In the six months since Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the President signed it, the USGS has been busy setting the groundwork for these historic investments in science.
Laying the Groundwork: How the USGS is Deploying the Infrastructure Law’s Investments in Science
The USGS received more than $510 million in direct appropriations from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including \$320 for the USGS Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, \$23.7 million for the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program and $167 million for a new Energy and Minerals Research Facility, to be located on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines. In addition, the USGS will be supporting crucial projects led by the Department of the Interior focusing on ecosystem restoration and identifying and addressing orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells.
Mapping the Nation’s Geologic Future
The largest geoscience investment from the BIL is to the USGS Earth Mapping Resource Initiative (Earth MRI), which enables the USGS, the state geological surveys, other federal, state, Tribal and private-sector organizations to modernize the nation’s surface and subsurface mapping. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will accelerate the identification of areas with potential critical mineral resources still in the ground and in mine wastes.
The USGS has been working with state geological surveys to identify geologic and geochemical mapping projects that will receive funding and plans to announce those in the coming months. In addition, planning is underway for airborne geophysical mapping that will shed light on critical mineral opportunities, geologic hazard potential and information essential to land and water infrastructure planning.
Preserving the Nation’s Geologic Past
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is also ensuring that the nation’s geologic heritage will be preserved, both for its historical value and so it can inform future research and planning. The USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program has supported state geological surveys in preserving their data and samples since 2007 through annual grants and plans to announce the latest round of those grants in the coming weeks.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has expanded the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program’s capacity to support preservation activities of physical samples and earth science assets for future use, to inform new scientific discovery, hazard mitigation, infrastructure development, critical minerals characterization and climate resilience.
Investing in Science Means Investing in Scientists
On February 18, 2022, Secretary Haaland, Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter, and Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo announced a new state-of-the-art research facility would be built on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines.
This new facility will house USGS energy and mineral research scientists and allow them to work alongside the university’s geoscience and energy professors. This colocation will provide the opportunity to establish a center of excellence in minerals and energy that will leverage USGS science, support the development of STEM talent by engaging students and help expand the diversity of the USGS workforce.
Caring for the Nation’s Ecosystems
The Department of the Interior is responsible for some of the most breath-taking and majestic landscapes and ecosystems in the United States, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has invested heavily in ensuring these ecosystems can survive and thrive now and into the future.
The USGS will support efforts by the Department of the Interior to identify areas in need of ecosystem restoration and conduct the science needed to inform decisions that land managers are facing in order to care for these regions.
Igniting Fire Science
Climate change is driving harsher heat waves, more volatile weather, and record drought conditions, all of which are exacerbating the threat of wildfires. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bring much-needed support to communities across the country to increase the resilience of lands facing the threat of wildland fires and to better support federal wildland firefighters.
The USGS will support these efforts by assisting with post-fire restoration and rehabilitation activities that will mitigate the damaging effects of wildfires and set landscapes on a path towards natural recovery and climate resilience. In addition, the USGS will also help conduct research on wildland fire management issues that mitigate wildfire risk.
Abandoned No Longer
The USGS will also play a crucial role in helping the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy meet their goals of addressing orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. A significant priority of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, orphaned and abandoned wells are left over from oil and gas production and can cause environmental and human health impacts if not properly addressed.
The USGS plans to contribute research capabilities both in locating and identifying these wells and in studying and quantifying the effects they have had on the surrounding environment and communities.
Start with Science
These investments are long-term commitments, and as each project yields results, those will be communicated with the American public. More information on how the USGS is investing the funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be found here. More information on how the Department of the Interior is managing their funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be found here.