Could it happen here? GOP budget cuts would lead to furloughs at tsunami warning centers, undermining their ‘ability to react’

How many U.S. nukes are at risk?

How many U.S. nuclear plants are vulnerable to a tsunami and/or a 500-year 100-year flood? If the GOP has its way, their vulnerability will rise sharply — as will that of all Americans in the path of any serious disaster.

Extreme weather disasters, especially floods, are on the rise (see Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding).  Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year” (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).

We’ve already seen that proposed GOP budget cuts make clear the Grand Oil Party believes accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking are luxuries America can’t afford.  But their budget — along with their proposed continuing resolution — reveals that they simply want to eviscerate America’s ability to plan for and respond to all major disasters, no matter what their cause, including ones that might threaten nuclear power plants.

Think Progress has the details:

Congressional Republicans’ 2011 budget would slash funding for government agencies directly responsible for issuing tsunami warnings and severely reduce the government’s capacity to track and respond to these disasters, the president of the union that represents employees of the National Weather Service told ThinkProgress today in the wake of the tragic tsunami in the Pacific. The House Republican budget, which was rejected by the Senate this week, would have cut funding to NOAA “” the agency directly responsible for tsunami monitoring and warning “” restricting the government’s ability to respond.

Dan Sobien, the president of National Weather Service Employees Organization, said in a statement to ThinkProgress that while his agency, a subsidiary of NOAA, has made contingency plans, the GOP cuts would “put considerable stress” on the country’s tsunami monitoring and response systems:

“NOAA has put together part of a contingency plan to handle such a massive cut and while it spares tsunami buoys, all other coastal buoys are non funded and there will be furloughs at both Tsunami Warning Centers (TWC). These furloughs will take away the TWC’s ability to upgrade tsunami models and will put considerable stress on watchstanders ability to react. This plan unfortunately only account for about half the cuts that need to be made, about 60 of the 126 million that needs to be cut. While today’s disaster is of particular concern to everyone, we are just now entering tornado season and soon will be hurricane season and our organization firmly believes any effort to defund and dismantle our nations early warning system for all disasters is very unwise.”

These furloughs could result in “a very heightened risk for loss of life,” a National Weather Service forecaster told CNBC. Indeed, the GOP’s cuts would have a significant impact on the nation’s disaster preparedness:

$1.2 billion cut in funding for NOAA, the government agency with “primary responsibility for providing tsunami warnings to the nation, and a leadership role in tsunami observations and research.”

$1.5 billion cut in grants for first-responders to disasters of “mass destruction.”

12 percent cut to Emergency Management Planning Grants, which provide critical funds to help communities conduct “effective catastrophic all-hazards planning.”

Closure of local National Weather Service offices and a furlough of NOAA employees for more than 27 days at a time. The closures would essentially silence the government’s warning system during disasters.

– Cuts in NOAA’s satellite maintenance budget, putting satellites out of commission more quickly and crippling the government’s ability to track tsunami wave patterns, hurricanes and even routine weather patterns.

– Additional cuts to FEMA and the Coast Guard.

According to a Ocean Conservancy fact sheet obtained by ThinkProgress, at least a third of US GDP is concentrated in weather sensitive industries and the GOP’s cuts could leave large sectors of the economy vulnerable to natural disasters. The cuts would also deny daily weather information to more than 30 million Americans, and reduce the military’s access to weather information before combat missions.

For now, funding remains in place and agencies have been able to respond properly to today’s crisis — but TP also reports that “New Three-Week GOP Funding Resolution Would Slash Funds For Tsunami Monitoring And Disaster Response“:

[Yesterday] in an unfortunate bit of bad timing, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a new continuing resolution to fund the government for the next three weeks, while implementing more than $6 billion in budget cuts “” including more than $100 million from the agency responsible for handling tsunamis. Beyond slashing funds to NOAA, the GOP plan would strip money from the agency that monitors earthquakes, along with other critical programs:

– NOAA: The agency with primary responsibility for warning Americans about natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes would lose more than $117 million in funding, including $99 million in cuts to its Operations, Research, and Facilities activites.

– U.S. Geological Survey: The agency that monitors earthquakes and other seismic activities will see more than $7 million cut from its Surveys, Investigations, and Research budget.

But what’s to worry about — it can’t happen here, right?

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39 Responses to Could it happen here? GOP budget cuts would lead to furloughs at tsunami warning centers, undermining their ‘ability to react’

  1. Peter M says:

    “The GOP T Party does not believe the disaster took place in Japan. They feel that if this took place along the same kind of subduction fault in the Pacific NW – and caused a similar disaster, the local residents can fend for themselves­. We as a nation have to satisfy the greedy desires of the Koch Bros and the T- Party- victims of such a disastrous event- well ‘let ’em eat cake’.

    ….And global warming the same……­.’”

  2. Scrooge says:

    The Koch heads across the country are going off the deep end. They are trying to do as much damage as possible before the public reacts. They see the writing on the wall and know their time is limited. They have sworn allegiance to the Kochs. Americans may have a different idea.

  3. Rick Covert says:

    Last night our local ABC affiliate channel 13 went to great pains to reassure the Houston viewing audience that what happened at the Fukushima reactor could not happen at the South Texas Nuclear Project. It is true that we don’t have eartquakes here and they would have enough lead time to shut down the reactor before a hurricane hit but what the auxilliary feedwater pumps malunctioned as they did in February 1993? What then?

  4. 350 Now says:

    Scrooge – how right you are..
    Yet another example: English Language Unity Act sponsored by Inhofe and King.

  5. Bruce Turton says:

    It would seem that an old columnist from Canada, stationed in the U.S.A. for several years, was right when he called your country the “Excited States of America”. It would appear that the Greedy Oligarchs Party has struck you, and soon, the rest of the world, with the “worst of times”.

  6. Paulm says:

    Just heard on local radio that we could get radiation plume here on the west coast if it blows!

    Winds are currently blowing just right.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Rick Covert , “Last night our local ABC affiliate channel 13 went to great pains to reassure the Houston viewing audience that what happened at the Fukushima reactor could not happen at the South Texas Nuclear Project. ”

    Anti-nuclear protesters will also hold a demonstration on Saturday, with tens of thousands planning to form a 45-km (27 mile) human chain from the city of Stuttgart to an older nuclear power plant that will be kept running longer because of the new policy.

    The protest, which had been scheduled before the Japanese quake, is in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg where Merkel’s conservatives risk losing power in elections in two weeks, due partly to rising support for the Greens. Nuclear power is broadly unpopular in Germany.

    Japan quake fuels German nuclear debate

    Media reports state 60.000 protestors against nuclear plants.

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    The Republicans have obviously cracked up, and it’s getting scary.

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Off Japan’s northeastern coast, an oil tanker lay eerily stranded in shallow water.

  10. Leif says:

    Perhaps a new rally cry: “Systems change , not suicide!”

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    A combination photograph of NASA Terra satellite view of northeastern Japan, acquired February 26, 2011 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) shows the Sendai region (top) before the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. The bottom image acquired March 12, 2011, reveals extensive flooding in the Sendai region following the earthquake and tsunami. REUTERS/NASA/MODIS Rapid Response Team/Handout

  12. W Scott Lincoln says:

    On a somewhat related note, Neil Cavuto on Fox News has already reported that multiple “European officials” are saying that the earthquake and tsunami was caused by global warming. He then interviewed someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute to discuss it. I dont recall hearing this anywhere else – is it possible that one person suggested it or inquired if it were related, and it has subsequently been spun to be “multiple” and gone from “asked/suggested” to “said?”

  13. Zetetic says:

    @ W Scott Lincoln:
    Yes, it’s possible. It even more likely that they made it up completely to smear AGW as a whole. Limbaugh has apparently immediately started up with the same rhetoric yesterday.

    I smell a GOBP talking points memo smear campaign to try and spin the disaster in Japan to their favor and distract the public from how they are placing all of civilization at risk.

  14. K. Nockels says:

    Why are they gutting the budget for us while the top 2% of this country’s rich pay almost nothing in taxes? Why are the top 2% of US corps being given tax breaks and being sub’ed with our money when they are cuttibg jobs? If you look at the income levels of most REpugs they are in that first 2% and own a big % of shares in the second 2%. How asleep are people across this country that they can buy their way into postions that are allowing them to gut our country, WE THE PEOPLE put them in office just to try to keep a lifestyle that in the end will kill millions. WE THE PEOPLE are allowing them to decide our childrens future based on their short term goals of getting richer just for the sake of POWER over others. This was not what WE THE PEOPLE was suppost to stand for. In the end just how much will WE THE PEOPLE be willing to pay for the failed American Dream.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    Koch Brothers Increased Wealth by $9 Billion Last Year As They Fund Laws to Make Working Class Poorer

    Based on a recent Forbes survey, Rachel Maddow revealed that while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is stripping away the financial security of workers, the Koch brothers increased their wealth by $9 billion last year. Together, Maddow notes, they would rank as the fourth-wealthiest person ($44 billion) in the world.

    Meanwhile, the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, among others, are using front organizations to pit working people, who are being exploited, against unions. It’s the ultimate in class warfare: make the working class fight each other over an increasingly smaller piece of the financial pie, as the super wealthy run off with the bakery.

  16. dbmetzger says:

    Earthquakes and Nukes just don’t get along well…
    Roof Blown Off Japanese Nuclear Reactor Building
    After the devastating earthquake off the coast of northeast Japan damaged the cooling system of several reactors at Fukushima’s nuclear power facility, a large explosion appears to have blown the external walls and roof off one of the reactor buildings.

  17. thayer says:

    Recall the whole damned G O P.

  18. TomG says:

    It can’t happen here?
    Sure it can.
    It’s just a matter of time.
    Isn’t that “Big One” way overdue in California?

  19. Windsong says:

    Why, #14, K. Knockles? Because our country is going from freedom to fascism. Just saw the documentary, “Freedom to Fascism”. Very, very scary. According to the 16th ammendment, we are not even required to pay taxes from wages. It’s all a crap game between Republicans and Democrats… our money is at stake and winner takes all…

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Current Arkansas earthquakes weak sauce compared to potential fracking-caused ‘Big One’

    I don’t mean to alarm you, but the 4.7 magnitude temblors felt last Sunday in Arkansas, part of a recent “swarm” of earthquakes in the area, could be just a prelude to something much more devastating. The threat would be lessened if oil and gas companies are barred from injecting post-fracking wastewater into the earth, but — surprise! — that has yet to happen.

    Fossil is an everlasting Threat

  21. Steve Bloom says:

    I’m thinking we need a naming system for natural disasters, similar to what’s done for hurricanes but honoring politicians who undetrake to make the impacts worse. Tsunami Hal has a certain ring to it IMHO. Recalling Bobby Jindal’s poorly-timed attack on funding for volcano monitoring, perhaps Eruption Bobby can be reserved for the next major eruption.

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Pictures from Chernobyl and documentation about mutations.

  23. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Japanese tsunami has opened up the issue of nuclear power plants safety around the world. Such a calamity could affect an advanced country like Japan. If it happens in developing countries,what would be the consequences?

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  24. jyyh says:

    With a couple of tea party educated Homer Simpons on the controls the possibility of this is 100% in US, was one joke in here.

  25. paulm says:

    I dont think Japan will be pursuing nuclear power after this.

    I dont think the insurance industry will be going anywhere near nuclear every again.

    Many countries will now not be pursuing nuclear.

    Nuclear power just got more expensive.

  26. Beesaman says:

    Don’t forget folks that these are General Electric nuclear power plants, brought to you by the good old USA.
    But then the US is good at exporting nuclear fallout, a bit like the Russians in that way.
    Maybe, just maybe it won’t be as bad as some of the USA’s more hysterical newscasters were selling it to us all on Saturday night.
    Here’s hoping.

  27. Dano says:

    Remember, lib’rullls live on the west coast. No warning of impending tsunami would purge some voter rolls. ;o)



  28. David F. says:

    @12 W Scott Lincoln

    FoxNews just made that up. The article linked to some right wing website that took a statement from the European Economic and Social Committee out of context — nowhere did they claim global warming caused the earthquake. They were only calling for a renewed sense of urgency in combatting climate change in light of this disaster.

    They also had a bunch of ‘Tweets’ — again taken out of context. One was by somebody who was skeptical of climate change, in fact. The others didn’t appear to blame this on climate change either — more or less, they seemed to be making the same point the Committee made.

  29. David F. says:

    Here is the link Fox News put up:

    Only a couple of the Tweets appeared to be made by people who were confused and probably don’t understand tsunamis.

  30. Anon says:

    Does anybody still think it will be easy and cheap to protect the U.S. coast? Japan had seawalls on almost half of its coast and they did little or nothing to prevent the damage.

  31. Mark says:

    Europe is getting its act together and hopefully will go for 30% cuts in CO2 by 2020. UK Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne is pushing for this:

    In a letter to the Guardian, Huhne and his fellow ministers say: “At a time when the price of oil is soaring, putting in place an ambitious
    plan for Europe’s low-carbon future has wider benefits than tackling climate change. It will increase the continent’s resilience against oil price spikes and reduce its dependence on imported energy. And it will help Europe compete with emerging economies in the fast-growing markets for green goods and services.”

  32. W Scott Lincoln says:

    My hunch was that Fox made it up and covered it without fact-checking, but I wasn’t sure. It isn’t entirely inconsistent with their past, especially that of the anchor that reported it.

  33. Zetetic says:

    @ W Scott Lincoln:
    Respectfully, I think that you meant that for Fox News to have misrepresented what was actually said is “entirely consistent with their past”. Since misinforming that public is what they do consistently as a necessary requirement of functioning as a propaganda arm for the more extreme right-wing elements and the oligarchs that have recently acquired more power than usual in the USA.

  34. Chris Winter says:

    This tragedy in Japan is badly timed for Anne Lauvergeon, who heads France’s Areva, the largest builder of nuclear reactors on the planet. She has been pushing for an expansion of nuclear power in the wake of recent unrest in the Middle East.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    David F#30, thanks for doing the research. This putrid, stupid lie, so typical of their intellectual as well as moral level, has already appeared in Murdoch’s apparat here, too. It will impress and excite the Dunning Krugerites, who are on fire in this country as the Opposition and the Rightwing MSM attempt to breath life into the Frankenstein monster of a local Tea Party. The demagogy is hitting new lows, and I’m certain that this will be the Right’s reaction to the greater and greater disasters about to fall upon our heads-ie head straight for some version of ‘bunyip fascism’, with belligerence, ignorance and intimidation ruling the roost. Crank up the rage of their mostly senile foot-soldiers, and send them out to screech and fulminate, perhaps to burn a few books, as the prototypes of this movement who emerged at the infamous Griffith public meeting on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, did with such histrionic flair. All over $90 a year extra on electricity bills courtesy of a pathetically inadequate ‘carbon price’ proposed by the Dullard regime to reduce our CO2 emissions by the hilariously inadequate amount of 5% by 2020. At least the younger generation, whole lives are going to be made Hell and prematurely shortened by their senile and morally decrepit ‘elders’ greed, are getting worked up over it, and not before time.

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Prokaryotes #20, I seem to remember that the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 occurred in the general vicinity, and that the complex geology of the region does not preclude a recurrence in the general area. I hope your nukes are more robust than the Japanese ones are turning out to be.

  37. Tommy T Party says:

    A member of the Tea Party here and surprise, surprise I am also anti-nuke, but also anti: Republican, Democrat, big oil, methanol, big pharm, small mindedness, racist, socialist, death penalty, big agri-biz, lobbyist, income tax, big government, and people who spout off with doing any research ect.

    I AM PRO: Constitutional government, individual liberty, decentralized unsubsidized capitalism, religious freedom, abortion (1st term only), right to bear arms, health care reform, civil unions for all (Gov. out of the marriage bus.), personal responsibility, small family farm, bio diesel, solar, wind, O.T.E.C. (you folks may never have heard of it), secure borders, immigration reform, accountable education, home schooling, marijuana legalization etc.

    I think you all get the idea.

    I am getting a little tired of the generalizations regarding Tea Party folks. I do not fit in any stereotype box that you can name. I am college educated (technical, and business degrees), not a racist in fact am discriminated against (not reverse BTW). I am not small minded, and have just about had enough of non-thinking people being led around by the nose by vested interests instead of doing the work. You know like learning the facts on a subject and then engaging in open minded debate, reassessing positions in light of new facts, following the money that sort of thing.

    The positions I hold today are a result of this ongoing critical thinking process. Many are not my original positions, and all are subject to this always. Some examples: I have been a registered Democrat, a registered Republican, and am currently an independent. For years I was anti-homosexual until after I left my position as a leader in my church over my bishop’s blessing of a ‘marriage’ of homosexuals. I ultimately left the church over this and helped to splinter my denomination. Now I am anti-organized religion and anti-civil marriage. People have a right to choose their own spiritual path, and a right to associate with whom whoever they choose and in what way they choose. How did this conversion happen? I studied the bible in Aramaic and Greek, searched out Biblical Historical customs regarding marriage and sexuality. All of this coupled, coupled with the discovery that marriage licensing by the state was originally a device to prevent the intermingling of races changed my mind on the subjects.

    It also led me to reevaluate my entire experience with organized religion and my own spirituality. The process showed me my tendency to be close-minded in many things. That enlightenment has also caused me to change from being a knee jerk ‘Anti-Fossil Fuel Energy Industry Nazi’ to a very knowledgeable ‘Energy Industry Pragmatist’ as a result research.

    For instance, global climate change is certainly effected by humans. It is obviously a natural process as well. Though regardless of how much is us and how much is natural I cannot say nor can the computer models. That said it is absurd to continue to subsidize pollution of the earth, help to destabilize geopolitics, fund terrorists, send our young people overseas to fight on foreign land for the privilege to continue to do these things and facilitate our own national suicide.

    The reason I have reversed my opinion on Nuclear Power because my research brought to my attention two technologies that you might want to check out, start with this site: and this site: as well as discovering the truth about the economics of Nuclear Power. (Start here if you wish: The key is money. Follow it. Oh and BTW when doing the math don’t forget to add in the fuel storage, mothballing, and disaster clean up.

    Now imagine what could have happened by now if these two unknown technologies had been the recipients of all of the nuclear power’s subsidies since 1975 when the idea of using these two technologies together was first proposed? I could go on and on.

    I know I am not the first to say this as I read it somewhere, but let me share a few things I have confirmed about people. People always do what they want to, people tend to justify their actions, and people’s memory storage usually validates their justification.
    The fact is that certainly in this country as a nation we don’t do anything based on facts or reality. We do spend a lot of our time taking emotionally based shots at independent thinkers, while allowing large corporations to become the citizens and we have become eco-serfs with illusion of liberty. The Founding Fathers would be ashamed.

    Is everyone in the Tea Party like me? No they are not, but I find most of them open to the facts when they are presented with evidence. Hope you are too…