10.21.20

Peters Bipartisan Bill to Predict & Mitigate Space Weather Threats Signed Into Law

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

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today applauded the signing into law of his bipartisan bill to strengthen the nation’s ability to predict severe space weather events and mitigate their harmful impacts on Earth. Peters, who introduced the legislation with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), 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.

With the signing of this bill into law, Peters now has six standalone bills 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 am pleased that this bipartisan bill has been signed into law.”

“Space weather events stand to present significant economic and national security implications, with the potential to disrupt essential services, communications, and technologies we rely on every day. For years I have worked with Senator Peters on bipartisan space weather legislation, understanding the need to prioritize the research and development necessary to reduce the risk of these events and allow our nation to react and recover,” said Senator Gardner. “Today I’m proud to see our bipartisan bill signed into law to help bolster our country’s ability to predict and address these events.”

“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 has been 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 signed into law,” said Brian Rich, senior vice president of Customer Experience & Technology, Consumers Energy. “Enacting this bill is a significant step to support research and development so important to our industry.”

We have now arrived at a pivotal moment in forecasting solar storms.” Antonio J. Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. “At a time when society is more dependent than ever on advanced e-based technologies, the PROSWIFT Act lays out a clear road map for bringing together expertise in government, the private sector, and academia to forecast these damaging events. By successfully enacting this legislation, this predictive capability will provide a critical safeguard for America's economic competitiveness and national security, and for the business and school technologies that we have all come to rely upon.”

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. The National Science and Technology Council at the White House issued a 2019 report that underscored the threat that space weather poses to civilian critical infrastructure, defense and intelligence systems, and military operations.

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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