A Tale of Two Bills: the BIF, the BBB, and what's in them for oceans

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

(UPDATED November 20, 2021)


President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, informally known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), into law on Monday, November 15. It passed the House by a vote of 228 - 206 and the Senate in a 69-30 vote.


A second bill that that would fund additional infrastructure projects, the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, passed the House on Friday, November 21. This bill has no Republican support, and faces a challenging road ahead in the Senate with the slim majority Democrats hold.


So what is in these bills for oceans, science, and environment, and what comes next?


Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (AKA the BIF)


The $1.2 trillion bill signed into law by President Biden is 1,039 pages long. The bill includes Build America, Buy America provisions and funding for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure (including state revolving loan funds, assistance for communities, reducing lead in drinking water, and advanced drinking water technologies). It also reauthorizes the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act, adding a provision to study the impact of derelict vessels and identify recyclable solutions for recreational vessels.


The bill appropriates over $3 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over five years, including:

  • $150 million for supporting improved and enhanced coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes observing systems

  • $492 million for National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund grants

  • $491 million for contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements to provide funding and technical assistance for purposes of restoring marine, estuarine, coastal, or Great Lakes ecosystem habitat, or constructing or protection geological features that protect coastal communities from flooding or coastal storms

  • $492 million for coastal and inland flood and inundation mapping and forecasting

  • $400 million to enhance fish passage by restoring barriers and providing technical assistance under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act

  • $25 million for data acquisition

  • $150 million for marine debris assessment, prevention, mitigation, and removal

  • $50 million for marine debris prevention and removal through the National Sea Grant College Program

  • $207 million for Coastal Zone Management Act habitat restoration

  • $77 million for habitat restoration through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System

  • $56 million for established Regional Ocean Partnerships

  • $50 million for wildfires

  • $80 million for research supercomputing infrastructure for weather and climate model development

  • $172 million for Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery

Once signed, a 90 day clock started ticking for NOAA to create a spending plan for the funds and deliver it to the House and Senate appropriations committees. Biden chose former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to oversee implementation of the various infrastructure spending plans, turning to a veteran of Hurricane Katrina’s recovery to coordinate the rebuilding of roads, bridges and ports in the country.


The Build Back Better (BBB) Act


The Democrats-only BBB was originally a $3.5 trillion bill, but it was recently cut back to $1.75 trillion due to concerns from moderate Democrats. Here’s the most recent bill text and a section by section summary. Not surprisingly, this bill includes a lot of climate-related provisions.


Now that it has passed the House, it will go to the Senate, where it will be considered under budget reconciliation, which allows the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority (51 votes) but is subject to some tricky rules. Budget reconciliation also triggers a process informally known as “vote-a-rama” in which Senators typically stay up all night offering hundreds of amendments to the bill. Because of this and a few other technical factors, there may be changes to the BBB at this stage.


This bill includes significant funds for oceans and science programs, although a lot was cut when the bill was shaved down from $3.5 to $1.75 trillion. The language in this bill is notably vague and will also likely be subject to a pre-approved spend plan from the agencies.


Here are some highlights:

NOAA

  • $6 billion over five years for direct funding, grants, cooperative agreements, and technical assistance to states, tribes, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and higher education for projects that “conserve, restore, and protect coastal and marine habitats to increase climate resilience of coastal communities or sustain coastal and marine resource-dependent communities.”

  • $1 billion over five years for habitat restoration for Pacific salmon and steelhead

  • $400 million over five years for marine fishery hatchery infrastructure

  • $500 million over five years for fishery stock assessments, electronic monitoring, and transitional gear research

  • $300 million over five years to repair/replace aging facilities

  • $200 million over ten years for enhanced reviews and stakeholder engagement

  • $2 million over five years for implementing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program

  • $200 million to “accelerate advancements in research, observation systems, modeling and dissemination related to weather, coasts, oceans, and climate.”

  • $100 million for competitive climate research grants

  • $100 million for development of climate science information products

  • $100 million for research infrastructure and procurement

  • $20 million for contracts, grants, and technical assistance to improve public understanding of climate change

  • $200 million for high performance computing

  • $139 million for acquisition of hurricane hunter aircraft

National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • $668 million for research, scholarships, and fellowships

  • $25 million to ensure broad demographic representation in NSF activities

  • $500 million for research related to climate change

National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA)

  • $85 million for climate research and development-related activities to understand, observe, and mitigate climate change and its impacts

  • $30 million for investments in data management and processing to support climate research and development activities

  • $25 million for research and development to support the wildfire community and improve wildfire fighting operations

  • $225 million for aeronautics research and development on sustainable aviation

Offshore Wind

  • $100 million to the Department of Energy to perform transmission planning, modeling, and analyses regarding the development of interregional and offshore wind transmission projects and to convene stakeholders to address the development of such transmission projects.

The fate of the BBB is still uncertain due to moderate Democrats lingering concerns over the price tag and the content. The bill is likely to face significant amendments before passing the Senate.


As always, ESP Advisors will monitor and engage on these bills and provide updates to our partners and the community. Stay tuned for more news!

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