Citing Icelandic Volcano Eruption, Murkowski Urges Passage of Her Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today said the eruption in Iceland that has disrupted air travel across Europe underscores the threats posed by volcanic activity and she called for passage of her National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System bill that awaits Senate action.

"Given what has been happening to thousands of international aviation flights since last week with the eruption of Iceland's volcano, we've all had a very recent reminder of the economic disruptions that eruptions can cause," Murkowski said in opening a conference on volcano risks sponsored by the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance. Murkowski is co-chair of the caucus.

Murkowski said the flying public recently grounded because of the Iceland volcano should consider themselves lucky.

"Back in 1989 when Redoubt Volcano in Alaska erupted, a 747 flying from Asia entered a poorly tracked ash cloud and lost power in all four of its jet engines," she said. "It dropped 10,000 feet and badly scared the 231 passengers on board. Fortunately enough, the engines restarted so the plane could make an emergency landing in Anchorage, after suffering $80 million in damages."

That incident, Murkowski said, signaled how important a national volcano early warning system is. Alaska's senior senator introduced her legislation last year. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill and it is now awaiting action by the full Senate. Murkowski is the ranking Republican of the energy panel.

The legislation is designed to help increase monitoring capabilities and improve eruption forecasts of volcano activity. The bill would fund monitoring instrumentation of another 20 of the nation's high priority volcanoes and establish 24-hour watch centers by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners. There are 57 active volcanoes in America.

"Because volcanic eruptions are such a serious threat, our nation needs to commit the same kinds of resources that we muster to combat floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and wildfires," Murkowski said.

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