09/16/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/16/2020 13:14
Washington, D.C. - Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) to strengthen the nation's ability to predict severe space weather events and mitigate their harmful impacts on Earth. The U.S. Senate passed Gardner and Peters' bipartisan bill in July, and the legislation now heads to the President's desk to be signed into law.
A severe space weather event, such as a solar flare or coronal mass ejection, has the potential to seriously disrupt the electric power grid, communications networks including cellular phones and GPS, satellites and aircraft operations.
'A space weather event has the potential to disrupt essential services, communications, and everyday technologies we rely on, presenting significant economic and natural security implications,' said Senator Gardner. 'It's important that we prioritize the research and development necessary to reduce the risk and allow our nation to react and recover from these events, which Congress is doing by passing this bipartisan bill.'
'With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing schools, small businesses and families to find innovative ways to stay connected, it has never been more important for our nation to protect against threats to our electric grid, telecommunications networks and even air travel,' said Senator Peters. 'While we cannot predict when they will happen, space weather events pose a unique and significant challenge to our national security, economy and technological infrastructure. We simply cannot afford to be caught flat-footed, and I look forward to this bipartisan bill being signed into law.'
'It is critical to better understand solar events and their impacts on Earth and our entire space environment. From our ground-based facilities to our space-based assets, these solar events can cause irreparable harm to our commercial interests and our national security. The PROSWIFT Act ensures that the U.S. will remain the world leader in space weather prediction and research by enhancing and fostering cooperation among government, academia and commercial partners. This will allow us to better predict and mitigate dangerous and inevitable solar events,' said Dr. Daniel Baker, Director of the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
'With society more dependent than ever on 'e-based' technologies, the PROSWIFT ACT is a vital step toward forecasting space weather events and protecting vulnerable infrastructure,' said University Corporation for Atmospheric Research President Antonio Busalacchi. 'It provides a necessary road map for the integration of existing national efforts, coordinating expertise in government, the private sector, and academia to better understand solar storms and help safeguard the U.S. economy and national security.'
'We, at Consumers Energy, are excited to see the bipartisan bill championed by Senators Peters and Gardner pass out the House of Representatives and move to the President for signature,' said Brian Rich, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience & Technology, Consumers Energy. 'The passage of the bill is a significant step to support research and development so important to our industry.'
The Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act directs the federal agencies that study and predict space weather to coordinate with the private sector to assess the potential impacts of space weather on the United States, and determine what new research and technology is needed to improve the ability to forecast space weather events and mitigate potential damage. The legislation outlines clear roles and responsibilities for those federal agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill also directs NOAA, along with NASA and DOD to develop plans for a backup of aging Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, which after 25 years is nearing the end of its life. Space weather events are caused by constantly changing conditions in the Sun's magnetic fields that create solar flares, which are built up energy released as a burst of radiation, or coronal mass ejections (CME), which are explosions of the Sun's magnetic fields and ionized gas releasing radiation and energized particles that interact with the Earth's magnetic fields. This can be observed on Earth as the Northern and Southern lights.
Space weather has the potential to impact infrastructure on Earth and severely disrupt the economy. The insurance industry has cited estimates of a catastrophic space weather event as high as 10percent in the next 10 years. An estimate by Lloyds of London found that a worst-case scenario space weather event could cost up to $2.6 trillion. Impacts include outages or blackouts of electric utilities, disrupting GPS and communication networks, and forcing airlines to reroute air traffic.
Both Gardner and Peters serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees the activities of NASA and NOAA as well as the Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather. Gardner serves as the Subcommittee Chairman and Peters previously served as the Ranking Member. U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.