Cantwell Sounds The Alarm: America Needs Stronger Monitoring Of Natural Hazards

January 30, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) highlighted the importance of improving natural hazard monitoring and preparedness systems in the U.S.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, avalanches, tsunamis have the potential to impact millions of Americans every year,” said Senator Cantwell. Washington State is greatly impacted by natural hazards with five high to very high threat volcanoes including Mt. Rainier, which is considered the Nation’s most dangerous. “Volcano monitoring at these sites is almost nonexistent,” said Senator Cantwell.  “We need to have at least five to ensure the proper early warning systems in case of an eruption.”

“I have worked very closely with the Chairwoman here and my colleagues also on Commerce to secure the best technology to help identify the risks associated with the Cascadia fault.  And we still have a long way to go with our communities to prepare for these very unique hazards,” said Senator Cantwell.

On December 13, 2016, Senator Cantwell’s Tsunami Warning Education and Research Act, was enacted into law.  The legislation reauthorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tsunami program, made increased investments in science, required reports on emergency response, and made improvements in communications technology.

“Natural hazards are unpreventable. But the more we know about the science and the causes of hazards, the better we can prepare for these events and build more resilient and safer communities,” said Senator Cantwell. “Our states play a leadership role this, but the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is absolutely a critical partner in monitoring and responding to these hazards.”  

The Trump administration proposed eliminating the National Volcano Early Warning System and Earthquake Early Warning System in their FY 2018 budget. “I hope the administration watches this hearing and shows that there are communities here, who are asking for help and resources, that these are serious issues, and that monitoring science is a good thing, and that it gives us a chance to be prepared,” said Senator Cantwell.

Senator Cantwell also sponsored S. 698, the National Landslide Preparedness Act to help local communities prepare for and respond to landslides and other natural hazards. The legislation is currently awaiting markup in the Commerce Committee.

In February 2017, Senator Cantwell cosponsored S. 346, the National Volcano Early Warning Monitoring System Act. This bill would create an early warning program for high-risk volcanoes through the USGS. It would also improve coordination between the USGS, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), NOAA, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found here. 

Witness testimony will be available online immediately before the start of each hearing at on committee website.