Building on Last Year's Success, More Than Thirty Members of Congress Call for $16.1 Million in Funding for West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and thirty-five Members of Congress from California, Oregon and Washington wrote to the House Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund an Earthquake Early Warning system. A limited system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley and University of Washington, in conjunction with the United State Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed and has proven that the early warning technology is sound.  Schiff’s letter requests additional funding for the Earthquake Hazards Program in USGS to kickstart the process of building out the early warning system so we can be ready for the next big quake. It is estimated that a full system of sensors along the West Coast would cost approximately $16.1 million a year to build, operate and maintain.

In December 2014, Congress passed a funding bill for FY2015 which included an additional $5 million specifically for the Earthquake Early Warning system, bringing the total funding for the system for FY2015 to $6.5 million. This was the first time Congress included funds specifically allocated for the system in a spending bill. That $5 million in funding allowed those developing the statewide system to begin purchasing and installing additional sensors, to build new stations, to speed up the ShakeAlert system, and to come closer to deploying comprehensive early earthquake warning coverage throughout earthquake prone regions of the West Coast.  In February 2015, the White House released the President’s budget which included $5 million for the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning system in his Fiscal Year 2016 budget – the first time the President has requested a specific funding amount in his budget, thereby recognizing the importance of the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System.

“While the United States is the most technologically advanced country in the world, we still lag dangerously behind other countries in implementing one key technology that can save lives, property and infrastructure – an Earthquake Early Warning system,” said Rep. Adam Schiff. “A few seconds to a minute of warning could allow doctors crucial seconds to stop a complicated surgery, enable trains to brake, sensitive manufacturing processes to cease, and critical transportation infrastructure to be locked down, and could allow us precious time to move away from windows or locate our children in the house.  The federal government has provided the initial funding for the system -- and we will try to do more – but the state governments need to do their part.  It’s my hope that by providing federal funding again this year, we can encourage reluctant state legislatures to invest in the system before the ‘big one’ hits.”

Schiff was joined on the letter by Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ami Bera (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-OR), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Jim Costav (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Scott H. Peters (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA). The full letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies is below:

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

As you craft the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards program with $70.552 million, of which $16.1 million is to be provided to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability on the West Coast. This is a $12.6 million increase over the FY2016 requested level in the President’s budget.

The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon has developed an Earthquake Early Warning system that detects waves radiating from the epicenter of a quake and would provide people in California, Oregon and Washington with seconds to even a minute or more of warning. With advanced notice, people can take cover, automated systems can be triggered to slow down trains and manage the power grid, doctors can pause surgeries, and more. The technology has been tested and proven to work effectively.

An Earthquake Early Warning system along the West Coast would cost $16.1 million per year to construct, operate and maintain. FEMA has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, averaged over the long term, more than $5 billion a year. This common-sense investment will save lives, protect businesses, and could make a real difference in more rapid recovery for local communities, the federal government and the economy as a whole.

While we cannot predict when and where the next major earthquake will hit, we must do all we can to prepare ourselves so that we can mitigate the injuries, destruction, and chaos as much as possible. We are grateful for your support last year and we appreciate your consideration of our request this year.