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Public Statements

Letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director Office of Management and Budget - Fully Fund Earth Quake Early Warning System

Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), joined by Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Sam Farr (CA-20), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Mike Honda (CA-17), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Lois Capps (CA-24), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Scott Peters (CA-52) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), urged the White House's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to provide the highest possible funding level for the Earthquake Hazard Program and the Global Seismic Network in their 2015 budget request. Over the past several years, some in Congress and the Administration have targeted the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program for budget cuts -- including to the early warning system still being developed by scientists in Southern California. For prototypes like the U.S. Geological Survey's "Shake Alert," which was partially designed by the USGS in Pasadena, budget constraints have slowed its implementation. Such an early warning system would be enormously helpful in providing residents and first responders with advance notice that could help avert major infrastructure damage by shutting down mechanical systems like mass transit and elevators and save lives in the event of a major earthquake.

In the letter, the Members write:"As you work with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to craft its fiscal year 2015 budget request, we urge you to support the Earthquake Hazards Program and the Global Seismic Network at the highest possible level. As Members of Congress representing districts in the United States at risk from earthquake hazards, we are concerned with the deteriorating fiscal health of these programs. These modest investments will ensure USGS is able to continue its crucial mission of mitigating against earthquake hazardsÂ….Earthquakes are a serious threat to the United States, with over 75 million people in 39 states living in areas of significant earthquake risk Â… There have been a number of devastating and costly earthquakes around the world in recent years, and it is a matter of when, not if, such an event occurs in the United States. Therefore, it is critical we maintain our vigilance and expertise in earthquake research. The USGS provides seismic monitoring and scientific programs that serve the entire nation."

"Every few months, we are reminded about Los Angeles' and California's vulnerability with tremors and small earthquakes rattling our homes and businesses. It is critical that the United States maintains its vigilance and expertise in earthquake preparedness, and I am hopeful that when the House and Senate meet to work out the appropriations bills, we will be able to secure funding for this vital program," said Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the letter to the White House. "When we consider the lives that would be spared if we have just a little bit of warning before the next big one, it's a very small but prudent investment."

The full letter is below:

Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Director
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 20503

Dear Director Burwell:

As you work with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to craft its fiscal year 2015 budget request, we urge you to support the Earthquake Hazards Program and the Global Seismic Network at the highest possible level. As Members of Congress representing districts in the United States at risk from earthquake hazards, we are concerned with the deteriorating fiscal health of these programs. These modest investments will ensure USGS is able to continue its crucial mission of mitigating against earthquake hazards.

As you know, earthquakes are a serious threat to the United States, with over 75 million people in 39 states living in areas of significant earthquake risk. There have been a number of devastating and costly earthquakes around the world in recent years, and it is a matter of when, not if, such an event occurs in the United States. Therefore, it is critical we maintain our vigilance and expertise in earthquake research. The USGS provides seismic monitoring and scientific programs that serve the entire nation.

Furthermore, we encourage the USGS, with its university and private partners, to work toward developing an earthquake early-warning system, such as the one in Japan. Currently, a group of universities in California and Washington, working hand-in-hand with the USGS and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, have developed a prototype system that would be a national model. They are working closely with key stakeholders, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco, to test and provide feedback on what will be a very valuable system. We ask that you do all that you can to ensure USGS be provided with the resources it needs to enable an earthquake early-warning system on the west coast be fully functional and operational during this decade.

In addition, it is vital USGS continue to develop new products and services that benefit all Americans. Recent earthquakes on the East Coast and in the Midwest have highlighted the need for continued USGS investments in national earthquake hazard research and assessment. USGS also should continue to invest in research on induced seismicity. These critical investments cannot be pursued unless robust funding for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program and the Global Seismic Network is approved.

We realize the federal government is working toward addressing its national debt and that both Congress and federal agencies are taking actions to do so. However, accomplishing this task should not be done at the expense of programs that protect lives and property. Earthquakes are inevitable and unpredictable, and the American people must have the tools they need to be prepared. We respectfully request that you support the USGS's earthquake programs in the FY 2015 budget request.


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