10.31.17

Thirty-Four Members of Congress Urge Administration to Support Robust Funding for Earthquake Early Warning System

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Adam Schiff (CA-28), Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Peter DeFazio (OR-04), along with 31 Members of Congress, wrote a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, strongly urging the Trump Administration to include funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for the continued development and operation of the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System (EEW).

“To follow through on the funding made by the federal government, as well as growing commitment from states and the private sector, it is critical that this program be fully funded at $16.1 million annually so the West Coast will be prepared for the next catastrophic earthquake,” the Members wrote in their letter. “This technology will save lives and reduce the economic impact of an earthquake; it simply needs to be properly funded.”

EEW technology, also known as ShakeAlert, is already fully operational in countries like Japan and Mexico, and is credited for saving lives during Mexico City’s earthquake in September. Such an early warning system would provide residents and first responders with advanced notice that could help save lives, avoid injuries, and avert major infrastructural damage by slowing trains to prevent derailment, stopping elevators, pausing surgeries and taking other actions in the event of a major earthquake.

Rep. Schiff, who helped secure Congressional funding in FY 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 for a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System said, “Congress has made plain its sustained support for ShakeAlert, and its implementation is crucial to saving lives and property. We urge the Trump Administration to recognize the immense value of this system and fully support its funding so that it can be deployed widely before the ‘big one’ hits.”

“A few crucial seconds can make all the difference if a large quake strikes the West Coast,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why it is critical to have a fully operational warning system to give folks a heads up so they can take proactive steps to ensure their safety. This administration needs to fully support this technology to better protect our communities.”

 

“Life-saving earthquake early warning technology exists, but is not yet fully implemented in the United States because of a lack of will—that has to change. We’re living on borrowed time,” said Rep. DeFazio, Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “In an earthquake, every second counts. We could save lives and protect critical infrastructure if we installed a robust early warning system, like ShakeAlert. It’s only a matter of time before we see a major quake off the Oregon Coast and we must be prepared for that day.”


The White House eliminated funding for the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning system in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Congress has recognized the critical need for implementation of an Earthquake Early Warning System and has provided funding for its development and implementation in recent Fiscal Years. If funding continues, the system is on track to be available to the public on a limited basis next year.

ShakeAlert is being developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with California Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; the University of Oregon; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Central Washington University.


Schiff, Kilmer and DeFazio were joined by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-27), Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), John Garamendi (CA-03), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Denny Heck (WA-10), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Norma Torres (CA-35), and Juan Vargas (CA-51).

Full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney

Director

Office of Management and Budget

Executive Office of the President

725 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Director Mulvaney:

 

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), we strongly urge you to include increased funding for USGS earthquake-related programs, including $16.1 million for the continued development and operation of an earthquake early warning system (EEW) for the U.S. West Coast, called ShakeAlert.  With increased federal investment for EEW, the U.S. is making steady progress toward having an operational system that will help protect lives and enhance infrastructure resilience.  However, full support for ShakeAlert of $16.1 million annually is needed to complete the buildout, maintain, and operate the system.

 

EEW technology is already fully operational in countries like Japan and Mexico.  Mexico built its EEW system after the catastrophic 1985 earthquake that killed thousands of people.  That EEW system is widely credited with saving lives in the most recent September earthquakes.

           

The USGS, in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; the University of Oregon; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Central Washington University is currently working to adapt the EEW technology and has developed an on-shore prototype system for test users along the West Coast.  Researchers are also working closely with dozens of key stakeholders, including public utilities, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco, Los Angeles Metro, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Boeing, Intel, and Microsoft to test and provide feedback on what will be an invaluable system.

 

With concern regarding the heightened risk of a major earthquake resulting from increased seismic activity near the San Andreas Fault, coupled with the prospect of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake along the Pacific Northwest coast, there is public demand for EEW to be fully operational.  When major earthquake events occur—and we know it is “when” and not “if”—they have the potential to be the costliest and deadliest disasters the United States has ever faced.  The most recent significant West Coast quake (Napa 6.0, 2014) resulted in $300 million in damages.

 

Even with just a few seconds of warning, steps can be taken to prevent casualties and mitigate destruction, including slowing or stopping trains and cars; turning off supplies of oil, natural gas, and chemicals; securing large manufacturing equipment; stopping elevators and opening doors; and securing sensitive computer data.

 

The effectiveness of EEW largely depends on modern cyber infrastructure, and the number and placement of ground motion sensors to ensure there is adequate coverage wherever an earthquake may hit—and this requires additional resources.  Congress recognizes the value of this system and continues to demonstrate its commitment by providing additional resources for ShakeAlert.  

 

To follow through on the funding made by the federal government, as well as growing commitment from states and the private sector, it is critical that this program be fully funded at $16.1 million annually so the West Coast will be prepared for the next catastrophic earthquake.  This technology will save lives and reduce the economic impact of an earthquake; it simply needs to be properly funded.

 

Thank you for considering our request.

 

Sincerely,