Congress Sends Feinstein, Murkowski, Wyden Earthquake Resilience Act to President’s Desk

Washington November 28, 2018 – The House of Representatives passed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s earthquake preparedness.

The legislation, introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), modernizes earthquake-safety programs that help states prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

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The Senate unanimously passed the bill in September. It was cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

            “It’s a question of when, not if, another major earthquake will strike the United States, and we have to be ready,” said Feinstein. “Now that the House has passed this lifesaving legislation, it heads to the White House to be signed. This bipartisan effort ensures that vital research funds and the development of an early-warning system will continue so we’re prepared for the next big quake.”

            “I’m pleased that this important bill will soon be signed into law,” said Murkowski. “Alaskans face daily threats from earthquakes and cascading hazards like tsunamis and landslides. Our bipartisan legislation builds upon the good work already underway through the Advanced National Seismic System to ensure communities in Alaska and across the country have the tools they need to be better prepared, safer, and more resilient.”

            “Being as prepared as we can be for natural disasters is the name of the game. When the West Coast is struck by a large earthquake it is absolutely crucial that communities be prepared,” said Wyden. “This legislation will help make sure communities in Oregon have the resources to be ready to protect families, businesses and infrastructure for when the big one hits.”

First authorized in 1977, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) has led to significant improvements in earthquake early warning, monitoring and research. The most recent reauthorization expired in 2009.

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the program for five years, enabling earthquake-prone communities to better prepare and protect themselves by minimizing losses through infrastructure improvements and hazard and risk assessments.

The full text of the legislation can be viewed here. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Removes outdated language related to earthquake prediction and instead emphasizes the continued development of earthquake early warning systems through the Advanced National Seismic System.
  • Requires the production of a set of maps showing active faults and folds, liquefaction susceptibility, and other hazards that can be induced by an earthquake, such as landslides.
  • Reduces various administrative burdens for federal agencies that are disruptive to the essential mission of the program and improves data sharing between agencies.
  • Enhances coordination among federal agencies, and with state agencies.
  • Provides clear direction to the four federal agencies charged with overseeing NEHRP – the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation – to continue working with states and private sector experts on performance-based design features.
  • Directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to implement a grant program to assist states with incorporating earthquakes in their hazard reduction portfolios.
  • Directs the completion of a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction progress, as well as areas that require more funding, and evaluation of resulting hazards such as tsunamis or landslides.

The bill is supported by the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of American State Geologists, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the Geological Society of America, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the National Emergency Management Association, and the Seismological Society of America.