Sun
Dec 3 2006
12:13 pm

Just in time for the Christmas season, bad news for the Katrina reconstruction effort.

St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., Louisiana's largest commercial insurance provider, plans to cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year, sparking fears that other insurers will follow and slow the region's economic recovery.

While the St. Paul, Minn., company refused to say how many commercial policies will be affected or specify where the cuts will be in South Louisiana, two insurance brokers who were briefed by the company this week say Travelers will not renew any property insurance for businesses in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and eastern St. Tammany parishes. Cuts will also affect individual businesses in other parts of South Louisiana, including St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes.

"I said, 'May I tell anybody who asks that Travelers is withdrawing from the commercial property insurance market in southeast Louisiana?' " said Anderson Baker, president of the New Orleans agency Gillis, Ellis & Baker, who met with the company Wednesday. "The answer was, 'Yes.' "

Travelers spokeswoman Jennifer Wislocki said the company has "a high concentration of commercial policies in the hurricane-prone areas of Louisiana" and will not renew many commercial policies when they expire.

"To keep future losses to a more acceptable level for continued financial stability, we are reducing our exposure in some of these areas by non-renewing a number of small to mid-sized commercial properties," Wislocki said.

It's too soon to tell if other insurers will follow suit, but considering that they're the leader in the Louisiana market, this does not portend good things for New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

Any Traveler's policy holders out there in KnoxViews land?

Andy Axel's picture

Indeed.Maybe you'd be in

Indeed.

Maybe you'd be in better hands with Allstate. Or have better neighbors if you chose State Farm.

What's Travelers' logo -- isn't it an umbrella? Guess theirs is only good in a Category 2.

____________________________

Dirty mouth language -- it's the new black.

Sven's picture

Man, there are some

Man, there are some cold-hearted mofos out there.

Curiously, I've yet to see the argument that we stop funding energy infrastructure in the Upper Midwest and let the bastards freeze to death.

Number9's picture

Common Sense

Common Sense Counterpoint:

Maybe this is an insurance company giving a no vote to the reelection of Ray Nagin and the rest of the corrupt New Orleans government. Maybe that no vote of confidence extends to the corrupt and incompetent State Government and the incompetence of the Federal government? Maybe it is just cost prohibitive to provide insurance in the bizzaro world of corrupt politics and patronage in New Orleans?

Ironically Nagin was supposedly a reformer and had avowed to fight corruption. Yet somehow he never figured out that there was nothing more important than the levees. Did Nagin do anything about the levees before they failed?

Whether "fair" or not this is the business works. Every Governor of the State of Louisiana since the levees were built also shares this stigma and responsibility.

This happened because the levees failed. Had they not failed this discussion would not take place.

Why rebuild a City that is under sea level if the previous government was corrupt? The continuation of that government might be a reason for this decision. Turn it into marsh land and move the City to higher ground. Do we have to have insurance companies become the arbiters of common sense and civil engineering?

We need some more "cold-hearted mofos" out there that will stand up to the idiocy of corrupt political machines. This is as dumb as making Scott West out to be Robin Hood.

But the obvious solution is to hold the insurance company responsible and give a pass to the corrupt and ineffective local, state, and federal government. Give me a break.

Vintage Andy Axel. Take a bow.

Sven's picture

Why rebuild a City that is

Why rebuild a City that is under sea level if the previous government was corrupt?

Because it's the people of New Orleans, not corrupt governments, who are getting the shaft. If the fire department lets your house burn down (or more apt to this case, sets the fire), you don't punish the fire department by not rebuilding the house. That said, I don't blame the insurance company; this is a collective and shameful failure of society to do the right thing.

The "under sea level" argument for not rebuilding is beyond stupid. New Orleans' levee system is no more artificial than any other city's infrastructure, and I think a case could be made that there are other cities with an even higher degree of geographical absurdity. We all rest on that precarious edge, and we're all at risk of death by dumb.

Number9's picture

The "under sea level"

The "under sea level" argument for not rebuilding is beyond stupid.

As often happens you did not grasp the "argument" so I will spell it out in greater detail.

The argument is that a City under sea level must have levees that can hold up. Under a corrupt and compromised New Orleans government, Louisiana government, and Federal government that clearly is not possible.

The only logical course is not to rebuild the parts of the City under sea level.

Of course we have the technology to build replacement levees.

It is not a technical problem, it is a people problem. Why rinse and repeat when the corruption in local government is still there? Why rebuild when the patronage system is still there? Why rebuild when the political machine is still there?

Catch up Sven, you are much smarter than this. While the Federal government will provide the money private insurance companies may be too cold blooded to risk their money. Good for them.

Clean up the corruption before any talk of rebuilding anything. If you do not understand look into the Levee Boards and how they are structured.

Sven's picture

Well, yeah, the Halliburton

Well, yeah, the Halliburton scandal (along with the Boeing, ADCS, etc., etc. etc. scandals) tells us we should stop funding the military as well.

Are you seriously trying to argue that the reason New Orleans isn't being rebuilt is because of fear of corruption? I can think of a number of reasons - beginning with the fact that the GOP doesn't see the political payoff, and in fact sees benefits in letting the city rot. But that ain't one of them.

Anyway, let me ask you this: Would you be willing to give up your home in the fight against corruption?

Number9's picture

Anyway, let me ask you this:

Anyway, let me ask you this: Would you be willing to give up your home in the fight against corruption?

The Andy Axel school of debating 101, change the subject.

Sven's picture

The Andy Axel school of

The Andy Axel school of debating 101, change the subject.

Oh for christssake. You're trying to make the case that NOLA shouldn't be rebuilt because of corruption. I'm calling you out on the implications of that - one being that you're willing to write off thousands of NOLA residents' lives ("lives" being, as Randy notes above, the pre-Katrina status quo) in service of your anti-corruption theorem. And I doubt you'd do the same (not that you'd have any choice) if you were the one getting, ahem, serviced.

But you're right, that's all beside the point. The insurance company isn't abandoning NOLA because of Nagin et al's corruption; it's pulling out because New Orleans is still unprotected, and it doesn't look like it will be anytime soon (actually, I guess that is a form of corruption).

R. Neal's picture

The only logical course is

The only logical course is not to rebuild the parts of the City under sea level.

That's a good argument. So what's your argument for where they should relocate the tens of thousands of minority homeowners who built there and had lives and communities there and who were part of the NOLA culture that is now in danger of being lost forever? And what about the thousands in pubic housing, who were also part of the community.

And what about TVA's rehabilitation of the entire Tennessee River Valley and all it's tributaries? You realize, of course, that many of these dams have outlived their expected lifetime, and the government hasn't kept up the funding to keep them safe and viable.

Should we let them go, and return the floodplains of the Tennessee River and its tributaries to their natural state? There was some pretty great agricultural land with fertile soil delivered to that land every spring by the floods for farmers (and the Cherokee before them) to grow crops on. Even though they couldn't build homes or cities on it because of flooding, I'm not sure that was a bad thing given that we now eat poison spinach from California.

But as has been pointed out, New Orleans is a great American seaport, and critical to our economy. Just ask Exxon.

And then there's the Netherlands. Are they smarter than us? Are they more important to Europe than New Orleans is to the U.S.? Is that even a proper question, or should is it proper to ask whether we should preserve hundreds of years worth of culture?

Number9's picture

And what about TVA's

And what about TVA's rehabilitation of the entire Tennessee River Valley and all it's tributaries? You realize, of course, that many of these dams have outlived their expected lifetime, and the government hasn't kept up the funding to keep them safe and viable.

Andy had a good post on that a few weeks ago. Yes, it is very similar.

I would not live below a dam in Tennessee, but not everyone thinks about things like that. When we the people do not hold the government responsible for its basic functions were share the blame.

Paging Bob Corker...

But the situation with the levees in New Orleans was much much worse than the TVA issues. It was also known about for much much longer.

This should be a two way street, those that are enraged about Haliburton, where is there rage about the condition of the levees?

If you ask me I would rather see the dam in Nashville Andy wrote about fixed before I see a new Pre-K program. Kids don't need Pre-K if they are during the backstroke down a flooded river.

Andy Axel's picture

I would not live below a dam

I would not live below a dam in Tennessee, but not everyone thinks about things like that. When we the people do not hold the government responsible for its basic functions were share the blame.

Yet you would live downwind of a nuclear waste repository or in the general vicinity of the Strawberry Plains faultline.

How's your earthquake insurance?

____________________________

Dirty mouth language -- it's the new black.

Number9's picture

How's your earthquake

How's your earthquake insurance?

I pay extra for a special rider. Everyone should.

I think differently from most people. For example, I had a friend, who had special knowledge, help me when I selected my current home over a decade ago. I ask this expert about where the safest places to live was if Oak Ridge had an accident or if Watts Bar had an accident. You can graph air plumes and get a good idea of where not to live.

Of course some nut could break down the front door and do a home invasion. I could get run over by a truck on Monday. You do what you can that is in your power to do.

The people of New Orleans deserve much better than they are getting. I have no argument on that basis.

But I do not understand why there should be a boycott of an insurance company that is using common sense. Get the damn politicians to do their job. Everything else will fall into place.

One final thing, unless there is smoking gun evidence of Bush-Hitler sending in a submarine or a team of Navy Seals to blow up the levees can we keep the discussion to the plausible facts of the event?

Andy Axel's picture

...unless there is smoking

...unless there is smoking gun evidence of Bush-Hitler sending in a submarine or a team of Navy Seals to blow up the levees can we keep the discussion to the plausible facts of the event?

The #9 School of Debate: Countering assertions which weren't ever made in the discussion at hand.

____________________________

Dirty mouth language -- it's the new black.

Number9's picture

The #9 School of Debate:

The #9 School of Debate: Countering assertions which weren't ever made in the discussion at hand.

I wasn't referring to you Andy. I pick up more detail than others. Someone else made the comment I referred to.

We all rest on that precarious edge, and we're all at risk of *"death by dumb".

* (link...)

redmondkr's picture

CNN had an article this

CNN had an article this morning about the rebuilding efforts on the Mississippi coast. According to them homeowners are paying insurance premiums that are 400% higher than pre-Katrina levels. Imagine paying that kind of money for years and still getting shafted by the fine print when you turn in a claim.

R. Neal's picture

It was also known about for

It was also known about for much much longer.

They had to draw down Fontana Resevoir circa 1974-76 to fix serious cracks in the dam. It was already about 40 years old then. If it had gone, so would have gone the Little Tennessee River valley, and a lot of the Tennessee River valley below Ft. Loudon Dam.

rikki's picture

look what I did, mommy!

I've been arguing from the beginning that much of New Orleans' population and industry should be relocated to Lafayette in conjunction with the rerouting of the Mississippi River. A structure already exists that controls how much of the Mississippi flows into the Acadian Basin and through New Orleans and how much flows into the Atchafalaya Basin to the west. It is called Old River Control, and it is one of the most audacious engineering projects ever attempted. It sits right in the elbow of Louisiana.

The river wants to change course through its delta, as all such rivers do. We built a massive gate to prevent this in the early 1960s, and it's not going to last forever, just like the TVA dams. There will never be another opportunity this good to let the river have her way. There will be another opportunity. The only question is whether it will come about by virtue of Old River Control suffering a catastrophic failure or because we rebuild New Orleans and another hurricane does what Katrina did or worse.

Abandoning the most vulnerable parts of New Orleans does not mean the city and its culture have to disappear. It just means the rebuilt city is more modest and better protected. We can start from scratch building a new river port near Lafayette and avoid the thousands of tiny mistakes, some attributable to corruption, others to engineering compromises, others to engineering arrogance, that put so many people in harm's way.

It doesn't surprise me that it might take risk-analysis experts like insurance companies to force us to reconsider how New Orleans is rebuilt. Insurers will likely be the impetus for our pansy-ass duopoly finally getting off its ass on global warming too, if it ever gets off its ass. I think both parties are most content when their diaper is full and they are sitting in it spreading it around.

Number9's picture

Abandoning the most

Abandoning the most vulnerable parts of New Orleans does not mean the city and its culture have to disappear. It just means the rebuilt city is more modest and better protected. We can start from scratch building a new river port near Lafayette and avoid the thousands of tiny mistakes, some attributable to corruption, others to engineering compromises, others to engineering arrogance, that put so many people in harm's way.

It doesn't surprise me that it might take risk-analysis experts like insurance companies to force us to reconsider how New Orleans is rebuilt. Insurers will likely be the impetus for our pansy-ass duopoly finally getting off its ass on global warming too, if it ever gets off its ass.

While what is written above makes tremendous common sense, are the people of New Orleans, Louisiana, and America smart enough to follow through on that common sense?

Katrina should have been a wake-up call for every local community with a levee or a dam. But was it?

Politicians are retarded when it comes to "might happen" scenarios. All they care about is getting re-elected. Spending money on infrastructure is not something politicians care about or understand. It is easier to let the next chump in office get the balloon note to rebuild the levee. That is why we have failures like in New Orleans.

Andy Axel's picture

Why rinse and repeat when

Why rinse and repeat when the corruption in local government is still there? Why rebuild when the patronage system is still there? Why rebuild when the political machine is still there?

What if there was a nuclear accident at Oak Ridge? Should that be the fault of the corrupt and compromised Ragsdale administration?

Stupid Knoxville residents -- choosing to live downwind of a nuclear fuel enrichment site.

While the Federal government will provide the money private insurance companies may be too cold blooded to risk their money. Good for them.

How about them reneging on flood policies based on "wind-driven water damage" exclusions? How would you feel if you'd been paying your entire life for flood coverage, only to find you weren't going to be paid? Unjustifiably screwed, perhaps?

The litigation on these issues is far from over.

____________________________

Dirty mouth language -- it's the new black.

Number9's picture

How about them reneging on

How about them reneging on flood policies based on "wind-driven water damage" exclusions? How would you feel if you'd been paying your entire life for flood coverage, only to find you weren't going to be paid? Unjustifiably screwed, perhaps?

I think the insurance companies that have done that are guilty of fraud. Why has the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana not filed legal actions against those companies? Where is the State Attorney of Louisiana?

Andy Axel's picture

Where is the State Attorney

Where is the State Attorney of Louisiana?

Baton Rouge. Duh.

(link...)

____________________________

Dirty mouth language -- it's the new black.

R. Neal's picture

The article says it wasn't

The article says it wasn't connected to this ruling, but you have to wonder:

(link...)

Florida is having similar problems:

(link...)

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