Cantwell’s Earthquake Resilience Bill Signed into Law

Legislation helps states prepare for earthquakes, improve early warning systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) earthquake resilience bill has been signed into law by President Donald Trump. Senator Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act (NEHRP) to modernize safety programs and help states prepare for and respond to earthquakes, as well as provide important resources to improve earthquake early warning, monitoring, and research. 

Cantwell’s legislation is critical to Washington state, which faces the second highest risk of large and damaging earthquakes in the United States. 

“Earthquakes are inevitable so it’s critical that we do all we can to prepare. This legislation will help save lives and protect property in the Pacific Northwest and other areas prone to seismic disaster,” said Cantwell. 

Since 1977, NEHRP has enabled earthquake-prone communities to better prepare and protect themselves by minimizing losses through infrastructure improvements and hazard and risk assessments. This legislation reauthorizes NEHRP and also: 

  • Improves earthquake early warning systems - Removes outdated language related to earthquake prediction and emphasizes the continued development of earthquake early warning systems through the Advanced National Seismic System.
  • Helps states prioritize earthquake preparedness - Directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to implement a grant program to assist states with incorporating earthquakes in their hazard reduction portfolios.
  • Provides ongoing preparedness assessments and long-term planning - Directs the completion of a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction progress, as well as areas that require more funding, and evaluation of resulting hazards, such as tsunamis or landslides.
  • Requires updated, state-of-the-art maps to better understand local geographies and topographies - Requires the production of a set of maps showing active faults and folds, liquefaction susceptibility, and other hazards that can be induced by an earthquake, such as landslides.
  • Cuts red tape to improve information sharing - Reduces various administrative burdens that are disruptive to the essential mission of NEHRP, improves data sharing between agencies, and provides clear direction to the four federal agencies charged with overseeing NEHRP – the National Institute of Standards and Technology, FEMA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation – to continue working with states and private sector experts on performance-based design features. 

In addition to Senator Cantwell, the legislation was sponsored by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).