House Passes Windstorm Impact Reduction, Tsunami Warning and Low Dose Radiation Research Bills

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Publication date: 
16 January 2015

Last week, the House of Representatives passed three bipartisan bills addressing radiation, tsunami warning and windstorm impact reduction. These non-controversial bills were considered and passed by the House of Representatives in the previous Congress. They were reintroduced in this Congress and passed with little debate.

In the last Congress, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) introduced H.R. 1786, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Reauthorization Act. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) introduced similar legislation, H.R. 2132, the National Hazards Reduction Act, which reauthorized the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. A new bill, H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization bill passed the House last week by a bipartisan vote of 381-39. Cosponsors of the bill include Neugebauer and Wilson as well as the Chairman, Ranking Member, and others on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 23 reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program through FY 2017 and establishes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the lead agency for a program to assess property damage and loss of life as a result of windstorms. Under this bill, NIST will implement windstorm reduction measures, support the development of engineering tools used in risk reduction, and assist in the development of building codes and other safety standards.

Additionally, H.R. 23 expands the responsibilities of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and establishes an Interagency Coordinating Committee on Windstorm Impact Reduction which includes FEMA, NSF, NOAA, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget. An advisory Committee on windstorm impact reduction will also be established at NIST.

“What is happening is the risk is growing because or population centers are growing,” stated Neugebauer after describing the loss of life due to natural disasters in 2011, “As these storms are getting costlier over time, at a time where we are $18 trillion in debt, it is important that we utilize the taxpayers’ resources in an effective way.”

"The Federal Government has an important role in helping Americans prepare for and recover from natural hazards… the legislation ensures that research is translated into practice through improved building codes and emergency planning,”noted Wilson.

H.R. 35, the Low-Dose Radiation Research Act was introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and was cosponsored by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and other Members of the House Science Committee. In the last Congress, a virtually identical bill passed with bipartisan support. H.R. 35 requires the Department of Energy to conduct research to improve the understanding of the risks and uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation. The bill stipulates that the National Academies will conduct a study assessing the current status of low dose radiation research and will develop a long term strategy to reduce health risks associated with low-dose radiation. The DOE will then be required to develop a five-year strategic plan in response to the recommendations from the National Academies. H.R. 35 passed the House by a vote of 381-39.

H.R. 34, the Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act was introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). It expands the Tsunami Warning and Education Act by modernizing the United States Tsunami Warning System to increase forecast and warning accuracy, maintain coverage of tsunami detection, and mitigate false alarms. It consolidates the tsunami warning systems in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans and requires the National Weather Service to work with these centers to improve warning and forecasting capabilities. The bill addresses standards and guidelines for mapping, modeling and assessment efforts, modifies the Tsunami Forecasting and Warning Program to increase the regions covered under this program, and supports Tsunami Warning Centers. The bill passed by a voice vote.

“This bill will provide vulnerable communities with the most accurate information, early notification, and guidance on proper action in the event of a tsunami,” stated Bonamici. “Planning for a tsunami is a critical step and this bill will support and strengthen local preparedness programs in communities that are at greatest risk. I am grateful for the support of my coastal colleagues, who understand just how devastating a tsunami could be for Oregon’s coast and the surrounding region. Although we hope to never experience the devastation a tsunami event would bring, this bill improves preparedness and forecasting to better protect our residents.”

These bills will now be considered by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.