A key U.S. House of Representatives committee is moving to block the Obama administration’s controversial proposal to close a federal marine research laboratory in North Carolina.
The Committee on Appropriations today released a draft spending bill for the 2015 fiscal year that begins 1 October. It includes funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and, in an accompanying report, the panel bars NOAA from moving ahead with plans to consolidate several laboratories and close a century-old lab on an island near the town of Beaufort.
The panel also asks NOAA to send lawmakers a report within 1 year “on all National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) facilities and labs, to include current maintenance costs as well as a detailed analysis of how the research conducted by NCCOS laboratories would be affected by any proposed NCCOS lab consolidation.”
The move comes after North Carolina lawmakers had protested the proposed closure and called on the spending panel to keep the lab open. The House panel is expected to approve the bill in a vote Thursday and send it to the full House. The Senate has not yet released its version of the spending bill, and no final decision on the legislation is expected until later this year, after the November elections.
Still, the House move comes as a relief to the Beaufort lab’s supporters in Congress. “I’m very pleased we were able to work together to secure this funding because the lab has a significant economic impact, and it is critical to maintaining the competitiveness of our state’s research enterprise,” said Representative David Price (D-NC) in a statement.
A NOAA spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.