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The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

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The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

April 19, 2016October 12, 2017 (R43141)
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Summary

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These agencies assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program encompasses how well the four agencies coordinate their activities to address the earthquake hazard. Better coordination was a concern that led to changes to the program in legislation enacted in 2004 (the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2004; P.L. 108-360).

P.L. 108-360 authorized appropriations for NEHRP through FY2009. Total funding enacted from reauthorization through FY2009 was $613.2 million, approximately 68% of the total amount of $902.4 million authorized by P.L. 108-360. Although authorization for appropriations expired in 2009, Congress has continued to appropriate fundsfunds for NEHRP activities. Congress made available $133.6138.9 million for program activities in FY2016FY2017 appropriations, slightly more than FY2015FY2016 spending of $128.0134.9 million. The budget request for FY2017 reflects another small increase, for a total of $136.1 million.

It is difficult to assess what effect funding at the levels enacted through FY2014 under NEHRP has had on the U.S. capability to detect earthquakes and minimize losses after an earthquake occurs. The NEHRP program's effectiveness is a perennial issue for Congress; the effectiveness of mitigation measures taken before an earthquake occurs is inherently difficult to capture precisely, in terms of dollars saved or fatalities prevented. A major earthquake in a populated urban area within the United States would cause damage, and in question is how much damage would be prevented by mitigation strategies underpinned by the NEHRP program. A 2015 report issued by the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, created by P.L. 108-360, calls for congressional reauthorization of NEHRP, in part to reinvigorate the federal investment and interest in NEHRP and to ensure that earthquake hazard reduction remains a federal priorityFY2018 would reduce total funding for NEHRP activities to $124.1 million, a decrease of about 8% compared to FY2017.

Legislation introduced in the 115th Congress, S. 1768 (the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017), largely would leave the current four-agency NEHRP program intact, while providing some new areas of emphasis and omitting specific authorization of appropriations levels for the member agencies. The bill, introduced on September 6, 2017, would emphasize activities to promote greater resilience to earthquakes and activities that would enhance the effectiveness of an earthquake early warning system, among other changes. S. 1768 would remove statutory language referring to an original purpose of the program to seek a capability to predict earthquakes. In its 1990 reauthorization, NEHRP shifted its program emphasis from prediction to hazard reduction, and S. 1768 would continue that emphasis along with enhancing the concept of resilience. Resilience would include, for example, designing and building structures that not only protect human lives during an earthquake, but would also continue to be functional structures after an earthquake. Those structures could then be reoccupied instead of being total losses.

No similar legislation has been introduced in the House.


The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

Introduction

Portions of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are vulnerable to earthquake hazards, although risks vary greatly across the country and within individual states. Seismic hazards are greatest in the western United States, particularly in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii. Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state, experiencing a magnitude-7 earthquake almost every year and a magnitude-8 earthquake every 14 years, on average. Because of its low population and infrastructure density, Alaska has a relatively low risk for large economic losses from an earthquake. In contrast, California has more citizens and infrastructure at risk than any other state because of its frequent seismic activity, large population, and extensive infrastructure.

The federal government has supported efforts to assess and monitor earthquake hazards and risk in the United States under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) since 1977. Four federal agencies responsible for long-term earthquake risk reduction coordinate their activities under NEHRP:

  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS);
  • National Science Foundation (NSF);
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); and
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Congress last made changes to NEHRP under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-360), which authorized appropriations through FY2009 for a total of $902.4 million over five years. Congress has continued to appropriate funds for NEHRP activities since authorization for appropriations expired in FY2009. (See Table 1.)

On September 6, 2017, Senator Feinstein introduced S. 1768, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, together with seven original cosponsors. The bill would largely leave the overall program structure in place, but would modify some of the intents and purposes of the original legislation, such as removing references to the goal of earthquake prediction, and substituting instead the goal of issuing early warnings and earthquake alerts. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Changes to NEHRP Since Its Inception

In 1977, Congress passed the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act (P.L. 95-124), establishing NEHRP as a long-term earthquake risk reduction program for the United States. The program, led by USGS and NSF, initially focused on research toward understanding and ultimately predicting earthquakes. However, earthquake prediction has proved intractable thus farover time, and NEHRP shifted its focus in 1990 to minimizing losses from earthquakes after they occur.

Agency leadership of NEHRP has also changed since the program's inception. FEMA was created in 1979, and President Carter designated it as the lead agency for NEHRP. In 1980, Congress passed amendments to the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act (P.L. 96-472) that defined FEMA as the lead agency for NEHRP and authorized additional funding for earthquake hazard preparedness and mitigation for FEMA and the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). Later, NIST became the lead agency for NEHRP.

A Shift in Program Emphasis to Hazard Reduction

Congress changed NEHRP's original focus on research to predict earthquakes in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-614). The law decreased the program's emphasis on earthquake prediction, clarified the role of FEMA, clarified and expanded the program objectives, and required federal agencies to adopt seismic safety standards for new and existing federal buildings.

In 2004, Congress enacted P.L. 108-360 and adjusted NEHRP again by shifting primary responsibility for planning and coordinating the program from FEMA to NIST. P.L. 108-360 also established a newan interagency coordinating committee and a newan advisory committee, both focused on earthquake hazard reduction.

Current program activities are focused on fourseveral broad areas:

  • 1. Developing effective measures to reduce earthquake hazards.1
  • 2. Promoting the adoption of earthquake hazard reduction activities by federal, state, and local governments; national building standards and model building code organizations; and engineers, architects, building owners, and others who play a role in planning and constructing buildings, bridges, structures, and critical infrastructure or lifelines.2
  • 3. Improving the basic understanding of earthquakes and their effects on people and infrastructure through interdisciplinary research involving engineering; natural sciences; and social, economic, and decision sciences.
  • 4. Developing and maintaining the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), and the Global Seismic Network (GSN).3

and the Global Seismic Network (GSN).3

From FY2004 through FY2014, program activities also included the NSF-supported George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) that consisted of 15 experimental facilities and an information-technology infrastructure with a goal of mitigating earthquake damage by the use of improved materials, designs, construction techniques, and monitoring tools. Currently, NSF supports the successor to NEES, the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NEHRI).4

Responsibilities of NEHRP Agencies Under P.L. 108-360

The House Science Committee report in the 108th Congress on H.R. 2608 (P.L. 108-360) noted that NEHRP has produced a wealth of useful information since 1977, but it also stated that the program's potential has been limited by the inability of the NEHRP agencies to coordinate their efforts.45 The committee asserted that restructuring the program with NIST as the lead agency, directing funding toward appropriate priorities, and implementing NEHRP as a true interagency program would lead to improvement.

The 2004 law made the director of NIST chair of the Interagency Coordinating Committee. Other members of the committee include the directors of FEMA, USGS, NSF, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget. The Interagency Coordinating Committee is charged with overseeing the planning, management, and coordination of the program. Primary responsibilities for the NEHRP agencies break down as follows (see also Figure 1):

  • NIST is the lead NEHRP agency and has primary responsibility for NEHRP planning and coordination. NIST supports the development of performance-based seismic engineering tools and works with FEMA and other groups to promote the commercial application of the tools through building codes, standards, and construction practices.
  • FEMA assists other agencies and private-sector groups to prepare and disseminate building codes and practices for structures and lifelines, and it aids development of performance-based codes for buildings and other structures.
  • USGS conducts research and other activities to characterize and assess earthquake risks. The agency (1) operates a forum, using the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), for the international exchange of earthquake information; (2) works with other NEHRP agencies to coordinate activities with earthquake-reduction efforts in other countries; and (3) maintains seismic-hazard maps in support of building codes for structures and lifelines and other maps needed for performance-based design approaches.
  • NSF supports research to improve safety and performance of buildings, structures, and lifelines using the large-scale experimental and computational facilities of NEES and other institutions engaged in the research and implementation of NEHRP.

.

Figure 1. NEHRP Agency Responsibilities and End Users of NEHRP Outcomes

Source: National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) program office at http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/ppt_sdr.pdf (modified by CRS).

Notes: FEMA = Federal Emergency Management Agency; NIST = National Institute of Standards and Technology; NSF = National Science Foundation; USGS = U.S. Geological Survey.

Table 1 shows the enacted budgets for NEHRP agencies from FY2005 through FY2016. The total enacted amountFY2017. Enacted appropriations for FY2005-FY2009 wastotaled $613.2 million, or 68% of the $902.4 million total amount authorized in P.L. 108-360 over the five-year span (see Table 1). Authorization of appropriations for the program under P.L. 108-360 expired at the end of FY2009. Congress has continued to appropriate funds for NEHRP program activities.

Table 1. Enacted Funding for NEHRP Since Enactment of P.L. 108-360 Through FY2016

FY2017

($in millions of dollars)

.1
 

 

USGS

NSF

FEMA

NIST

Total

FY2005

Enacted

3
58.4

53.1

14.7

0.9

0
127.1

FY2006

Enacted

54.5

53.8

9.5

0.9

118.7

FY2007

Enacted

4
55.1

8
54.2

9
7.2.1

1.7

121
118.2.0

FY2008

Enacted

58.1

5355.6

6.1

1.7

11921.5

FY2009

Enacted

61.2

55
56.0.3

9.1

4.1

29
130.4.7

FY2010

Enacted

62.8

3
55.0

9.0

4.1

2
1301.9

FY2011

Enacted

61.4

5553.3

7.8

4.1

128126.6

FY2012

Enacted

60
59.0.4

53.2

7.8

4.1

125
124.1.5

FY2013

Enacted

55.6

52.2

`7.8

3.9

119.5

FY2014

Enacted

58.7

51.0

7.8

3.9

121.4

FY2015

Enacted

64.4

52.2

4
7.5

3.9

127
128.0.9

FY2016

Enacted

67.0

54.2

8.5

5
3.9.2

134
133.6.9

FY2017

Request

Enacted

71
69.5.0

54.2

8.5

3.9

138

1365.2 .9

FY2018

Request

56.4

54.0

8.5

5.2

124

Sources: NEHRP program office, 2005-20162017 NEHRP Agency Budgets, http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/2005-2017_NEHRP_Agency_Budgets_for_website_15Aug2017.pdf; 2018 Requested Funding for NEHRP Agencies (reported as of July 19, 2017), http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/2018_Requested_Funding_for_NEHRPAgencies_15Aug2017 NEHRP Agency Budgets, via personal communication with Jack Hayes, Director, NEHRP, June 20, 2014; and NEHRP, Program Overview, presentation to the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, March 3-4, 2016, at http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/ACEHRMar2016_NEHRP.pdf.

Notes: According to the NEHRP program office, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) funds are not included. The USGS-enacted funding reflects the amount appropriated for the USGS; FEMA, NIST, and NSF budgets reflect agency allocations for NEHRP activities from the total agency appropriations.

Congressional Action

In the 113th Congress, the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2013 (H.R. 2132) was introduced. The bill would have authorized appropriations for NEHRP through FY2017, retained NIST as the lead NEHRP agency, and authorized total appropriations of about $906 million over five years. Congress did not act on H.R. 2132.

Also in the 113th Congress, on July 29, 2014, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, held a hearing that reviewed the NEHRP program. According to the charter, the hearing intended to examine strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and accomplishments of NEHRP.5

Congress has not introduced legislation to reauthorize appropriations or change the NEHRP program in the 114th Congress.

In a 2015 report, the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR), created by P.L. 108-360, recommended that Congress reauthorize the NEHRP program.6 The committee stated that "such legislation should address sufficient funding for NEHRP to maintain its foundational emphasis on earthquake hazards and seismic design for the built environment." ACEHR further recommended that

Prior to or as part of this reauthorization, ACEHR believes a fundamental assessment of the nation's earthquake risk reduction progress to date must be conducted in order to define the next steps and future funding levels needed to improve national earthquake resilience. This assessment should address the extent to which the federal government, states, localities, tribes, and the private sector are already taking steps to address the seismic vulnerabilities of buildings, critical infrastructure and lifeline systems, and the potential social and economic impacts of these vulnerabilities. ACEHR believes a comprehensive assessment of the nation's earthquake resilience progress and the gaps in implementing earthquake hazard reduction measures are necessary to establish adequate funding levels and assign appropriate statutory responsibilities as part of future reauthorization of NEHRP.7

NEHRP and Induced Seismicity

ACEHR made several recommendations to the NEHRP program in its March 15, 2013, report to the Director of NIST and to the Interagency Coordinating Committee.8 One of the recommendations called for increased seismic monitoring to respond to the increased oil and gas exploration and production in the central and eastern United States. Accompanying the increased oil and gas activity has been an increase in deep-well injection and disposal of oilfield brines, produced water, and flowback water from hydraulic fracturing activities.9 In some instances, the deep-well injection activities reportedly may have triggered earthquakes—some damaging—in regions that are not identified as particularly seismically active on U.S. earthquake hazard maps.10

In its 2015 report, ACEHR noted that the USGS had received funding in FY2014 and FY2015 ($1.8 million and $2.5 million, respectively) to study induced seismicity and better understand how best to assess the related seismic hazards.11 The USGS received $2.5 million for these studies in FY2016 and requested $3.2 million for FY2017.

The induced seismicity hazard from deep-well injection represents what might be considered a short-term hazard, compared with the perennial seismic hazard from natural tectonic forces, because to some degree the chance of an earthquake caused by deep-well injection depends on the injection activity. In response to the increase in earthquake activity in some locations that appears to be associated with deep-well injection, the USGS recently updated its seismic hazard maps. The updated maps include a one-year seismic forecast for the central and eastern United States that factors in contributions from both natural and induced earthquakes.12

Outlook

At present, earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted. In its 1990 reauthorization, NEHRP shifted its program emphasis from prediction to hazard reduction. Since then, the program's focus has been on understanding the earthquake hazard and its risk to populations and infrastructure in the United States, developing effective measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and promoting the adoption of earthquake hazard reduction measures in vulnerable areas.

Legislation to modify NEHRP in the 108th Congress (P.L. 108-360) reflected congressional concerns about how well the four NEHRP agencies coordinated their efforts to maximize the program's potential. As part of its oversight responsibilities, Congress may consider evaluating how effectively the agencies have responded to Congress's direction in P.L. 108-360 to improve coordination since 2004.

The NEHRP program has evolved with the recognition that the program is unlikely to provide information that would allow earthquake prediction. NEHRP has shifted its emphasis toward reducing losses during an earthquake. Establishing a precise relationship between NEHRP activities and reduced losses from an actual earthquake may also be difficult. However, as more accurate seismic hazard maps evolve, as understanding of the relationship between ground motion and building safety improves, and as new tools for issuing warnings and alerts are devised, trends denoting the effectiveness of NEHRP activities may emerge more clearly.

Congress has not introduced legislation in the 114th Congress that addresses the NEHRP program directly. The advisory committee to NEHRP, the ACEHR, called for NEHRP reauthorization in a 2015 report and issued specific recommendations to strengthen the program and help assess its effectiveness. Many of the recommendations are NEHRP-agency specific, but the committee wrote the report, in part, to seek support in Congress "to reinvigorate the federal investment and interest in NEHRP and ensure that earthquake hazard reduction remains a federal priority."13

.pdf.

Notes: According to the NEHRP program office, FEMA, NIST, and NSF budgets are those agencies' planned allocations for NEHRP activities from the total requested agency appropriations for FY2018. The USGS-enacted funding reflects the amount appropriated for USGS, and the USGS amount is what was requested for USGS NEHRP activities.

NEHRP Legislation in the 115th Congress

S. 1768, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017, largely would leave the current four-agency NEHRP program intact, while providing some new areas of emphasis and omitting specific authorization of appropriations levels for the member agencies. The bill, introduced by Senator Feinstein on September 6, 2017, has seven original cosponsors. No similar legislation has been introduced in the House.

Changes to Findings, Purposes, Definition (Section 2)

As noted above, NEHRP activities shifted long ago from a goal of earthquake prediction to earthquake hazard reduction. S. 1768 would codify that shift by removing references to earthquake prediction throughout the bill. For example, Section 2 of the bill would modify the congressional findings section (42 U.S.C. 7701) by omitting the linkage between seismological research and earthquake prediction and substituting the finding that "a well-funded seismological research program could provide the scientific understanding needed to fully implement an effective earthquake early warning system." An earthquake early warning system would automatically send an alert to areas in danger of potential shaking after the earthquake is initially triggered. The alert would potentially allow components of the lifeline infrastructure,6 such as electric utilities, railway systems, and even hospital operating rooms, to cease activities that could be impaired by violent shaking before the first earthquake-triggered surface waves reach them.

Section 2 of S. 1768 also introduces the concept of resiliency to earthquake hazards. For example, Section 2 cites a National Research Council study that includes goals and objectives for achieving national earthquake resilience.7 Section 2 also would amend the congressional statement-of-purpose section (42 U.S.C. 7702) to include the purpose of increasing the resilience of communities to future earthquakes in addition to the purpose of reducing the risks to life and property. The bill would define community resilience in the definitions section of the law (42 U.S.C. 7703) to mean "the ability of a community to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to seismic events."

Section 2 of S. 1768 also takes note of the aspect of resiliency that includes design and construction of buildings so that those structures are built to potentially continue functioning, or to be reoccupied, in spite of earthquake damage. The legislation notes that the built environment has historically been constructed and maintained to prevent severe injuries or loss of life, but not necessarily to continue functioning or to be reoccupied without a complete reconstruction. Section 2 introduces the language of "re-occupancy, recovery, reconstruction" following an earthquake to capture this trend within the seismic community.

Changes to Program Activities and Agency Responsibilities (Section 3)

Within the four broad areas of NEHRP program activities, Section 3 of S. 1768 would add a new component to help promote earthquake hazards reduction. The bill would add to the activities listed under 42 U.S.C. 7704(a)(2)(b) the requirement of "publishing a systematic set of maps of active faults and folds, liquefaction susceptibility, susceptibility for earthquake induced landslides, and other seismically induced hazards." If carried out, such a repository of maps would likely be considered an important tool for reducing earthquake risk by the spectrum of potential users at the federal, state, local, and tribal government level, as well as the developers of national building codes, developers, building owners, and others involved in planning and construction of the structural environment. It is not clear whether this new requirement involves the compilation and organization of existing maps, or the creation of new maps; either or both could represent a significant undertaking by the NEHRP agencies.

Section 3 would also add new duties for the Interagency Coordinating Committee. In addition to developing a strategic plan for NEHRP, a management plan to implement the strategic plan, and a coordinated interagency budget on a biennial basis, the committee would also be required to develop memorandums of understanding with other federal agencies, such as NASA and NOAA, on data sharing and resource commitments in the event of an earthquake disaster. Further, the committee would coordinate with the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior on the use of federal lands for monitoring, research, and data collection. The committee would also be required to coordinate with the Secretaries of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development on the effects of earthquakes on transportation and building stocks (part of the lifeline infrastructure described above).

NEHRP Agencies

Under S. 1768, NIST would remain the lead agency for the program, with its duties and responsibilities largely unchanged. FEMA would also retain most of its duties and responsibilities, with a few modifications. For example, current law allows FEMA discretion in entering cooperative agreements or contracts with states, local jurisdictions, or other federal agencies to establish demonstration projects on earthquake hazard modification, linking research and mitigation efforts with emergency management programs, or preparing educational materials for national distribution. Section 3 of S. 1768 would require FEMA to enter cooperative agreements or contracts for these purposes (substituting the word "shall" for the word "may" in the bill language). Also, states that enter into these agreements would be required to provide a 25% cost share, unless FEMA lowers or waives the cost share requirement.

Statutory language requiring USGS to develop procedures for making earthquake predictions would be removed under Section 3 of S. 1768, and replaced with language for developing procedures for issuing alerts and early warnings. Further, the bill would require USGS to issue an actual alert and an earthquake warning, when necessary and feasible, to FEMA, NIST, and state and local officials, in the event of an earthquake.

Language in current law that requires NSF to support earthquake-related research using the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) would be updated by replacing reference to NEES with reference to the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NEHRI) to reflect the facility currently supported by NSF (see footnote 4 above). Also, Section 3 of S. 1768 would add a new subsection requiring NSF to identify and track grant funding that is part of the NEHRP program and to provide a report at least every two years specifying the amount of NSF funding awarded to conduct research that enhances the understanding of earthquake science.

Review of Earthquake Risks (Section 4)

Section 4 of S. 1768 would require a report from the Comptroller General of the United States reviewing the risks posed by earthquakes to the nation. The review would be required to contain an assessment of

  • the risks and hazards to the United States, including tsunami and landslide hazards, resulting from earthquakes;
  • the efforts by FEMA and NIST to improve earthquake resiliency, including gaps in the U.S. resilience to earthquakes;
  • the progress on coordinating the NEHRP budget and activities and how coordination among NEHRP agencies may be improved;
  • the extent to which federal, state, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector, are already implementing strategies to improve earthquake resilience; and
  • the extent to which research over the past 40 years has been applied to reducing public and private earthquake risk and hazards.

Section 4 would also require the Comptroller General to identify legislative or administrative action to improve NEHRP and U.S. resilience to earthquakes. The bill would require the report within three years of enactment.

Seismic Standards (Section 5)

S. 1768 would replace the language in current law that called for the adoption of seismic safety standards for buildings constructed or leased by the federal government with a requirement instead for an assessment and recommendations for improving the built environment and critical infrastructure specifically "to reflect performance goals stated in terms of post-earthquake reoccupancy and functional recovery times." This language highlights one of the changes in overall NEHRP program direction to enhance the aspect of earthquake resiliency, meaning building structures that would allow for continued use and reoccupancy following an earthquake. The assessment and recommendations would come from a committee of experts, appointed by the directors of NIST and of FEMA, representing federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, disaster management associations, engineering associations, and construction and homebuilding industry associations. Section 5 of the bill would require a report with recommended options no later than June 30, 2020.

Management Plan for ANSS (Section 6)

The Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) is a nationwide network of seismographic stations operated by USGS. It consists of a "backbone" network of about 100 seismic stations throughout the United States, the National Earthquake Information Center, the National Strong Motion Project, and 15 regional seismic networks operated by USGS and partner institutions.8 S. 1768 would require a new five-year management plan for ANSS that would include

  • strategies to continue developing an earthquake early warning system;
  • a mechanism for securing participation of state and regional earthquake monitoring entities in ANSS;
  • a plan to encourage and support integration of geospatial data products into monitoring activities in earthquake-prone regions; and
  • a plan to ensure a geographically diverse management and advisory structure for ANSS.
Authorization of Appropriations (Section 7) The previous NEHRP reauthorization bill, P.L. 108-360, authorized appropriations for NEHRP through FY2009. S. 1768 would repeal the section of current law authorizing appropriations entirely. As Table 1 shows, Congress has continued to appropriate funds for NEHRP without an authorization of appropriations (generally at levels well below the authorized amounts for the years when appropriations were authorized). Although the bill does not include authorized amounts for individual NEHRP agencies, the findings section (§2) recognizes that the National Research Council in 2011 recommended annual funding of approximately $300 million annually for 20 years (in 2009 dollars).9 That amount would be more than two times the average annual amount appropriated for the total NEHRP program each year since FY2005. Outlook

At present, earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted. In its 1990 reauthorization, NEHRP shifted its program emphasis from prediction to hazard reduction. Since then, the program's focus has been on understanding the earthquake hazard and its risk to populations and infrastructure in the United States, developing effective measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and promoting the adoption of earthquake hazard reduction measures in vulnerable areas.

Legislation to modify NEHRP in the 108th Congress (P.L. 108-360) reflected congressional concerns about how well the four NEHRP agencies coordinated their efforts to maximize the program's potential. Legislation introduced in the 115th Congress, S. 1768, would leave the program largely intact, while emphasizing activities to promote greater resilience to earthquakes and activities that would enhance the effectiveness of an earthquake early warning system, among other changes. The bill does not include language authorizing specific appropriations levels for the NEHRP agencies, differing from P.L. 108-360, which authorized appropriations for five years. S. 1768 also would remove statutory language regarding earthquake prediction.

Since NEHRP shifted its emphasis toward reducing losses during an earthquake, one persistent question has been how to establish a precise relationship between NEHRP activities and reduced earthquake risk and actual losses from earthquakes. Section 4 of S. 1768 appears to address that question by requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to review the activities of the program and produce a report for Congress that addresses the earthquake risks and hazards in the nation. The review and report would look at how federal activities are addressing those risks and hazards, including how states, tribes, and local governments are using NEHRP-generated information and implementing measures to reduce their earthquake risk.

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Footnotes

Lifelines are essential utility and transportation systems. Within the earthquake community, the term lifelines has generally given way to the term lifeline infrastructure. See the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute white paper, "Improve Reliability of Lifeline Infrastructure Systems," April 5, 2016, https://www.eeri.org/wp-content/uploads/eeri-policy-lifelines.pdf.

5. National Research Council, National Earthquake Resilience, Research, Implementation, and Outreach, 2011, p. 4, http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/nrc2011.pdf.
1.

Hazard is not the same as risk. Earthquake hazard is related to the probability of a certain level of a shaking event caused by an earthquake within a certain time frame. Risk could be described as the combination of the hazard and the affected population (which includes the infrastructure supporting that population). High population centers would therefore be at a higher risk than low population centers for the same degree of earthquake hazard, in general.

2.

Lifelines are essential utility and transportation systems It is important to note that the original legislation, arguably, mistakenly conflated the terms hazard and risk. More recently, the term resilience has been introduced in discussions regarding reducing earthquake risk (i.e., indicating improving resilience to earthquake hazards).

2.
3.

The Advanced National Seismic System is a nationwide network of seismographic stations operated by the U.S. Geological SurveyUSGS. The Global Seismic Network is a global network of stations coordinated by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a nonprofit organization. The George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation is a National Science Foundation-funded project that consists of 15 experimental facilities and an information-technology infrastructure with a goal of mitigating earthquake damage by the use of improved materials, designs, construction techniques, and monitoring tools.

4
4.

NEHRI is a distributed, multiuser, national facility that provides research infrastructure for the natural hazards research community, including earthquake and wind engineering experimental facilities, cyberinfrastructure, computational modeling and simulation tools, and research data. Personal communication from Karen Pearce, senior legislative affairs specialist, October 6, 2017.

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2003, 108th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 108-246 (August 14, 2003), p. 13.

56.

S. 1768 would replace the term lifelines with the term lifeline infrastructure wherever it appears in the U.S. Code.

7.

National Research Council, National Earthquake Resilience, Research, Implementation, and Outreach, 2011, http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/nrc2011.pdf.

8.

For more information, see U.S. Geological Survey, Earthquake Hazards Program, ANSS—Advanced National Seismic System, at https://earthquake.usgs.gov/monitoring/anss/.

9.

The hearing charter is available at U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, A Review of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, hearing charter, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., July 29, 2014, at http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/7%2029%2014%20NEHRP%20Hearing%20Charter.pdf.

6.

Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, Effectiveness of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, A Report from the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, September 2015, p. 2, at http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/2015ACEHRReportFinal.pdf.

7.

Ibid., p. 2.

8.

Letter from Chris D. Poland, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, to Patrick D. Gallagher, Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, March 15, 2013, at http://www.nehrp.gov/pdf/2013ACEHRReportFinal.pdf.

9.

For more information about induced seismicity and the regulatory framework, see CRS Report R43836, Human-Induced Earthquakes from Deep-Well Injection: A Brief Overview, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

10.

See, for example, National Research Council, "Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies," Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, 2012, at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13355.

11.

Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, Effectiveness of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, p. 30.

12.

Mark D. Petersen et al., 2016 One-Year Seismic hazard Forecast for the Central and Eastern United States from Induced and Natural Earthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 2016-1035, March 2016, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2016/1035/ofr20161035.pdf.

13.

Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, Effectiveness of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, p. 6.