West Coast Dems lead call to fund early warning system for earthquakes

West Coast Dems lead call to fund early warning system for earthquakes
© Greg Nash

A group of Democrats representing western states has sent a letter to White House budget chief Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyProtect the Military Lending Act On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Warren suggests Mulvaney broke law by speaking to GOP donors MORE urging the Trump administration to include funding for an earthquake early-warning system in the fiscal 2018 budget.

The group, which includes Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly Russia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems MORE (D-Calif.), Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerDems reverse course on White House parks plan Dems urge Trump to reinstate top cyber post Congress to require FEC report on foreign money in elections MORE (D-Wash.) and Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Progressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House MORE (D-Ore.), along with 31 other lawmakers, urges Mulvaney to adopt Early Earthquake Warning (EEW) systems, such as those employed during Mexico City's earthquake last month.

The Democrats want Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to push for $16.1 million to be included in the budget for the continued development and operation of the EEW for the West Coast, called ShakeAlert.

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“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," Schiff wrote.

"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," added DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on 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," he continued. "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."

Funding for ShakeAlert systems was eliminated from the 2018 budget, as first reported by The Los Angeles Times in May. A budget document posted on the Interior Department's website gave no explanation for the elimination of the program.

“This elimination would end USGS efforts to implement the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system," the document reads.

At the time, seismologists called the elimination of federal funding a death sentence for ShakeAlert systems in the U.S., which are currently being developed by several universities.

“It probably would kill the early warning system if we thought there were no more funding coming from the U.S. Geological Survey,” John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network told the newspaper in May.

“The money we’ve received is essential,” he added.