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News: There’s plastic in lots of ocean waters…but there’s less of it than expected…and impact on fish and birds is hard to gauge

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NOAA photo of marine debris in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

This image from NOAA is too often used to mischaracterize what marine debris looks like in the open ocean. Not a shot of the open waters of the Pacific, this is instead a shot of Hanauma Bay, Hawaii, where materials from land have been concentrated by winds and currents to form what is admittedly an awful mess. We need to shape our communications to lead the reader to think “how cen we keep this mess from leaving the land and ending up n the water?” rather that “gee, that’s interesting…I had no idea there was that much junk in the Pacific” if we’re going to tackle the marine debris problem.

Today Associated Press released an article today that begins “Plastic junk is floating widely on the world’s oceans, but there’s less of it than expected, a study says.” But the headline is far less balanced:“Study: Plastic debris widespread on ocean surface”

The fact that plastic materials can be found in lots of places is sadly the emphasis of many of the articles on marine debris, and the stranger and more remote the place, seemingly the better.

An important line indicating what we need to support is buried at the very end of the article:

“The impact on fish and birds is hard to gauge because scientists don’t understand things like how much plastic animals encounter and how they might be harmed if they swallow it”

Research on the impacts of plastic materials, which are varied in size and chemical composition, lags far behind the work on simple detection. We know, and for some time have known, that plastics, large and small, are found in many, many parts of the world’s oceans. What we need to spend time on (and time means money) is the impact of what we’re finding. Without a better understanding of the impacts a maximized plan to attack the most harmful sources first and with greatest effort is more or less guesswork. And so far we’re not doing well focusing on those things that we do know are harming marine life. There’s not a complete absence of research – for example the Italians are doing some interesting work on impacts to whales in the Med from ingested plastic – but this field is research in still in its infancy.

When it’s easier to get funding and political support to go on a cruise to tow a plankton net that to tackle marine debris that we know harms wildlife (derelict nets and certain tire reefs, for example), or to get robust funding for the research to tackle the impacts we poorly understand, there’s a good chance that we’re not tackling this rationally.

Similarly, when the media focus remains on distant blue waters, which make for interesting photos and stories I agree, and less on the less charismatic solid waste disposal problems on land (proper disposal and handling of wastes, stormwater management, etc.) we’re inclined to look for solutions from NOAA, who has little authority or ability to stop the plastic from entering the oceans. We should look to the U.S. EPA which regulates solid waste, or the multitudes of states and localities who set policies and manage local waste disposal, recycling and stormwater which might be able to actually reduce the flows of plastic into rivers, lakes and oceans, rather than looking solely to NOAA which the U.S. Congress has given neither the funding nor the legal tools to tackle the problem in proportion to its scale.

It is time to move on from “hey look, I found plastic in a far off place!” to “why in the world don’t we have robust recycling programs in all populated parts of the U.S.?” and other issues that surround tacking the problem of waste across the board.

The author of this blog 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

June 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Florida’s Senator Rubio proposes to prohibit all funding to make governing oceans and coasts more efficient

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ANALYSIS:

Senator Marco Rubio image

Senator Marco Rubio is the Ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Ocean, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard – an important role for ensuring the efficient and effective management of our oceans and coasts. It is a disturbing early step by Senator Rubio in the 113th Congress to defund all programs addressed by E.O. 13547 which implement the National Ocean Policy, including those efforts to make ocean governance more efficient and cost effective.Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), has introduced an amendment to the 2013 continuing resolution – the bill which would fund the federal government for the remainder of FY2013 – which would trip away all funding used to implement items within President Obama’s Executive Order E.O. 13547.

For those only paying the minimal amount of attention to DC politics, cutting funding to implement an Obama Administration policy might seem like an effort to cut back on programs that Republicans see as wasteful and outside the intended reach of the federal government. However, this ham-handed approach not only would frustrate interests of the Obama Administration, it would greatly hamper efforts which Republicans regularly support – improved coordination to reduce waste and duplication in government programs.

Rubio’s amendment (#102 to bill H.R. 933) is a blunt legislative tool that could eliminate such things as multiagency coordination for marine debris cleanups (remember the 3-11 tsunami disaster?  We’re far from done addressing the aftermath of that event on our coasts and the mariners who operate on the open seas.), protection of our ever diminishing coral reef habitats, or any number of themes which fall across agency boundaries and require improved planning and coordination if the Executive side of government hopes to have any chance to unwind the overlapping policy responsibilities and corresponding budgets created by a patchwork of laws passed by Congress over the last 40 years.

There have been similar sloppy legislative efforts by Rep. Bil Flores (R-TX) to block all funding relating to the “national ocean policy” promoted by the Obama Administration, but this is the first time I’ve seen that the short sighted efforts  mirrored on the Senate side.

One can only hope that with time the junior Senator from Florida’s drafting of legislation will improve and address substantive issues, rather than blunt language replete with unintended consequences. As Senator Rubio holds a new position as ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, he is in great position to use the Committee’s professional staff to better understand the implications of language he introduces.

Florida is an important coastal state – important to the people of Florida and important to the nation. I hope that as the 113th Congress continues Senator Rubio takes the time to review the broad reaching impacts of legislation, even legislation as short as amendment #102 in the FY2013 continuing resolution.

Florida enjoys both the beauty and bounty of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with those resources comes a collection of issues that need addressing if Florida residents and the millions of visitors who enjoy her shores are going to be able to continue to seek pleasure and economic prosperity from the state’s coasts. A number of the challenges facing Florida today cross multiple federal agencies statutory areas of responsibility (not to mention significant overlap with state of county agencies) and are challenging to coordinate.

Eliminating funding for programs the Presidential Executive Order would use as tools to address some of those inefficiencies is short sighted and poorly crafted legislation.

The language of the Rubio amendment as introduced:

SA 102. Mr. RUBIO submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 933, making appropriations for the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other departments and agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

     At the appropriate place, insert the following:

    Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to carry out Executive Order No. 13547, relating to Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.

 

The author of this blog 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/

Hurricane Sandy relief bill passes Senate. Provides important aid but House R’s efforts to strip out $ for planning to rebuild survive.

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Tonight the Hurricane Sandy emergency funding bill from the House of Representatives H.R.152 : Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, was taken up in the Senate with limited debate – quite limited. The bill passed the Senate with 62 votes, a bipartisan rare success in DC, with nine Republicans joining 53 Democrats.

NASA image of Hurricane Sandy

NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy which resulted in massive damage to coastal communities

The $50.5 billion aid package to help the region recover is now on its way to President Obama’s desk, but like much legislation that is drafted in DC, it isn’t perfect. Unlike some errors that appear in legislation which are the result of late night drafting under tight deadlines or simple inability to predict a changing set of future circumstances which result in unintended consequences, some problems with legislation are quite intentional, and the bill that passed today contains a very intentional problem.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas’s 14th district (Waco, College Park and nearby areas) has been adamant about defunding anything that comes through the House with connections to a wide-reaching set of plans to make government more efficient and improve the planning in our coastal and ocean waters. Those plans, crafted over a number of years by multiple bi-partisan commissions, were combined and announced during President Obama’s first year in office through an Executive Order which established the nation’s first National Ocean Policy.

Rep. Flores’ efforts to object to the President’s plans have thus far aimed at removing the funding for efforts to have more sensible planning occur in the U.S. coastal zone and ocean waters, and he’s been fairly successful in getting provisions added to House spending bills.  In the 112th Congress efforts to oppose the National Ocean Policy in the House were successful, but those successes met a quick end when Senate bills which lack such provisions run into the differing House language in Conference Committee. Ultimately the House language drops out…or it did in the 112th Congress.

To expedite the relief for victims of the Hurricane Sandy disaster Senate leadership fought to bring the House bill up for consideration with the minimum amendments possible. In fact only one Republican – Senator Mike Lee of Utah – had an amendment which was considered. That amendment proposed to fully offset the relief aid costs with cuts to discretionary funding, an amendment popular with Tea Party groups, but which fell well below the necessary 60 votes and failed 35-62.  That meant the Senate was voting on the House version of the bill as-is, including the provision from Rep. Flores to cut $150M in grant support for Regional Planning Bodies.

image of flooded taxis

Flooding resulted in economic losses and also damage to transportation infrastructure communities depend upon. Will we plan better for the next flooding event?

On the surface for those not immersed in governance issues for a living, the Flores amendment looks reasonable as it saves money by eliminating funds for NOAA pass-through funds which look to some to be unrelated to the disaster recovery. But to the informed the cuts which save $150M endanger the effectiveness of the $50.5B in federal dollars slated to flow to the region. The Regional Planning Bodies are structured with a membership that includes federal agencies, states and tribes, with input from a range of groups representing the private sector.  It is precisely that sort of broad membership which would be well positioned to discuss not simply how to rebuild what was lost, but how to make it better and most importantly in the context of disaster response, how to make what is rebuilt more resilient.

Whether Rep. Flores’ efforts are simply naive penny wise pound foolish, or whether they are a calculated effort to frustrate President Obama’s efforts to govern at every available turn is unclear. But what is clear is that $50.5B is a major federal investment, and we can only hope the federal agencies, states, tribes and localities can find ways not prohibited by the legislation to collaborate and rebuild in a coordinated way that is mindful of our changing climatic conditions. We need policies and practices that mitigate a changing climate with a systematic approach to adaptation, not a piecemeal approach that leaves some communities much better planned while others are left unnecessarily in harm’s way. The $150M that was cut from the $50.5B package made just such a well crafted response a bit harder.

The author of this blog 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/

Rep. Bill Flores, R-TX, opposes Obama ocean policies and strips $150M from Hurricane Sandy relief bill

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ANALYSIS:

The first attack in the 113th Congress on President Obama’s ocean policy, which include strengthening regional partnerships through the assistance of federal grants, was filed by ongoing opponent to the President’s National Ocean Policy, Rep. Bill Flores (Republican from a landlocked district in Texas).

image of Rep. Bill Flores

Rep. Bill Flores, former oil and gas driller from the Waco, TX area consistently opposes anything that is related to the President’s National Ocean Policy. His amendment to the Hurricane Sandy Relief strips 150K in funding for regional ocean partnerships.

House Amendment 6 to the House version of H.R.152 : Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 (aka Hurricane Sandy relief), reads as follows:

“AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
An amendment numbered 2 printed in Part C of House Report 113-1 to strike $150,000,000 for Regional Ocean Partnership grants.”

On January 15, 2013 the Flores amendment (A004) was agreed to by recorded vote: 221 – 197 (Roll no. 16)

The votes for and against are listed below.

On Monday afternoon of January 28, 2013, the Senate plans to take up the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, with only one amendment expected to be introduced – Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah has proposed an amendment that would offset the $50.5 billion in emergency aid (lawmakers are expected to reject that amendment), allowing final passage of the Senate bill later Monday night. No Senate amendments to oppose the House language and reinstate the Regional Ocean Partnership grants are anticipated.

inage of map of Congressional District 17 in Texas

Rep. Bill Flores represents the 17th Congressional District in Texas, an area south of Dallas that includes Waco and College Station. His dogged opposition to President Obama’s National Ocean Policy seems odd, given his district’s geography, until the fact emerges that in 2005 prior to coming to Congress Flores served on served on board of Phoenix Exploration Company, Marine Drilling Companies, Inc.  Offshore oil drilling companies generally prefer the status quo, and as such oppose President Obama’s efforts to create a system that rationally and openly determines which of the conflicting offshore uses are most in the national interest.

When looking to the motivations of those who oppose changes to the current first-come-first-served irrational way we currently permit offshore uses in the USA, allegiances to the traditional users (extractive industries such as oil and gas production or mining) or the new users (green energy such as wind and wave power) of the coasts are worth examining.

According to the homepage for Rep. Flores at http://flores.house.gov, Flores “worked in the energy industry for nearly three decades. During that time, he served as a CFO, COO or CEO for successful energy companies, ultimately serving as President and CEO of Phoenix Exploration Company, an oil and gas company focused upon the discovery of American oil and gas.”

The author of this blog 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/

*the original article headline mistakenly indicated a $150K cut in funding, while the article noted correctly the cuts were $150M. The headline has been corrected to match the content of the article.

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 16, Flores Amendment to strip funding for Regional Ocean Partnerships

(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

H R 152      RECORDED VOTE      15-Jan-2013      6:39 PM
AUTHOR(S):  Flores of Texas Part C Amdt. No. 2 to Frelinghuysen of New Jersey Amdt.
QUESTION:  On Agreeing to the Amendment

Ayes

Noes

PRES

NV

Republican

214

14

4

Democratic

7

183

10

Independent
TOTALS

221

197

 

14

—- AYES    221 —

Aderholt
Amash
Amodei
Bachmann
Bachus
Barr
Barton
Benishek
Bentivolio
Bilirakis
Bishop (UT)
Black
Blackburn
Bonner
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Bridenstine
Brooks (AL)
Brooks (IN)
Broun (GA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Burgess
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Cantor
Capito
Carney
Carter
Cassidy
Chabot
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman
Cole
Collins (GA)
Collins (NY)
Conaway
Cook
Cotton
Cramer
Crawford
Cuellar
Culberson
Daines
Davis, Rodney
Denham
Dent
DeSantis
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Ellmers
Farenthold
Fincher
Fleischmann
Fleming
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Gardner
Garrett
Gibbs
Gibson
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Heck (NV)
Hensarling
Herrera Beutler
Holding
Hudson
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurt
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jones
Jordan
Joyce
Kelly
Kind
King (IA)
Kinzinger (IL)
Kline
Labrador
LaMalfa
Lamborn
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Marchant
Marino
Massie
Matheson
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McHenry
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
Meadows
Meehan
Messer
Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Mullin
Mulvaney
Murphy (PA)
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunnelee
Olson
Palazzo
Paulsen
Pearce
Perry
Peterson
Petri
Pittenger
Pitts
Poe (TX)
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Radel
Reed
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rice (SC)
Rigell
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross
Rothfus
Royce
Ryan (WI)
Salmon
Scalise
Schock
Schrader
Schweikert
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stewart
Stivers
Stockman
Stutzman
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tipton
Turner
Upton
Valadao
Wagner
Walberg
Walden
Walorski
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)
Wenstrup
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Williams
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Yoho
Young (AK)
Young (IN)

—- NOES    197 —

Alexander
Andrews
Barber
Barletta
Barrow
Bass
Beatty
Becerra
Bera
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown (FL)
Brownley (CA)
Bustos
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Carson (IN)
Cartwright
Castor (FL)
Castro (TX)
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke
Clay
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Courtney
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis, Danny
DeFazio
DeGette
Delaney
DeLauro
DelBene
Deutch
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle
Duckworth
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Enyart
Eshoo
Esty
Farr
Fattah
Fitzpatrick
Foster
Frankel (FL)
Frelinghuysen
Fudge
Gabbard
Gallego
Garamendi
Garcia
Gerlach
Grayson
Green, Al
Grijalva
Grimm
Gutierrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Heck (WA)
Higgins
Himes
Hinojosa
Holt
Honda
Horsford
Hoyer
Huffman
Israel
Jeffries
Johnson, E. B.
Kaptur
Keating
Kennedy
Kildee
Kilmer
King (NY)
Kuster
Lance
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis
Lipinski
LoBiondo
Loebsack
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lowey
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Lynch
Maffei
Maloney, Carolyn
Maloney, Sean
Markey
Matsui
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
McIntyre
McNerney
Meeks
Meng
Michaud
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Murphy (FL)
Nadler
Neal
Nolan
O’Rourke
Owens
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Payne
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters (CA)
Peters (MI)
Pingree (ME)
Pocan
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rahall
Rangel
Richmond
Roybal-Allard
Ruiz
Runyan
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schneider
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell (AL)
Shea-Porter
Sherman
Shimkus
Sinema
Sires
Slaughter
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Thompson (CA)
Tiberi
Tierney
Titus
Tonko
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Vargas
Veasey
Vela
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Welch
Wilson (FL)
Yarmuth
Young (FL)

—- NOT VOTING    14 —

Cárdenas
Cleaver
Crenshaw
Emerson
Jackson Lee
Johnson (GA)
Kingston
Kirkpatrick
Napolitano
Negrete McLeod
Nunes
Schwartz
Speier
Thompson (MS)

A policy for the U.S.’s oceans and coasts: the Obama plan vs. an empty (beach) chair?

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ANALYSIS:

Where do most of the people live in the United States?  Coastal states.  What part of America has played an indispensable role in America’s economy since colonial times? The oceans and coasts. So even with just those two reasons alone how could any politician make a run for the Presidency without taking the time to put forth careful thought about how to address our oceans and coasts and their resources which are so important to America’s well being?

empty beach chairs

EMPTY BEACH CHAIRS. Where was the Romney-Ryan campaign when they were asked about their plans for managing our oceans and coasts? Weeks after the Obama Campaign responses detailing its plans, Blue Frontier Campaign founder David Helvarg did his best to guess what Mitt Romney would do based on the Governor’s history in Massachusetts.

Barack Obama’s campaign released a statement about its intentions regarding oceans and coasts for its second term – hardly a surprise given the Obama Administration’s early commitment to establishing a national ocean policy early in the first term, but surprisingly, while they were given many weeks to match the Obama campaign with a response of their own, the Mitt Romney campaign never produced a policy statement on this important part of the nation’s public policy.

The Blue Frontier Campaign, whose mission it is to bring together the approximately 2,000 “blue groups” and agencies it says work on ocean and coastal conservation, sent an inquiry to both campaigns this fall, but only Obama’s Campaign responded. The inquiry entitled “60 Ocean Leaders call on President Obama and Governor Romney to protect the Blue in our red, white and blue” can be found at THIS LINK.

David Helvarg, author and founder of the Blue Frontier Campaign, does an admiral job working to guess what policies might Mitt Romney put forward, based on scant information from the the Governor’s policies in Massachusetts and a few blurbs from Campaign speeches. Does Mr. Helvarg get it right or do the Massachusetts policies on things like marine spatial planning (deciding what activity goes where offshore) mean little if Mr. Romney goes to D.C.? I’ll leave it to the reader to sift through those tea leaves on their own, but what is clear is that Romney’s campaign did little to make a first step into national policy area concerning our oceans and coasts when they failed completely to express an opinion at all in the 2012 race for President.

Mr. Helvarg’s Blue Frontier Campaign press release is included below in its entirely.  The Obama Campaign’s response to Mr. Helvarg’s inquiry is included in the release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 18, 2012

Contact: David Helvarg Blue Frontier Campaign (510) 778-8470 or cell (202) 491-6296

Obama and Romney speak out on America’s Ocean.

In Tuesday night’s debate America’s environment and climate crisis went unnoted as did our largest wilderness frontier and a major driver of our economy, our public seas.  America’s ocean waters that provide recreation, transportation, trade, energy, protein and security were mentioned only in the context of offshore drilling.

However, 60 Ocean Leaders in conservation, exploration, science and business have called on President Obama and Governor Romney to explain what they plan to do to protect the Blue in our red, white and blue.  For the content of that letter please go to:

http://www.bluefront.org/wordpress/?p=3865

The letter’s signatories have gotten a response from the Obama campaign but to date have not received an expected one from the Romney campaign.  However several of the Governor’s positions can be ascertained based on his public record.

Below is the statement from President Obama’s Re-election Campaign –

“President Obama is committed to ensuring that our nation’s vast natural resources are used responsibly, and that we maintain healthy oceans and coasts.  By establishing a National Ocean Policy, he made it a priority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approach to improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. 

 President Obama is directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration to further bring back the fisheries and coastal ecosystems which are still recovering in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill.  He kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targeting ecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, and pollution runoff. And his administration is cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, establishing a “pollution diet” for the Bay that will help restore the natural habitat for fish and other wildlife. They have also invested over $1.4 billion in Everglades’ restoration, helping restore tens of thousands of acres which will serve as a sanctuary for native Florida plants and wildlife. And under President Obama, we have created or enhanced more than 540 public coastal recreation areas, protected more than 54,000 acres of coastlines and restored over 5,200 acres of coastal habitat. The administration is also investing more in monitoring our fishing stock in coastal areas in order to have the most accurate data possible on the health of our fisheries. These are significant steps that are helping us improve the health of our oceans and build more robust fisheries.”

 Governor Romney has also spoken about his approach to America’s ocean waters first as Governor of Massachusetts and more recently as candidate for President.

 As Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney pioneered legislation making it the first state in the nation to put in place a comprehensive statewide planning process to assess new projects proposed for state ocean waters.  He noted the critical need to safeguard the state’s coastal waters from unregulated new uses, noting significant gaps in state and federal authority to permit offshore uses and lease open space.  “The only way to protect our beautiful ocean environment is with comprehensive ocean zoning reform,” he said.  He created an ocean management task force in 2003 comprised of a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental groups, regulators and the fishing industry.  

 In the 2012 Presidential campaign Mitt Romney has called for more state input and control over oil & gas energy leasing in federal outer continental shelf (OCS) waters.  He has pledged to “establish the most robust five-year offshore lease plan in history, that opens new areas for resource development – including off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas – and sets minimum production targets to increase accountability.”

The author if this blog 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

November 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

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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ANALYSIS:

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.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/2010stewardship-eo.pdf

http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/OPTF_FinalRecs.pdf

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/national_ocean_policy_draft_implementation_plan_01-12-12.pdf

 

 

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

House Republicans broadly support amendment to block President’s efforts to make federal ocean agencies more efficient

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On Wednesday afternoon on the floor of the House of Representatives Representative Bill Flores, (R-TX), introduced an amendment to H.R. 5326 the FY2013 appropriations bill for those agencies in Commerce, Justice, Science budget block. The Amendment would block the expenditure of any funds provided by the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) appropriations bill for FY2013 to be used for the implementation of the “National Ocean Policy,” thereby blocking the coordination of the multitude of laws passed by Congress in a more efficient manner.

While the vote in the House of Representatives occurred largely along party lines, it is a mistake to characterize the issue as one which Democrats understand more clearly than Republicans. A handful of Republicans, including the House Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Doc Hastings from Washington, are seemingly perpetually confused about the meaning of the National Ocean Policy, the Executive Order which created it and the policies that it espouses.

Flores Amendment to block funding for National Ocean Policy presented on the House floor 10May2012

However, this lack of understanding has not been consistent in the Republican Party. In the prior Administration President Bush (43) called for a Presidential Commission to examine America’s policies regarding our oceans and coasts, and that group’s report, dovetailed remarkably well with the Pew Ocean Commission, Chaired by Leon Panetta, which released its own report shortly before President Bush’s Commission released its findings. None of the findings in either Commission’s reports support a call from current Republicans in the House to further frustrate coordination and collaboration among the dozens of federal agencies involved in implementing the laws passed by Congress which impact our oceans and coasts.

The Flores amendment passed on a 246-174 vote, largely along party lines. A detailed listing of the vote is listed below.

The text of the amendment language is:

“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 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/

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 234(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

—- AYES    246 —

Adams
Aderholt
Akin
Alexander
Altmire
Amash
Amodei
Austria
Barletta
Barrow
Bartlett
Barton (TX)
Benishek
Berg
Bilbray
Bilirakis
Bishop (NY)
Black
Blackburn
Bonner
Bono Mack
Boren
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Brooks
Broun (GA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Buerkle
Burgess
Burton (IN)
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Canseco
Cantor
Capito
Carter
Cassidy
Chabot
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman (CO)
Cole
Conaway
Cravaack
Crawford
Crenshaw
Critz
Cuellar
Culberson
Davis (KY)
Denham
Dent
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Dreier
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Ellmers
Emerson
Farenthold
Fincher
Flake
Fleischmann
Fleming
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Frelinghuysen
Gallegly
Gardner
Garrett
Gerlach
Gibbs
Gibson
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Grimm
Guinta
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Heck
Hensarling
Herger
Herrera Beutler
Hochul
Holden
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurt
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (IL)
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jordan
Kelly
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kingston
Kinzinger (IL)
Kissell
Kline
Labrador
Lamborn
Lance
Landry
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Lewis (CA)
LoBiondo
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mack
Manzullo
Marchant
Marino
Matheson
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McCotter
McHenry
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
Meehan
Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Mulvaney
Murphy (PA)
Myrick
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunes
Nunnelee
Olson
Owens
Palazzo
Paul
Paulsen
Pearce
Pence
Peterson
Petri
Pitts
Platts
Poe (TX)
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Quayle
Rahall
Reed
Rehberg
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rigell
Rivera
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross (AR)
Ross (FL)
Royce
Runyan
Ryan (WI)
Scalise
Schilling
Schock
Schweikert
Scott (SC)
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shimkus
Shuler
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stivers
Stutzman
Sullivan
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tiberi
Tipton
Turner (NY)
Turner (OH)
Upton
Walberg
Walden
Walsh (IL)
Webster
West
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Young (AK)
Young (FL)
Young (IN)

—- NOES    174 —

Ackerman
Andrews
Baca
Baldwin
Bass (CA)
Bass (NH)
Becerra
Berkley
Berman
Biggert
Bishop (GA)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Boswell
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown (FL)
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Cardoza
Carnahan
Carney
Carson (IN)
Castor (FL)
Chandler
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke (MI)
Clarke (NY)
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly (VA)
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Costello
Courtney
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
DeFazio
DeGette
DeLauro
Deutch
Dicks
Dingell
Doggett
Dold
Doyle
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Eshoo
Farr
Fattah
Fitzpatrick
Frank (MA)
Fudge
Garamendi
Gonzalez
Grijalva
Gutierrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Hayworth
Heinrich
Higgins
Himes
Hinchey
Hinojosa
Hirono
Holt
Honda
Hoyer
Israel
Jackson (IL)
Jackson Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones
Kaptur
Keating
Kildee
Kind
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
LaTourette
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis (GA)
Lipinski
Loebsack
Lofgren, Zoe
Lowey
Luján
Lynch
Maloney
Markey
Matsui
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
McIntyre
McNerney
Meeks
Michaud
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Murphy (CT)
Nadler
Neal
Olver
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters
Pingree (ME)
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rangel
Reyes
Richardson
Richmond
Rothman (NJ)
Roybal-Allard
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schrader
Schwartz
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell
Sherman
Sires
Smith (WA)
Speier
Stark
Stearns
Sutton
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tierney
Tonko
Towns
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz (MN)
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Woolsey
Yarmuth

—- NOT VOTING    11 —

Bachmann
Bachus
Bishop (UT)
Donnelly (IN)
Filner
Kucinich
Napolitano
Schmidt
Slaughter
Welch
Wilson (FL)