NASA and NOAA In Line for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Aid Funds
The Senate-passed version of a $60 billion appropriations bill to help victims of Hurricane Sandy includes $15 million to repair damage at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) on the Virginia shore, while NOAA would get almost $500 million.
The bill itself says only that the NASA money is to repair facilities damaged by the hurricane that wreaked devastating havoc on the East Coast -- particularly New Jersey, New York and Connecticut -- in October. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a floor statement on December 17 that "Even NASA's spaceport Wallops facility was damaged by Hurricane Sandy." Mikulski just ascended to chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee following the death of Senator Daniel Inouye, and remains as chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA. She added that beaches near the NASA launch pad at WFF were washed away and workers had to stop testing Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket, which is part of NASA's commercial cargo program. She said other NASA facilities also were damaged.
The Senate passed the bill, H.R. 1, reformulated as a disaster assistance bill, on Friday, December 28. The bill provides $60.4 billion in disaster aid, including $513 million for activities under the jurisdiction of the CJS subcommittee. The $15 million for NASA is quite small compared to NOAA, which would get $482 million -- $373 million in the Operations, Research and Facilities account plus $109 million in the Procurement, Acquisition and Construction account. The money is for repairing and replacing damaged facilities, repairing and improving weather forecasting capabilities and infrastructure, stabilizing and restoring coastal ecosystems, dealing with marine debris, expenses related to fisheries disasters, repairs to hurricane hunter airplanes, and other purposes.
Some Senate Republicans unsuccessfully offered an alternative bill that would have provided less than half of the Democratic-sponsored legislation and focused on near term needs. The Democratic version passed 62-32, however, so some Republicans did support it. Whether the Republican-controlled House will pass it in the remaining few days of the 112th Congress is unclear. It is not on the list of bills to be considered by the House today.
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