09.16.20

House Passes Peters Bipartisan Bill to Predict & Mitigate Space Weather Threats, Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed Into Law

Peters Poised to Have Sixth Standalone Bill Signed into Law Under President Trump—Most of Any Democratic Senator in His Presidency

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (MI) bipartisan bill to strengthen the nation’s ability to predict severe space weather events and mitigate their harmful impacts on Earth. Having passed the full Senate this past July, the bipartisan bill that Peters introduced with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Peters partnered with Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) to pass this bill through the House—they had introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

After passing this bipartisan bill through Congress along with the bipartisan CHARGE Act this week, Peters is poised to have six standalones bill signed into law under President Trump—the most of any Democratic senator in his presidency. Despite serving in his first term and in the minority, Peters also has passed through Congress and sent eight standalone bills to the White House to be signed into law since he began serving in the Senate in 2015, the most of any Democratic senator during this period. He also has passed 14 bills through the Senate since 2017, the most of any Democratic senator since Trump took office. In addition he’s passed nine bills out of the Senate this Congress (2019-2020), which is more than any other Senator from either party.

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. That’s why Peters worked to advance the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act.

“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.”

“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.”

“Monitoring space weather is one of the many proactive steps we take to protect our electric grid and meet reliability standards,” Heather Rivard, Senior Vice President for Electric Distribution, DTE. “DTE is committed to working in collaboration with federal agencies to enhance the resilience of the grid and prepare for potential threats to our system, including solar activity. We thank Senator Peters for his leadership on this bipartisan legislation that will soon be enacted into law, which will further those efforts by ensuring the electric industry has the most reliable and accurate space weather forecasts and is ready to respond to any potential incidents.”

“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 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 10% 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.

Peters serves 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.

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