Feinstein-Murkowski Earthquake Resilience Bill Signed into Law

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, commended President Trump for yesterday signing the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act (NEHRP) into law. Murkowski and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the bipartisan legislation and secured unanimous passage in the Senate on Sept. 27, 2018, with House passage by voice vote following on Nov. 27, 2018. The bill modernizes safety programs that help states like Alaska prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

The legislation was cosponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

“Not even two weeks ago, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just a few miles north of Anchorage, and there have now been close to 4,000 aftershocks. Alaskans’ response is a testament to our resilience and grit, but we also know there is still more that can be done, which is why the enactment of this legislation could not be more timely,” Murkowski said. “The revamped earthquake hazards reduction program will help equip Alaskans and all Americans in seismically active states with the most advanced science and technology to better protect lives and communities.”

“Thanks to a bipartisan effort, our earthquake preparedness bill has been signed into law,” Feinstein said. “Investing in earthquake research and improving the early-warning system will save lives. Recent earthquakes in Alaska have shown us it’s a matter of when, not if, a major earthquake will strike, and we need to be ready.”

First authorized in 1977, NEHRP has led to significant improvements in earthquake early warning, monitoring, and research. The bill reauthorizes the program for five years after the most recent reauthorization expired in 2009. It also enables earthquake-prone communities to better prepare and protect themselves by minimizing losses through infrastructure improvements and hazard and risk assessments.

Bill highlights:

  • Removes outdated language related to earthquake prediction and instead emphasizes the continued development of earthquake early warning systems through the Advanced National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. 

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.