure property at the coast. In 2008, this forced the residual insurance pool to become unsustainable. Due to artificially low insurance rates, the Beach Plan had become the insurer of "first resort" for over $132 billion in insured properties. Yet the Beach Plan did not have enough in reserve to cover its liabilities for what insurers call the "probable maximum loss" ("PML"), and would depend significantly on unlimited "nonrecoupable assessments" on all of the state's private property insurers to pay any excess liability. Insurers began leaving the state rather than face the unlimited assessments. In Fall 2008, the Legislature convened a study commission to investigate and make recommendations for corrective legislation.

In Summer 2009, the Beach Plan Reform Bill was passed and made inroads into solving several major Beach Plan problems. Premiums at the coast were raised. A 1% deductible was also enacted to ensure that coastal residents were bearing a more appropriate amount of their own risk (and to encourage them to adopt cost-effective mitigation measures such as storm windows and reinforced doors and roofs). Coverage limits were reduced from $1.5 million to $750,000 to reduce Beach Plan liabilities. In the event of a loss that exhausted reserves and reinsurance, insurers will contribute up to $1 billion and, for any remaining losses, may be charged "recoupable" assessments that "may" be recovered from property/policyholders statewide through a 10% (maximum) annual surcharge.


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UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106


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