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Did an amendment in a FY2013 House appropriations bill strip funding for all of Obama’s ocean priorities for NOAA, NASA and NSF?

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In a debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Representative Bill Flores, (R-TX), introduced an amendment to H.R. 5326, the FY2013 appropriations bill for that sets the funding for a number of agencies including NOAA – referred to by some as the federal government’s “ocean agency,” NASA and the National Science Foundation. The amendment by Representative Flores sought to block all funding in FY2013 for agencies in the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill that would be used to implement the “National Ocean Policy,” a policy established by President Obama through Executive Order in the first year of his presidency.

Rep. Bill Flores

U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Bill Flores from Texas introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 federal appropriations bill for a block of agencies including NOAA, NASA and the National Science Foundation. The language said “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement {President Obama’s] National Ocean Policy…relating to the stewardship of oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.” The language passed on a vote of 246-174 and is included in the spending bill which now resides in the hands of the Senate.

Here’s the CJS appros bill language introduced by Rep. Bill Flores:

“At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

    Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement the National Ocean Policy developed under Executive Order 13547 (75 Fed. Reg. 43023, relating to the stewardship of oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes).”

The amendment was broadly supported, passing on a 246-174 vote, with strong dissent voiced by a few members including Rep. Sam Farr from California and Rep. Ed Markey from Massachusetts.

It seems pretty clear that Rep. Flores wished to defund Marine Spatial Planning – referred to by some as ocean zoning– as he has spoken against that part of the national ocean policy several times.  But what else would also be defunded?  i.e. in the President’s E.O., and the documents that support it (including a draft implementation plan that has been on the street for many months) there are clear references to things like programs addressing coral reefs, marine debris, data collection – all sorts of things.  If the Flores amendment makes it through the Congress (i.e. is either mirrored by Senate language or accepted in Conference) would all Obama priority actions on oceans which fall under the National Ocean Policy would be defunded for 2013 for the CJS block of agencies (NOAA, NASA, NSF)?

Possible types of milestones planned by the Administration in 2013 which might be defunded by the Flores amendment to the CJS FY13 bill include:

Example – “Complete formal interagency partnership agreements (e.g., Memoranda of Agreement) between National Ocean Council agencies regarding coordination and leveraging efforts to achieve Ecosystem Based Management. (NOC; 2013)”

Example – “Phase Ecosystem Based Management principles and goals into the Federal process for awarding future grants related to the restoration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems,

to the extent practicable. Require future funded projects to collect data in accordance with the data practices developed in Action 3 of the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning priority objective, to the extent feasible. (NOAA; 2013)”

 Example – “Review the interpretation and, as necessary, propose to strengthen content and/or application of Federal legislation, including the Coastal Zone Management Act, Coastal Barriers Resources Act, the Stafford Act, and others to incorporate and better support climate change adaptation efforts. (NOAA, DOI; 2013)”

A spokesperson in the House Natural Resources Committee Majority Office (Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman) said yes, the amendment is pretty clear that the spending prohibition relates to all aspects of the President’s plans to implement the National Ocean Policy.

A spokesman from Rep. Flores office was a bit more vague on the extent of the impact, saying the purpose of this language is to impose a “time out” from funding so that questions regarding funding and regulation can be answered before more federal funds are reprogrammed towards the implementation of the National Ocean Policy.

Requests for comments by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Majority Office and the Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in the Executive Office of the President remain unanswered by the time this article was authored.

The following background documents include the Executive Order the President issues which established the National Ocean Policy, supporting documents referenced by the E.O., and the most recent implementation plan for the National Ocean Policy as issued by the White House.






The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

Written by Will Nuckols

May 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

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