Report text available as:

(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip?


                                                      Calendar No. 150
115th Congress      }                                   {       Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session        }                                   {      115-113

======================================================================



 
        NATIONAL VOLCANO EARLY WARNING AND MONITORING SYSTEM ACT

                                _______
                                

                 June 15, 2017.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

        Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural 
                   Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 346]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 346) to provide for the establishment of 
the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System, 
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with 
amendments and recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.
    The amendments are as follows:
    1. Beginning on page 1, strike line 6 and all that follows 
through page 4, line 13.
    2. On page 4, line 14, strike ``3'' and insert ``2''.
    3. On page 4, line 21, strike ``4'' and insert ``3''.
    4. On page 4, line 22, strike ``4'' and insert ``3''.
    5. On page 8, line 14, strike ``5'' and insert ``4''.

                                PURPOSE

    The purpose of S. 346 is to provide for the establishment 
of the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    The United States is the third most active country for 
volcanic eruptions, ranking only behind Indonesia and Japan in 
its number of historically active volcanoes. It is home to 169 
active volcanoes, of which 55 are considered still to be 
threatening to life and property.
    In Washington State, Mount St. Helens explosively erupted 
on May 18, 1980, causing 57 fatalities and destroying 27 
bridges and 185 miles of highways at an estimated cost of $1.1 
billion. Although Mount St. Helens is well known, Mount Rainier 
near Seattle could cause far greater loss of life if it should 
erupt again suddenly. The same is true of the Yellowstone 
National Park caldera, should it erupt, as it has roughly every 
600,000 years.
    There are five active major volcanoes in the Cascade Range 
of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho--Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, 
Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. In the past 
29 years, there have been more than 50 eruptions and at least 
17 episodes of significant unrest at 34 different volcanoes in 
the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey 
(USGS).
    Another example of the threat from volcanic eruptions was 
demonstrated on December 15, 1989, when a Boeing 747 flying 150 
miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska, encountered an ash cloud 
that rose from an earlier eruption of Mount Redoubt. The plane 
lost power in all four engines, falling some 10,000 feet before 
it could restart two of its engines. The restart saved the 
lives of the plane's 231 passengers, but caused $80 million in 
damage to the craft. This incident illustrates the dangers to 
aircraft, especially on the West Coast and in Alaskan air 
space.
    Since 1990, eight commercial aircraft have lost engine 
power mid-flight and dozens more have been damaged after flying 
into ash clouds caused by volcanic eruptions. Notably, lesser 
known volcanoes, such as Mount Redoubt in Alaska, erupted more 
than 100 times from 2009 to 2010, causing the cancellation of 
more than 230 commercial airline flights and putting almost 
10,000 airline passengers at risk.
    The Federal Aviation Administration reports that over 
80,000 large aircraft a year, carrying more than 30,000 
passengers a day, fly near many of Alaska's volcanoes, mostly 
on the heavily traveled great-circle routes between Europe, 
North America, and Asia. The Alaska Volcano Observatory, with 
its partial federal funding, today is responsible for 
monitoring 29 active volcanoes in the ``Ring of Fire'' area 
along the Aleutian Island flight path.
    The advances in volcanic and earthquake forecasting could 
be aided by a national watch office and help to make more 
accurate and timely predictions of eruptions possible. For 
example, in 1989, the Alaska Volcano Observatory could provide 
only a few days' notice before Mount Redoubt erupted that year. 
In 2009, after the center's capabilities had been expanded and 
hours of operation increased, it provided two months of notice 
before the volcano erupted again. This was enough warning time 
to reduce oil stored in the Drift River tank farm complex, 
located down slope from the volcano, and mitigate the threat of 
environmental damage.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 346 was introduced on February 8, 2017, by Senators 
Murkowski, Cantwell, and Hirono.
    In the 114th Congress, Senators Murkowski and Cantwell 
introduced a similar measure, S. 2056, on September 17, 2015. 
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on 
the bill on September 22, 2016.
    In the 112th Congress, Senator Murkowski introduced a 
similar measure, S. 566, on March 14, 2011. The Subcommittee on 
Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing on the bill on 
May 18, 2011 (S. Hrg. 112-39).
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open 
business session on March 30, 2017, and ordered S. 346 
favorably reported as amended.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on March 30, 2017, by a majority voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 
346, if amended as described herein.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS

    During its consideration of S. 346, the Committee adopted 
an amendment to strike the findings and make four conforming 
amendments.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    Section 1 provides a short title.
    Section 2 contains definitions.
    Section 3(a) directs the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary) to establish the National Volcano Early Warning and 
Monitoring System (System) within the USGS in order to 
organize, modernize, standardize, and stabilize the monitoring 
systems of the volcano observatories in the United States and 
unify these systems into a single interoperative system. It 
also sets forth the new System's objective to monitor the 
nation's volcanoes at the level commensurate with the threat 
posed by upgrading existing monitoring networks, installing new 
networks on unmonitored volcanoes, and using geodetic and other 
methods when applicable.
    Subsection (b) specifies the System's components as 
requiring a national volcano watch office that is operational 
24 hours a day, seven days a week; a national volcano data 
center; and an external grants program to support research into 
volcano monitoring science and technology.
    Subsection (c) directs the Secretary to submit to Congress 
a five-year management plan for establishing and operating the 
System within 180 days of the bill's enactment. This subsection 
further directs the Secretary to establish an advisory 
committee to help implement the System. It further authorizes 
the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with 
institutions of higher education and State agencies and directs 
the Secretary to coordinate with other federal agencies.
    Subsection (d) directs the Secretary to submit an annual 
report to Congress on the activities carried out pursuant to 
the Act.
    Section 4 authorizes such sums as are necessary for each of 
fiscal years 2017 through 2027 and specifies that the amounts 
made available are to supplement and not supplant Federal funds 
for other USGS work.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of the costs of this measure has 
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
    S. 346 would authorize the appropriation of such sums as 
are necessary for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to 
establish a system to improve monitoring of active volcanoes. 
The bill also would authorize USGS to enter into cooperative 
partnerships with universities and state agencies to implement 
the system.
    Based on an analysis of information provided by USGS and 
assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates 
that implementing S. 346 would cost $55 million over the 2018-
2022 period.
    Enacting S. 346 would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO 
estimates that enacting the legislation would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    S. 346 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: Robert Reese; Impact 
on state, local, and tribal governments: Jon Sperl; Impact on 
the private sector: Amy Petz.
    Estimate approved by: H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 346.
    The bill is not a regulatory measure in the sense of 
imposing Government-established standards or significant 
economic responsibilities on private individuals and 
businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the provision. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 346, as ordered reported.

                   CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED SPENDING

    S. 346, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    Because S. 346 is similar to legislation considered by the 
Committee in the 114th Congress, the Committee did not request 
Executive Agency views. The testimony provided by the 
Department of the Interior at the hearing before the Energy and 
Natural Resources on September 22, 2016, follows:

       Statement for the Record, U.S. Department of the Interior

    Thank you for providing the Department of the Interior with 
the opportunity to present this Statement for the Record on S. 
2056, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System 
Act. The Department strongly supports S. 2056 and shares its 
goal of improving public and aviation safety through 
comprehensive monitoring of the most threatening volcanoes in 
the United States and its Territories.
    The National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) is the 
U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) approach to upgrading and 
modernizing its monitoring networks to ensure that all active 
volcanoes in the United States and its Territories are 
monitored at levels commensurate with their threat. NVEWS 
priorities are based on a 2005 national assessment of volcano 
threat levels, which the USGS is in the process of revising to 
incorporate new knowledge. While several network upgrades were 
made possible through the American Reinvestment and Recovery 
Act (ARRA) stimulus of 2009-2011, the USGS has since been 
making opportunistic NVEWS upgrades funded out of existing base 
resources. The USGS has achieved 30% completion of network 
upgrades to NVEWS standards with some Very-High-Threat and 
High-Threat volcanoes lacking basic monitoring networks. As 
with existing efforts, any work conducted to fulfill the 
objectives of the bill would need to compete for funding with 
other Administration priorities.
    This legislation would enable the building out of the NVEWS 
network and will improve the USGS' capabilities to detect 
eruption precursors at the earliest possible stages (usually 
weeks to months before an eruption) and to deliver 
probabilistic eruption forecasts and warnings to the public, 
land managers, emergency responders and the aviation sector. 
The success of volcanic hazard mitigation efforts is highly 
dependent upon the quality and comprehensiveness of the in-
ground monitoring networks deployed on and around the Nation's 
active volcanoes, the scientific expertise in our volcano 
observatories, and the preparedness of communities through well 
developed and regularly exercised volcano emergency response 
plans.
    The USGS is fully prepared to deliver an updated 
implementation plan for completion of the National Volcano 
Early Warning and Monitoring System for the Nation's Very-High-
Threat and High-Threat volcanoes in response to the 
legislation. The volcano research grants program that would be 
authorized under bill S. 2056 would allow the USGS to engage 
more of the Nation's major universities in this basic and 
applied research and lead to advancement of the field of 
volcanology. The USGS has a successful track record of 
effective leveraging of resources with other federal agencies, 
state geological surveys and universities. An authorized grants 
program under bill S. 2056 would enable continued collaboration 
and design and development of promising and cost-effective 
volcano monitoring technologies of the future.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill as ordered 
reported.

                                  [all]