Federal City Digest

Federal City Digest

(By Christian Brown -- Associated Press)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jindal vs. the Volcanoes

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) raised eyebrows when he complained Tuesday night that President Obama's economic stimulus package includes "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' "

While he may mock, the U.S. Geological Survey says the money is needed, our colleague Alec MacGillis reports, to upgrade potentially lifesaving seismic monitoring equipment that is too slow in providing data.

"One of the biggest challenges we've got is that a lot of our aging equipment isn't able to deliver information in real time," said the agency's David Applegate, senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards. ". . . Minutes and even seconds matter here."

Better monitoring could help those who live near volcanoes in America, as well as at military bases around the world -- not to mention operators of volcano-adjacent hydroelectric dams and airline travelers flying over volcanic regions (a 747 nearly crashed over Alaska in 1989 when it flew, without warning, into a volcanic cloud). The USGS will use only a portion of the stimulus-provided $140 million on the volcano projects; the rest will be spent on such things as efforts to better map topography in flood-prone regions.

WHAT TO WATCH

-- Get out your red pencils and calculators: It's budget day at the White House. President Obama is expected to release the nation's budget at 11 a.m., creating a novel $634 billion health fund, among many, many other things. [Story, A1.]

-- Michelle Obama makes her next stop on her federal agency tour with a morning visit to the Environmental Protection Agency.

-- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), above, unveils the results of a nine-month investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on disaster recovery, which she chairs. The nearly 300-page report, "Far From Home: Deficiencies in Federal Disaster Housing Assistance After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Recommendations for Improvement," examines the federal housing response to the 2005 storms.

-- And the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security asks, "Disaster Response: Is FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) up to the Challenge?" Acting Deputy FEMA Administrator Dave Garrett; Edward Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky, where ice storms recently devastated the electricity transmission system; and Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, are expected to testify.

-- The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on "Consumer Protection and the Credit Crisis" at 10 a.m.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com


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