In a flurry of activity just before the holidays, several science policy bills, mostly related to oceans and hazards, passed at the end of the 117th Congress and were signed into law.
The Providing Research and Estimates of Changes in Precipitation Act (PRECIP Act) was signed into law as part of H.R. 1437, the Further Continuing Appropriations and Extensions Act. This legislation calls for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to contract the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on precipitation estimation. After the report is complete, NOAA will develop and implement a plan to regularly update precipitation data that will help communities better prepare for flooding events.
The Flood Level Observation, Operations, and Decision Support Act (FLOODS Act) was signed into Public Law No: 117-316, on 27 Dec. 2022. The bill directs NOAA to establish a National Integrated Flood Information System that includes a flood early warning system and establishes an Interagency Committee on Water Management and Infrastructure.
Signed into Public Law No: 117-358 on 5 Jan. 2023, the “Don Young Recognition Act” designates the volcanic peak known as Mount Cerberus as Mount Young, in addition to other provisions. The bill honoring Rep. Young, who served as a co-chair of the Congressional Hazards Caucus, was sponsored by fellow Alaskans, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, who remarked, “Don Young moved mountains for Alaska. It’s only fitting we name one after him—even if it is a bit unpredictable.”
In addition to stand-alone bills, several pieces of science policy legislation found their way into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), one of the few bills Congress must pass each year. The NDAA included provisions supporting Department of Defense initiatives to build research capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. From the Volcanic Ash and Fumes Act of 2022, the NDAA incorporated NOAA’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers into the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The NDAA also contains a number of other provisions covering NOAA, including studying the status of its scientific and technical workforce, developing a plan to make its environmental models publicly accessible, updating policy for its ocean exploration activities, and acquiring a new research aircraft.