Associated Press - May 9, 2024 5:40 am


As Oklahomans rebound from this latest round of severe storms, Congress is moving legislation intended to improve weather forecasters’ ability to predict them. The Weather Act passed the House last week with strong, but not unanimous, support from the Oklahoma delegation.

Essentially, this is a reauthorization of legislation first sponsored in 2017 by Oklahoma’s Frank Lucas. Now chairing the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, it is Rep. Lucas (R-Okla. 3) again pushing legislation that he says couldn’t be more important.

“If you live in Oklahoma,” Rep. Lucas said in an interview Monday, “you only have to look at the last few weeks or the coming few days to know that we face weather challenges.”

Lucas says the Weather Act will help meet those challenges by funding ongoing research aimed at improving and making forecasting more efficient.

“As a farmer, I need to know what the weather is going to be put a crop in the ground or take a crop out,” Lucas explained. “Oil and gas people need to know how much energy to turn on at the wellhead in order to run the generators.”

Lucas was joined by 393 other Republicans and Democrats last week in voting to pass the bill that supporters say will help support research programs currently operating at NOAA, while also establishing new programs to advance forecasting, expand commercial data partnerships, strengthen emergency preparedness, and advance tools for farmers, ranchers, and resource managers.

“Probably the single most important thing is the continued encouragement — requirement — of NOAA, the National Weather Service, to use private data, as well as the public information, to provide more information to the models that are developed.”

One of the 19 no votes and a member of the state’s delegation, Rep. Josh Brecheen, says he opposed the measure to stay true to his campaign commitment to cut spending, even if it means making tough decisions. Brecheen says federal spending is out of control, in part, because Congress has decided to fund things that should be left to the states.

“Every member of Congress has to ask the question,” said Brecheen (R-OK2) in an interview Tuesday, “Does, under the rule of law, the Constitution give me permissibility to make this a federal responsibility?”

Lucas sees it as his responsibility to support and improve the science of forecasting the weather.

“To try to give us more lead time and be better prepared,” said Lucas, “not just to lead our lives on a day-to-day basis, but when emergencies occur, give us time to react so we can survive.”

The bill is now in the Senate. Lucas isn’t sure if it will be taken up as a standalone bill if it’ll be taken up as part of a larger package of bills, or if it’ll be taken up at all — but he’s hopeful


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