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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyJan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 11, including Pierson, other rally organizers 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 SchiffSchiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' Schiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House Jan. 6 panel to pursue criminal contempt referral for Bannon MORE (D-Calif.), Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerProgressives cheer, moderates groan as Biden visit caps chaotic week  Democratic factions dig in, threatening fate of infrastructure vote Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (D-Wash.) and Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazio'Design-build' contracts key to infrastructure success EPA closer to unveiling plan for tackling 'forever chemicals' Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls 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.