"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:
- $1.5 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?
- The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”
- Yes, “human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events” over much of the NH
- Conservatives oppose adaptation, too