Monday, January 9, 2017

House Passes Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Forecasting Bill


Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Forecasting Bill Passed in the House

Washington, DC, January 9, 2017 --  Today the U.S. House unanimously approved H.R. 353, the Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act.  This legislation prioritizes protecting lives and property.

‘Every minute counts in the lead up before a major storm or tornado,” said Congressman Frank Lucas. “This legislation helps to give those in harm’s way additional disaster preparation time which could ultimately be the difference between life and death or thousands of dollars in property damage. I am encouraged that the House has taken action on this critical matter and hope to see these life-saving policies enacted soon.”

“Our aim is to have zero deaths from tornadoes and other extreme weather events,” said Congressman Jim Bridenstine. “This bill gets us closer to that day.  I thank my House colleagues for their support, and anticipate swift Senate passage and that the President will sign it into law.”

This legislation is the product of a bipartisan effort.  It directs the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus resources and effort to:

  • Rebalance NOAA funding to place a higher priority on weather-related research and activities;
  • Emphasize developing accurate forecasts and timely warnings of high impact weather events;
  • Create programs to extend warning lead times and improve forecasts for tornadoes and hurricanes;
  • Develop a plan to utilize advanced technology to regain U.S. superiority in weather modeling and forecasts;
  • Increase focus and continue development of seasonal forecasts and how to maximize information from these forecasts; and
  • Enhance coordination among various federal government weather stakeholders.

 The legislation also authorizes and extends a NOAA pilot program already under way thanks to a partnership between the House Science Space and Technology and the House Appropriations Committee. Under this pilot program, NOAA has already issued two contracts to procure commercial satellite weather data. This pilot program could bring about a paradigm shift in how NOAA makes decisions about future procurement of critical weather data.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith added, "Americans from coast to coast will now be better prepared for severe weather with the passage of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act.  This bill has been four years in the making and is long overdue.  It will transform our nation’s weather gathering efforts and help save lives and property.  This legislation strengthens the underlying atmospheric science while simultaneously advancing innovative technology and reforming operations to provide better weather data, models, and forecasts.  America can thank Reps. Lucas and Bridenstine for leading this innovation initiative.  We look forward to the Senate approving this bill soon."

The Washington Post called this “the first major piece of weather legislation adopted since the early 1990s.”  The legislation, originally introduced in the House in 2013, passed the House in 2015, and last December the Senate approved an amended version.  Provisions in the bill approved today are nearly identical to the Senate version, so we can anticipate swift passage again in the Senate and presentation to the President for signing into law.

Links to videos of remarks on the House floor:

Congressman Lucas- https://youtu.be/FmXeb1z7RTw
Congressman Bridenstine- https://youtu.be/tvR19_RzbDw
Chairman Smith- https://youtu.be/bWvm6IeBZns

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