Farmers Insurance Co., one of the nation’s biggest insurance companies, has filed nine class-action suits alleging that local Chicago-area governments knew that climate change would lead to greater rainfall but haven’t taken action to guard against future flooding. According to the suit, roughly 200 localities failed to adequately prepare sewers and stormwater drains for a two-day storm in April 2013 for which Farmers paid out extensive damages.
Of course, sewers and storm water management systems – and for that matter, paved streets – haven’t really been around all that long; prior to around 1900, none of that stuff even existed. And that underground infrastructure’s pretty expensive, so it’s not surprising that, particularly during our prolonged economic slump, many cities haven’t been exactly gung-ho on upgrading. For one thing, the money has to come from your wallet, and while most folks are never too keen on raising taxes, it’s an even harder sell when the taxpayers are struggling just to get food on the table.
Portland’s one of the few cities to have undertaken a massive infrastructure upgrade in terms of sewer and storm water management, with their construction of the hugely expensive “Big Pipe” system during the height of the recession – and there’s a revolt brewing over the equally huge rate increases for water and sewer. In point of fact, tonight’s vote count may well spell the end of City Hall oversight; a situation that former mayor Sam Adams and his right-hand guy, former city council member Randy Leonard brought upon themselves when they started treating ratepayer funds as a personal piggy-bank, dipping into the accounts to build a $1.2 million Rose Festival headquarters, an ampitheater, a million-dollar “water house” demonstration project, and other things not related to providing water and sewer services. People might buy the need for the Big Pipe, but the arrogance of those two soured a lot of folks on the idea of continuing to allow the city council run those particular shows.
In any event, Farmers Insurance has evidently concluded that they wouldn’t have had to pay out so much in claims had Chicago and surrounding communities taken steps to mitigate the results of increased rainfall that they believe is attributable to Climate Change, so they’ve filed lawsuits. In other words, their view is that it’s reasonable to waste taxpayer dollars on years of litigation rather than to encourage the communities to invest those dollars in system upgrades. That should work out well.