In the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, December 20, appropriators unveiled a much-anticipated $1.7 trillion government spending bill — one of the final steps in the 117th Congress’ race to the finish line. The omnibus funding package, which is made up of the 12 annual appropriations bills, funds the government and its agencies through fiscal year 2023 (FY23). In addition to defense spending, emergency assistance to Ukraine, and disaster relief, the bill includes $772.5 billion for non-defense programs.
The agreement represents a compromise between the House and Senate bills, but because these bills were written without agreement on topline spending limits, many agency funding levels, including NOAA’s, are lower in the final package. The text also includes a new provision related to endangered North Atlantic right whales, reflecting the ongoing, contentious debate over how to protect the animals along with U.S. fisheries.
The Senate is expected to pass the spending package with healthy margins on Wednesday, December 21, followed shortly by the House. House Republican leaders are urging members to vote against the omnibus, and passage will likely come down to a handful of votes. President Biden must sign the bill into law by midnight on December 23 to avoid a government shutdown.
Read on for highlights and analysis of ocean- and environment- related provisions in the final FY23 omnibus.
Congress will provide a total of $6.2 billion in discretionary funds for NOAA, which is $502 million above the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) enacted level and $682 million below the President’s Budget request. The bill also includes over $111.4 million in community project funding, more than the House or Senate bills, which act as earmarks for specific projects and institutions.
National Ocean Service (NOS)
Congress will provide $693 million for NOS, which is almost $42 million above the FY22 enacted level and $7.43 million less than the President’s Budget request. It also encourages National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to expand efforts related to offshore wind and coastal sustainability and resilience.
$2.5 million increase in funding for Coastal Zone Management Grants from FY22
$500,000 increase for the Coral Reef Program
$7 million increase for Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas from FY22
$2.8 million increase for National Estuarine Research Reserve System from FY22
$1.5 million increase for the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Association
$500,000 increase for hydrographic surveys and contracts
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
Congress will provide $1.09 billion for NOAA Fisheries, which is $77 million above the FY22 enacted level and $13 million less than the President's Budget request.
$16.35 million increase over FY22 for fisheries data collections, surveys and assessments
$1 million increase for the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) over FY22, and $750,000 for testing of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing technology (a focus of the recently-passed National Defense Authorization Act)
$1 million increase for marine aquaculture over FY22
$4.27 million increase for enforcement over FY22
$94 million to reduce impacts on North Atlantic right whales and for related work pertaining to enforcement, monitoring, plankton surveys, research and development, and compliance
A $6 million increase ($27 million) over FY22 report language directives
An additional $26 million for regulation compliance
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)
Congress will provide $761 million for OAR, which is a $113 million increase over FY22 and almost $14 million less than the President’s Budget request.
$4 million increase for the National Sea Grant College Program from FY22 levels
$3.5 million increase for Sustained Ocean Observations and monitoring, almost $6.5 million more than the President’s Budget request
$2.59 million increase to accelerate America’s Ocean Exploration Program
$500,000 increase for the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) over FY22
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Congress will provide $10.14 billion for EPA, an increase of $576 million over the FY22 enacted level and $1.74 billion below the President’s Budget request.
An $52 million increase in the Science and Technology account
A $322 million increase in the Environmental Programs and Management account
A $5 million increase for National Estuary Program and Coastal Waterways, which includes a $100,000 increase for each of the 28 National Estuary Programs
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
Congress will provide a total of $219.96 million for BOEM, $12 million above the FY22 enacted level and $17 million below the President’s Budget request.
$5 million to establish a Center for Paleoenvironmental Records of Extreme Events to inform risk analysis and long-term forecasts of extreme events
$42.82 million for renewable energy
BOEM is expected to collaborate with existing Regional Ocean Partnerships to inform the siting and development of wind energy areas
$2 million for geologic carbon sequestration on the Outer Continental Shelf, as authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Congress will provide $1.77 billion for USFWS, $128 million above the FY22 enacted level and $199 million below the President’s Budget request.
$2.96 million for Ecological Services
$37.65 million for Conservation and Restoration
$541,555 for the National Wildlife Refuge System
$74.22 million for Habitat Conservation Programs, which includes $13.96 million for the Coastal Program
Department of Energy (DOE)
Congress will provide $46.54 billion for the Department of Energy, $1.68 billion above the FY22 enacted level. Cross-cutting initiatives include grid modernization, carbon dioxide removal, equity and justice, critical minerals, industrial decarbonization, and decarbonization of industry and transportation sectors.
$380 million for innovative technologies for low- or no-emission alternatives for shipping, aviation, agriculture, and long-distance transportation and $60 million to advance hydrogen use for hard-to-electrify transportation applications including maritime shipping
$40 million for cross-cutting aquatic decarbonization efforts
$8.1 billion for the Office of Science which will help implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, including the new DOE Coastal Research initiative, which is intended to compliment NOAA’s Ocean Service
$470 million for Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E)
$132 million for Wind Energy Technologies Office, including $65 million for offshore wind
$179 million for Water Power Technologies Office, with a focus on integrating clean energy systems for remote communities and port electrification
Department of Transportation
Congress will provide $106.3 billion for the Department of Transportation, which is $3.4 billion above the FY22 enacted level and $1.9 billion above the President’s 2023 Budget request.
$49 million for Research and Technology to expand research on creating more equitable access to transportation systems, combating climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions
$541.96 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants, including $5 million for low-or zero-emission ferries
$896.1 million for the Maritime Administration, $56.4 million above the President’s Budget request, which follows on the recently-passed MARAD reauthorization in the NDAA
$318 million for the Maritime Security Program
$6 million for the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance program
$212.2 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program