Commerce-Justice-Science And Interior-Environment Appropriations Bills Head To House Floor

2019-05-28T15:37:02+00:00 May 28, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The House Committee on Appropriations held a full committee markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill and the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Interior-Environment) appropriations bill.

Why It Matters

The FY 2020 CJS and Interior-Environment appropriations bills will allocate federal funding to programs that affect the lives of all Americans, from weather prediction to job creation. Strong funding for federal agencies that conduct and support scientific research and education is vital to ensuring our national security, promoting economic development, and addressing issues posed by climate change on our coastal communities.

Key Points

Members of the House Committee on Appropriations spent over four hours debating the FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill that would fund several key federal science agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the FY 2020 Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which provides funding for programs in the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other related agencies.

In their opening statements, members stressed the importance of strong federal ocean and climate science funding. CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman José Serrano (NY-15) introduced a manager’s amendment, which allows for technical changes to the bill and report and was adopted by voice vote. Additional amendments were offered on topics ranging from immigration reform to the 2020 Census, but none were adopted by the committee.

The bill includes $5.5 billion for NOAA, which is a one percent increase from FY 2019 enacted levels and a 23 percent increase compared to the president’s budget request. The report provides many opportunities to advance partnerships. It includes $6.5 million for the National Oceanographic Partnership Program; supports “NOAA’s ongoing collaboration with academia and the private sector through cooperative institutes and competitive research;” and encourages partnerships to understand and address issues, including ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms (HABs), and hypoxia.

Additionally, the report includes language to advance ocean observations, providing $40.5 million for the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS); support for efforts by IOOS to expand its use of underwater gliders; and encouragement for NOAA to “fill critical gaps in the current surface mapping system and to ensure streamlined access to data for weather forecasting, detection of ecological phenomena, and safe maritime operations.”

The committee rejected the administration’s proposal to eliminate Coastal Zone Management Grants, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the National Sea Grant College Program, and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, as well as proposed cuts to the Office of Education.

The bill includes $8.1 billion for NSF, which is a seven percent increase over what was enacted in FY 2019 and 22 percent above the president’s budget request. The report highlighted “the Committee’s support for science, the academic community, and the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, and engineers across the country,” as well as “the importance of basic research that both improves the lives of Americans and expands our understanding of the Earth, the depths of our oceans, our Solar System, the Universe, and oceans on other planets.”

Report language supporting infrastructure investments would allocate no less than FY 2019 levels for “existing scientific research, research laboratories, observational networks and other research infrastructure assets, including … the current academic research fleet.” Additionally, language maintains current funding for existing marine research facilities, instructs the agency to accept proposals from the academic research community for research supported by these facilities, and “directs NSF to develop a plan, in coordination with the academic research community, to ensure the science community’s continued access to capabilities comparable to those currently provided by existing NSF marine research facilities.” Other specific language includes support of the work of the Oceans and Human Health Program to better understand HABs and their impact on public health.

The committee provided $22.3 billion for NASA. Of that, $7.2 billion would fall to the Science Mission Directorate, with $2 billion to Earth Science specifically. The report acknowledged the lack of support for Earth Science in the administration’s request, saying, “Despite the overwhelming benefits to the economy, coastal regions, and to humankind generally, the Administration eliminated virtually all major missions to incorporate selected ocean color and atmospheric aerosol measurement capabilities needed to ensure continuity and additional capacity in the measurement record, and to demonstrate measurement technologies for a lager future mission to improve detection of climate trends.” The committee rejected the administration’s request to eliminate these programs that help us understand our Earth system, which include the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) and the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder mission. The committee also provided $123 million for the Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement (formerly the Office of Education), which was zeroed out in the administration’s request.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Interior-Environment) funding bill would prioritize investments in climate change science, production of renewable energy on public lands and federal waters, and community resilience to natural disasters. Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) introduced a manager’s amendment, which was also adopted by voice vote. Additional amendments were offered in issues ranging from domestic energy production to water pollution.

The House Committee on Appropriations approved the FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill on a vote of 30 to 22 and the FY 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill on a vote of 30 to 21.

Quotable

“From funding for climate research activities to Violence Against Women Act initiatives to the 2020 Census, this bill invests in a future that supports science, improves safety, fulfills our constitutional duties, and promotes justice and fairness”— Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (NY-20)

“Increases in funding for science and research will allow us to understand and address the impacts of climate change on our natural and cultural resources, ecosystems, and human health.”— Interior-Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (MN-04)

Next Steps:

The FY 2020 CJS bill and FY 2020 Interior-Environment bill now head to the House floor, where they can be voted on individually or as part of an “omnibus” spending bill, which is a collection of multiple appropriations bills. The Senate Committee on Appropriations has not yet begun the markup process for FY 2020 appropriation bills.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Read the CJS bill report

Read the Interior-Environment bill report

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership          

Want to receive articles like this straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter!