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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: January 2014

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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Natural Hazards

  • New legislation would further delay FEMA Flood Insurance Program

Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) are calling for a delay in new flood insurance rates that took effect in 2013. The new rates, implemented under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, more accurately reflect the risk associated with each home, and were raised in order to help the indebted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Program provide for serious weather events. Menendez and Isakson’s bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1846), would delay the increases for four years on residences that historically enjoyed lower premiums due to “grandfathering.”

Proponents of S. 1846 argue that delaying the rate hikes will help low-income families that cannot afford the new insurance costs, and will provide stability for the fragile housing market by not deterring potential buyers of beachfront property. Conversely, opponents argue for a voucher system for low-income homeowners, thereby circumventing the issue of cost for poorer families but still saving taxpayer dollars.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, estimates that if enacted S. 1846 would deprive the Federal Flood Insurance Program of $2.1 billion, thereby weakening the program and causing additional shortfalls and greater debt.

Sources: E&E News; Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • Human-induced earthquakes up, USGS reports

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that human-induced seismicity may be the cause of increased domestic earthquake activity over the past several years. The federal agency released numbers indicating that the U.S. averaged around 20 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger per year between 1970 and 2000. That number, however, jumped to more than 100 earthquakes per year between 2010 and 2013, with more than 450 earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0 during that four-year period.

USGS scientists examined several factors when deducing whether the greater number of earthquakes were a result of natural or man-made causes, including local geologic conditions and the presence of waterwater injection sites. They concluded that the increase in seismicity at some locations coincides with wastewater injection in deep disposal wells.

For more information please visit the USGS website.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey

  • Simpson to introduce companion wildfire legislation in the House

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have recently introduced a bill (S.1875) to permit the use of emergency funding in fighting wildfires, in addition to money allocated in the Forest Service discretionary budget. Because larger fires are becoming more prevalent, agencies such as the Forest Service have had to borrow money from other places within their budget whenever their suppression funding runs out.

The Wyden-Crapo bill, officially called the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013, is supported by Forest Service officials and the Department of the Interior. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) plan to introduce a companion bill in the House.

Source: E&E Daily











Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; and Scott Miller, AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.



Compiled February 10, 2014



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