American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


Update on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (10-30-97)

Most Recent Action
On October 1, President Clinton signed into law the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) authorization bill for Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999. The bill, S. 910, had been awaiting his signature since September 16, when it passed the House, having passed the Senate at the end of July. The law contains several new initiatives, including the development of a real-time seismic hazard warning system, an assessment of seismic monitoring networks, and a feasibility study for establishing a second emergency personnel training center on the West Coast. Increased funding levels are provided for R&D in earthquake science, engineering, public education, and mitigation.

The law authorizes $105.8 million for FY98 and $108.9 million for FY99, divided into the following allocations:

Agency FY1998 FY1999
USGS $52.6 million $54.1 million
FEMA $20.9 million $21.5 million
NSF $30.4 million $31.3 million
NIST $2.0 million $2.1 million

Key provisions of this legislation include:

In other hazards news, the National Science Foundation has named three centers to conduct and coordinate earthquake engineering research for the nation. NSF will invest $2 million per year, to be matched with nonfederal funds, to each of these centers: the University of California at Berkeley's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center; the University of Illinois Mid-America Earthquake Center at the Urbana-Champaign campus, and the State University of New York at Buffalo's Center for Advanced Technologies in Earthquake Loss Reduction. These centers will form a consortium of public and private institutions committed to integrated research and education activities, which includes engineering, geology, geophysics, and the social sciences.

Previous Action
Similar bills to reauthorize NEHRP were introduced in the House and Senate, with minor differences in authorizations for agencies existing between the two bills. The Senate provided more for FEMA and the House more for the USGS, NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In the end, the House voted unanimously to accept an amended Senate version of the bill.

Senate
S. 910 was introduced June 16, 1997 in the Senate by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN). The Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space held an oversight hearing in early April 1997 and a summary of that hearing is available at this site. The bill was reported on July 30, 1997 and passed the Senate with an amendment by unanimous consent on July 31, 1997 and the House on September 16. As introduced, S. 910 authorized $103.2 million for FY1998 and $106.3 million for FY1999, with agencies receiving the following amounts.

Agency FY1998 FY1999
USGS $49.2 million $50.7 million
FEMA $25 million $25.8 million
NSF $27.1 million $27.9 million
NIST $1.9 million $2 million

House
The House Science Committee held a markup for H.R. 2249, the companion bill for S. 910, on July 29. With a quorum present, the bill was ordered to be reported by a unanimous roll call vote. H.R. 2249 was introduced by House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on July 24, 1997 with support from Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA). An oversight hearing was held in April 1997 and a summary of that hearing is available at this site. The bill authorizes $105.5 million for fiscal year 1998 and $108.7 million for fiscal year 1999, with agencies receiving the following amounts:

Agency FY1998 FY1999
USGS $52.5 million $54 million
FEMA $20.9 million $21.5 million
NSF $30.1 million $31.2 million
NIST $2 million $2.06 million

Background
In the mid 1970's, concern over the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the Palmdale bulge (seismic zone in southern California) led to the formation of the Newmark-Stever Committee by the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Originally, the committee was to develop a program to understand and address the seismic hazards in southern California but was later expanded to include national earthquake hazards. The committee's recommendations were used to establish the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, which became Public Law 95-124 on October 7, 1977. The Act established the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) as a long-term, nationwide, earthquake risk reduction program. It also designated member agencies and their activities and responsibilities. NEHRP has supported research in several areas including:

Member agencies in the NEHRP are the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The main focus of these agencies under NEHRP has been research and development.

As a senator from Tennessee in 1990, now-Vice President Gore introduced S. 2789 to reauthorize the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977. On November 16, 1990, this bill became Public Law 101-614, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act. The Act significantly amended NEHRP by refining the agency responsibilities, program goals and objectives to include:

The 102nd Congress produced several bills that would have amended the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, but none were passed. H.R. 2806 was introduced on June 27, 1991 and required that all earthquake-prone states be identified and would have established a program of earthquake insurance and reinsurance. H.R. 4792 was introduced by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) on April 7, 1992 and S. 2533 was introduced the same day by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Both bills were similar to H.R. 2806 but dealt with earthquakes and volcanoes and would have established a program for earthquake and volcanic eruption insurance and reinsurance.

In November 1993, concerns were raised regarding the effectiveness of NEHRP. The program was seen as lacking a strategic plan, having insufficient coordination and implementation of research results, and lacking emphasis on mitigation. In response to these concerns, Dr. John H. Gibbons, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed that a report be done to address the concerns. The review was done by the National Earthquake Strategy Working Group (NESW), and the result was the report Strategy for National Earthquake Loss Reduction and the formation of the National Earthquake Loss Reduction Program (know as NEP). The goals of NEP, coordinated by FEMA, include:

In order to accomplish the goals of the NEP, the working group outlined primary objectives and goals for each of the member agencies.

Primary Responsibilities of FEMA

Primary Responsibilities of the USGS Primary Responsibilities of the NSF Primary Responsibilities of the NIST

NEHRP was last authorized on October 19, 1994 by Public Law 103-374. This Act authorized $103 million for fiscal year 1995 and $106 million for fiscal year 1996. The Act directed the President to conduct an assessment of earthquake engineering research and testing facilities in the United States. The Administration, through NSF and NIST, developed the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) to conduct the assessment. EERI made several recommendations regarding the state of the nation's earthquake engineering testing facilities. The primary recommendation among these was to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for upgrading existing earthquake engineering research and testing facilities.

In the 104th Congress, S. 1043 was introduced by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) to amend and reauthorize NEHRP and shift the focus from R&D to mitigation techniques. The bill was unsuccessful due to its other component, natural disaster insurance reform. A similar bill, H.R. 3322 was introduced in the House. For additional information refer to the Political Scene columns published in the February 1996 and November 1996 Geotimes, an American Geological Institute publication.

Sources: USGS Earthquake Information website; White House Library website; FEMA website; National Science and Technology Council Report: Strategy for National Earthquake Loss Reduction; House Report 105-238; Senate Report 105-59 ; Seismological Society of America


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Catherine Runden, AGI Government Affairs Intern and Dave Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs

Last updated October 30, 1997

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