Sen. Cantwell, Democrats Deliver Wins to Boost Sustainable Aviation Fuel, Support Coastal and Climate Resiliency, and Improve Weather Forecasting in Inflation Reduction Act
August 8, 2022
Democrats’ bill includes many provisions authored by Sen. Cantwell that will benefit people, economy and climate
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, applauded the passage by Senate Democrats on Sunday, August 7, of the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower costs for American families and tackle the generational challenge of climate change. As Chair, Sen. Cantwell authored key provisions to boost development and production of sustainable aviation fuel and low-emission technologies, support coastal and climate resiliency projects, and improve weather research and forecasting.
“Washingtonians are paying way too much for prescription drugs. For example, the average cost of insulin more than tripled over the past 10 years to over $735 a month per patient. Now, with the passage of the bill, Medicare beneficiaries are guaranteed to pay no more than $35 a month,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This bill will also drive down energy costs by implementing cheaper and more efficient energy solutions.”
The Inflation Reduction Act included $297 million for the Sustainable Aviation Fuel and Low-Emissions Aviation Technology Grant Program. Sen. Cantwell authored this provision to create a new competitive grant program at the Department of Transportation that will enable state and local governments, airport sponsors, for-profit companies, research institutions, and non-profits to produce, transport, blend, or store sustainable aviation fuel, and to develop or apply low-emission aviation technologies. Sustainable aviation fuel has the potential to reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent in comparison to conventional petroleum-based jet fuel. The grant program will incentivize the mass production of SAF at scale and create domestic jobs and economic opportunities for farmers, manufacturers, start-ups, and others in the biofuels supply chain.
At a press conference in Seattle in October 2021, Sen. Cantwell and aviation leaders pushed for inclusion of the program in the pending reconciliation bill, saying: “We know from smoky skies and record temperatures that we need to do more to address the climate crisis. Air travel is still one of the most carbon-intensive activities individuals can engage in. Our main challenge now is to develop a dedicated industry of [sustainable aviation fuel] suppliers, refiners and blenders who produce that fuel in significant quantities and at the right price point. That’s why we’re supporting…a new competitive grant program…[that] would help build the infrastructure to produce sustainable aviation fuel and get it where it is needed.”
Washington State University, which co-leads the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment (ASCENT), leads the nation in research into how forest products and municipal solid waste can be converted into alternative fuels. They are part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest Initiative, which includes a mix of public and private organizations dedicated to developing an economically viable aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest region. Local aerospace leaders like Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Sea-Tac Airport have pledged to increase their use of sustainable fuel.
Sen. Cantwell authored the following oceans, coastal resiliency and weather forecasting provisions:
$2.6 Billion Nationwide for Coastal Communities and Climate Resilience
- These competitive and block grants for coastal states, Tribal governments, academic institutions, non-profits, and state governments will fund projects that will support climate resilience of coastal communities, fishery stock assessments and salmon recovery. This funding would be administered through NOAA. This funding represents a 771.5 percent increase over the Fiscal Year 2022 enacted levels for NOAA coastal resilience programs. It would support the planning and construction of projects that use natural infrastructure to address coastal hazards such as sea level rise, and address other impacts from climate change.
- Low lying areas across Washington State could be permanently underwater by 2050, including parts of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. In Grays Harbor County, more than 20% of the population is located in the 100-year floodplain, along with nine schools, three police stations, and three fire stations. Communities in these areas will benefit the most from technical assistance and coastal resiliency construction grants to help prepare for the threat of extreme weather and flooding associated with climate change.
- Sen. Cantwell previously worked to include over $2.7 billion in the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law to support programs like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coastal Resilience program, NOAA’s community-based restoration grants to address coastal restoration and fish passage, the Marine Debris Removal programs, and funding specific to improving coastal and inland flood mapping and forecasting.
$200 Million Nationwide for NOAA Facilities and National Marine Sanctuaries
- This is new funding ($150 million) for construction of new NOAA facilities and $50 million for the construction and repair of sanctuary facilities, including interpretive centers. NOAA operates a network of hundreds of facilities in all 50 states, including piers, marine operations facilities, and fisheries laboratories provide the research in support of NOAA’s ocean science, weather, fishery management and climate missions. Updated facilities for the National Marine Sanctuaries will support critical monitoring of ocean conditions that contribute to climate change impacts to coastal communities. These facilities also offer educational opportunities associated with each sanctuary.
- The bill includes more than $83 million to replace the Northwest Fisheries Science Center that is currently located in Montlake and employs over 265 people. The vast majority of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) work takes place at the Montlake campus in Seattle, Washington. The research and innovation conducted at the NWFSC helps build sustainable fisheries, restore threatened and endangered species, safeguard healthy ecosystems, and reduce risks of coastal climate change to human health. Funding will also support upgrades and expansion of key research infrastructure necessary for fisheries and ocean acidification science at Washington state NOAA labs in Manchester and Sand Point in Seattle.
- The bill also includes a $3 million down payment for construction of a new discovery center for the Olympic Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center in Port Angeles. This project will be located along the redeveloped waterfront near the new arts and community center. Overall, the project will cost at least $15 million and will include public-private partnerships. This initial funding will help get the project started and attract more private support.
$200 Million Nationwide for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and Forecasting
- $150 million of this allocation will support NOAA, including the National Weather Service and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research weather and climate research. $50 million will support competitive grants to universities, state and Tribal governments, and others. This will fund climate research for atmospheric processes such as the causes and impacts of extreme weather, as well as the impacts of climate change on marine species and coastal habitat. These investments will support the development of more accurate and timely weather forecasts, improved climate change predictions, and the development of products and services needed to ensure communities receive the data they need to keep their families and communities safe in the face of climate change.
- In Washington state, the historic investment in weather and forecasting will improve climate prediction models and research on emerging extreme weather events such as forecasting of flooding, fire, hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, extreme thunderstorms, and tornadoes. The new funding for competitive grants will fund climate research for atmospheric processes, as well as the impacts of climate change on marine species and coastal habitat.
- Sen. Cantwell led the effort to improve weather forecasting in the Pacific Northwest for more than a decade. In 2011, Sen. Cantwell spearheaded the successful push to get Washington state’s first coastal Doppler radar in Grays Harbor to improve severe storm and precipitation detection. She worked to secure hundreds of millions for various forecasting programs in the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law including: $100 million for NOAA Fire Weather; $80 million for NOAA High Performance Computing; and $492 million for NOAA Flood Mapping, Forecasting, and Water Modeling. This year, Sen. Cantwell introduced the Fire Ready Nation Act of 2022, a bill to improve wildfire forecasting.
$190 Million Nationwide to Boost NOAA’s Computing Capacity and Research for Weather, Oceans, and Climate
- This bill includes funding to address supercomputing needs across the whole of NOAA and increase NOAA’s overall processing power. High performance computing is undergoing a rapid transformation with new advances in cloud technologies, exascale systems, quantum technologies, and computing architectures. According to the NOAA Science Advisory Board, NOAA is insufficiently prepared to leverage these new computing technologies, which will restrict its ability to advance weather forecasting.
- In Washington state, NOAA relies on supercomputing to meet critical weather and climate forecasting objectives that are considered vital to the protection of life and property. The bill will fund research by NOAA scientists to improve weather prediction in the growing number of cases of extreme weather in Washington state.
- Sen. Cantwell also previously worked to secure $80 million for NOAA high performance computing in the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law.
$100 Million for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations to Acquire a Hurricane Forecasting Aircraft
- This bill would provide $100 million to fund the acquisition of a new Gulfstream G550 Hurricane Hunter to collect data when large storms appear, which is vital for knowing where storms will hit and how strong they will be.
- In Washington state, the hurricane hunter aircraft would help NOAA to expand its mission and devote resources to predict atmospheric rivers. Climate change is increasing the intensity of these atmospheric rivers on the West Coast, which can cause immense damage. With improved atmospheric river prediction, predictions on timing and strength can be made several days in advance.
$20 Million Nationwide for Efficient and Effective NOAA Reviews
- This new NOAA funding will help speed up environmental review processes needed to get transportation, conservation, and other projects permitted or otherwise approved and under construction more quickly. Specifically, the bill will help NOAA secure additional manpower and equipment necessary to address the backlog of permitting and environmental compliance needs required by the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other requirements.
- In Washington state, more than 100 projects across Puget Sound are pending consultations with NOAA Fisheries. This funding will help to improve fisheries consultation timelines and increase staffing capacity to keep up with incoming consultation and authorization requests. This funding will also help speed up reviews for bridge, road, and culvert projects that remain a priority for communities, and salmon recovery experts.
- Sen. Cantwell also previously supported $20 million in funding in the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law for similar purposes.
Read here for a complete list of wins for Washington state.