Media Contact: Steve Adamske, 202.225.1943 (Media Only, Please)
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) spoke out today about the need for greater earthquake safety and research. Lofgren made her comments in a statement at the House Science Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Congresswoman Lofgren also emphasized the point that federal budget cuts will only imperil this important national program:
“Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Johnson thank you for holding this hearing today. I, along with many other members of this subcommittee, represent areas that have been affected in the past by earthquakes. I vividly recall the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. Anyone who has been through an earthquake, even those not as large as Loma Prieta, can easily recall what they were doing and how they reacted.
“The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program was first created in 1977 in response to growing concerns about the threat of damaging earthquakes. Initially, the program focused on research in the areas of geotechnical and structural engineering and earthquake prediction. Over time, researchers believing that earthquake prediction was an unreachable goal began to focus on activities like seismic retrofitting and rehabilitation, risk assessment, public education and outreach and building code development.
“This program has achieved great progress, and is considered by most to be a very successful undertaking. We have seen a substantial decrease in the loss of life and injuries and the capabilities of seismic risk assessment have improved greatly. We have learned important lessons in mitigating earthquake hazards as the result of technological advances in areas like performance-based engineering, information technology, sensing and imaging.
“As we begin to consider the reauthorization of NEHRP we are faced with many challenges in order to make this program even more helpful in our understanding and our ability to mitigate the effects of earthquakes. Some have argued that new knowledge and tools have not translated into a decreased overall vulnerability. The adoption by end-users of NEHRP innovations has been incremental and slower than expected. The cost of rehabilitating existing structures to be more earthquake resistant has often proved to be too high, as is the cost of building new facilities to minimize risk. We know that the private sector has not had adequate incentives and that most state and local governments lack adequate budgets to address these challenges.
“Of particular interest is whether or not NEHRP can be reasonably expected to meet its goals at the level of funding it currently receives. NEHRP’s budget is $116 million for FY 2003 and has been essentially flat funded in constant dollars over its 25-year history. Clearly we should increase funding for the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). I will be circulating a letter for signatures asking the House appropriators to increase funding for ANSS and hope that many of many colleagues will join me in this effort.
“But I would like to know where the future funding for this program is going to come from. Our budget is now in deficit, and we have squandered budget surpluses that make increases in earthquake funding and safety out of the question. You know, I hear all the time that the government needs to cut spending. But when our conservative members of this House want to cut spending, these are the type of programs