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If you are tracking FY2013 ocean and coastal related budget hearings, there’s a lot to cover

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image of U.S. Currency by William Nuckols

Do you know where the "ocean budget" dollars are located? Look widely, as many agencies impact the oceans and coasts of the U.S.
**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available. Return to this page for updates

NOAA has dropped its FY2013 budget last week, when the President sent his full budget request  to the Hill for consideration by the House and Senate. This year’s NOAA budget request is approximately $5.1 billion. But that’s far from the only money in the oceans and coastal arena in the federal budget.

The National Ocean Council (NOC) structure includes dozens of agencies and the Executive Office of the President. Sensibly, it is not until you look across that broad collection of agency budget proposals and the reaction from the Hill to them will you get an understanding of the scale of the “ocean and coastal budget.”

Here are a few of the ocean related Congressional budget hearings that have occurred or are coming up over the next  months which provide the trail of breadcrumbs those interested in ocean and coastal issues will want to be following:

(Hearings which have already occurred will have links to archived video where available.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of the Interior – Secretary

Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:30 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior (Biography)(Testimony); David Hayes, Deputy Secretary (Biography); Pamela Haze, Deputy Assistant Secretary – Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition (Biography)
Opening statements: Chairman Rogers / Chairman Simpson
Video recording: Part I / Part II

Friday, February 17, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture – Secretary

Friday, February 17, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary- Department of Agriculture; Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary-Department of Agriculture; Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist-Department of Agriculture; Michael Young, Budget Officer-Department of Agriculture

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Joint Hearing
The title of the hearing is “The FY 2013 EPA Budget.”
10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Opening Statement of Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield

Opening Statement of Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus

Opening Statement of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton

Witness List
: Ms. Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, Witness Testimony
the hearing will be live broadcast on the Committee’s website.  It is also being carried on CSPAN.

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Energy – Secretary

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 2:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary, Department of Energy

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Oversight Hearing on “FY 2013 budget requests from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management”
10:00 AM   in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness:
Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
Robert Abbey, Director, Bureau of Land Management

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing (POSTPONED – new date TBD)
Budget Hearing – Department of Commerce, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of State – Secretary of State

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in 2359 Rayburn
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Witness: The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Department of State

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Environmental Protection Agency – Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 1:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Barbara Bennett, Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Protection Agency

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Office of Science and Technology Policy. Director

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 2:00 PM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
(This hearing will not be webcast).

Thursday March 1, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Fish and Wildlife Service – Director

Thursday, March 1, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Dan Ashe, Director, Fish and Wildlife Service; Chris Nolin, Budget Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tuesday March 6, 2012

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
U.S. Coast Guard – Commandant

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in B-318 Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witness:  Robert Papp, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – National Science Foundation
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309, the Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness
: The Honorable Subra Suresh, Director, National Science Foundation
(This hearing will not be webcast by the Committee)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Dr. Marcia McNutt, Director, USGS

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Oversight Hearing on “Spending for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for these Agencies.”
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in 1334 Longworth House Office Building
WITNESSES AND TESTIMONY:
Witnesses TBD.

Wednesday March 7, 2012

House Budget Committee, Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Budget Hearing – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Assistant Secretary, Chief of Engineers

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 2:00 PM in 2362-B Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: The Honorable Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Maj. Gen. Merdith “Bo” Temple, Chief of Engineers (Acting), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Budget Hearing – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – Directors
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Tommy Beaudreau, Director, BOEM; Rear Admiral James Watson, Director, BSEE

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “The Council on Environmental Quality’s FY 2013 Funding Request and the Effects on NEPA, National Ocean Policy and Other Federal Environmental Policy Initiatives”
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness: Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman, Council on Environmental Quality

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Oversight Hearing
Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program
Mar 07 2012 10:00 AM
Russell Senate Office Building – 253
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on priorities, plans, and progress of the nation’s space program.
Please note the hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Mr. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Dave White,Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture.
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal for the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The President’s FY2013 Budget Proposals for the Coast Guard and NOAA

Mar 07 2012 2:30 PM Russell Senate Office Building – 253
Witness List:
The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witnesses:
Craig Fugate, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Thursday March 8, 2012

House Budget Hearing – National Park Service – Director
Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service

House Natural Resources Committee Hearing – FY13 Budget for DOI’s BOEM and BSSE
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
March 8, 2012 9:30 AM

1334 Longworth House Office Building
Oversight Hearing on “Effect of the President’s FY 2013 Budget and Legislative Proposals for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on Private Sector Job Creation, Domestic Energy Production, Safety and Deficit Reduction
Witnesses:
Tommy Beaudreau, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
James Watson, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing
Department of Transportation – Secretary

Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary, Department of Transportation
House Appropriations Committee
Budget Hearing – National Park Service 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service(Biography); Bruce Sheaffer, Comptroller, National Park Service(Biography); Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director, National Park Service(Biography)
(This hearing will not be webcast)
Senate Appropriations Committee
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Mikulski)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 124
Agenda: a review of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Witnesses: The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Senate Appropriations Committee
Energy and Water Development Subcommittee (Chairman Feinstein)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:30 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: A review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 funding request and budget justification for the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.
Witnesses:
Major General Merdith (Bo) Temple
Acting Commanding General
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary
U.S. Army (Civil Works)
The Honorable Anne Castle
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science
U.S. Department of the Interior
The Honorable Michael L. Connor
Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
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Senate Appropriations Committee
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Kohl)
March 29, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the Department of Agriculture
Witness: The Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture(USDA)
Accompanied by:
Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, Department of Agriculture, Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture

**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available.  Return to this page for updates.

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

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

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Administration blocks Oil Spill Report lead investigators from testifying before Congress

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House Resources Chairman Doc Hastings request for a “Prompt Hearing on BOEMRE/Coast Guard Spill Report” is foiled by Administration delays. 

In an odd game of who gets to talk to whom, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee’s attempts to have, in the words of the Committee’s press release a “Prompt Hearing on BOEMRE/Coast Guard Spill Report” on the oil spill at the Macondo well and the loss of the Transocean drill platform which resulted in the spill of millions of gallons of oil and the loss of 11 lives, has been foiled – or at least delayed a bit.

photo of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon

The loss of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and the wellhead blowout spilled millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico and took the lives of 11 workers on the platform. A joint U.S. Coast Guard and DOI report has been released detailing the government's findings on the causes of the disaster. Now Congress has expressed interest in quickly speaking with the lead investigators in a hearing in the House, but disagreements between the Committee and the Administration over who can speak about the report is resulting in delays in the hearing schedule. Originally scheduled for this morning, the hearing has been moved to October 6, 2011.

On September 14th the Natural Resource Committee released a statement that “On Friday, September 23rd, the Natural Resources Committee will hold a Full Committee oversight hearing on the final report of the BOEMRE/U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team.”

It then went on to add that:

“After repeated delays, the federal government is finally releasing the findings of its investigation into the tragic Deepwater Horizon incident,” Chairman Hastings said. “This is another significant report on the disaster and I’m hopeful it will give us a clearer picture about what happened so Congress, industry and the Administration can move forward responsibly and appropriately. We have waited far too long for this report, but the Committee is ready to take action and a hearing is now officially scheduled for next week. I’m confident that with a far more complete reporting of the facts, we will be able to take a thoughtful approach to real reforms to ensure continued safe American energy production.”

However, in order to get down to a back and forth dialogue about the facts and findings in the report there needs to be witnesses to testify to the facts and answer questions from members of both parties.  That part isn’t going very well at the moment.

In a press release on September 23rd House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Doc Hastings announced that “tomorrow’s Full Committee oversight hearing on the final report of the BOEMRE/U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will be postponed until October 6, 2011 due to the Obama Administration’s last-minute refusal to allow investigation team members to testify.”

“It took far too long for the final report to be issued and the Obama Administration is now further delaying proper oversight by suddenly refusing to allow members of the investigation team to testify. Based on numerous conversations between Committee staff and the Administration, it was confirmed that investigators from the BOEM and Coast Guard team would be testifying at Friday’s hearing. We were informed today, one day prior to the hearing, that this had changed. It’s unacceptable for the Committee not to be able to hear from the actual investigators who conducted the investigation and wrote the report.

“It’s always been my intention to first hear from the investigators about their findings, in order to get all the facts, and then hear from the specific companies that are cited in the report. The companies have been notified of this fact. The Administration’s actions are complicating and compromising the Committee’s ability to move forward on this matter.

One presumed rationale for asking the report’s lead investigators and authors to directly testify, rather that having senior Administration officials from DOI and the USCG testify – a common practice in DC where leadership typically responds to Congressional inquiries, not the career rank an file – if because Chairman Hastings is believed to be interested in asking not only substantive questions about the report itself, but to also ask questions about the reasons for the multiple delays in the production of the report. While that question has not yet been posed to any investigators from the joint report, some on the Hill are assuming that the delays are the result of DC agency leadership fighting with the report’s authors about language which would appear in the final report. At this stage there seems to be little evidence of a heavy hand by the agency leaderships or by the White House, but proving or dispelling that theory is being made difficult by the Administration’s refusal to allow the investigation team members to testify.

The current employment status of one of the lead investigators is surely a concern for the Administration – the Department Interior’s lead investigator, David Dykes, a former Minerals Management Service employee who worked for over a decade for MMS, has left government employment and now holds a new job.

On September 14th Time Magazine Senior Reporter Brian Walsh Tweeted “BOEMRE’s lead investigator on BP spill, J. David Dykes, left the agency earlier this month. New job: Chevron”

While this is obviously awkward for the Administration, it is unclear why efforts would be made to block the U.S. Coast Guard’s lead investigator as his failure to appear before the Natural Resources Committee only invites theories about the Administration’s motives, and gives fuel to the fire of those positioning to paint the report as something other than an accurate description of the investigators’ findings.

The Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team Final Report can be found through the following links:

Chapters of the final JIT Investigative Report:

The Natural Resources Committee hearing, now scheduled for October 6, 2011, will occur in room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building.  For those not in Washington DC and unable to attend in person the Committee will stream the video live on the internet.  Check out http://naturalresources.house.gov/ URL for the link to the live webcast on October 6, 2011.

photo of the The blowout preventer of the Deepwater Horizon on a barge

The blowout preventer of the Deepwater Horizon is transported on the Mississippi River into New Orleans, Sept. 11, 2010. The blowout preventer was DOI BOEM/US Coast Guard investigation determine the circumstances surrounding the explosion, fire, pollution, and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon platform. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

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

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

 

 

Oil Spill Commission’s Bob Graham questions DOI’s competency in collecting royalties

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image of senator Bob Graham, Oil Spill Commission chairman

Senator Bob Graham, Commission Chairman, questions DOI's role as the collector of funds from leases, instead preferring the Department of the Treasury

Today at a meeting of the Oil Spill Commission meeting in Washington, retired Senator and Commission Chairman Bob Graham questioned DOI’s competency in collecting federal funds for leases on federal or tribal lands across the board. Citing both the mishandling of finds from the BIA trust, as well as the inappropriate influence of DOI income on offshore lease decisions, he tipped his hand and indicated his preference that the U.S. Department of the Treasury is a better place to receive the royalties from leases on U.S. federal and tribal lands. His point was related to the need to avoid conflicts of interest in decision making when analyzing the sale of oil and gas leases.

But then when discussions returned to the views of staff and the full Commission, it became clear that reform at DOI was focused solely on leasing for offshore waters and that their recommendations did not look to onshore oil and gas or other revenue generating leases, for example those for mineral rights.

What is lacking is an examination of internal conflicts that exist within DOI in a general sense. After all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is located within DOI and is responsible for the protection of U.S. wildlife resources, including even select marine mammals such as manatees and sea otters. And DOI regularly works to balance the comments of the USFWS when conducting leases on U.S. lands held, for instance, by BLM. Does that process work well, or is it too flawed and in need of revision, thereby showing a systematic problem within the Department?

Much dialogue at the hearings today focused on staff recommendations, and concerns of Commissioners, who are concerned about DOI’s seeming habitual lack of attention to comments provided by NOAA during the NEPA consultation process as it related to oil and gas sales.

The analysis would be improved if there was a critique of whether economic or environmental concerns, or an appropriate balance of both factors, tend to rule the day when DOI provides leases for right to U.S. owned natural resources.

Is it that DOI habitually downplays the importance of ecological concerns? Or is it a cultural bias of decreased attention being paid to comments coming from agencies outside of DOI such as NOAA, which resides within the Department of Commerce?

When contemplating reorganization within DOI and the oil and gas lease process understanding the pros and cons of voices stemming from within DOI bureaus as compared to comments from outside of DOI is crucial information if optimal recommendations for future oil and gas lease processes are to be made.

An accurate depiction of the role of DOI in lease decisions in a general sense would have provided a useful lens to look through as the Oil Spill Commission considers the specific quirks of leasing in offshore waters. However, if the Commission does unearth an improved process for how DOI should consider environmental information when it reviews lease proposals, but fails to expand the recommendation to a systematic DOI-wide change, it would do a disservice to the American people who funded the multi-million dollar Commission budget.  And as importantly, it would exacerbate the oddities of how on-land, near-shore and deep-water leasing decisions are being made. Especially given the realities of changing drilling technologies, such as in Alaska when oil companies are proposing to essentially constructing new gravel islands to conduct their drilling activities from, thereby putting their drilling application into one type of review process for land-based drilling, even though the directional drilling proposed would extract the oil and gas resources from offshore locations, a holistic view of oil and gas development is needed. To look broadly is not to step beyond the Commission’s mandate, but rather to use this window in time to optimize the public policy process in a rational way that the public and industry can see as logical and systematic. If we only examine how the balancing of environmental, economic and safety concerns are addressed in deep-water drilling offshore, while ignoring other oil and gas permitting processes within DOI, is to further exacerbate the current system where best practices are applied to only some areas of the nation, leaving others with a sub-optimized leasing and oversight regime.

The National Oil Spill Commissioners deliberates on preliminary findings related to the root causes of the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster and options to guard against and mitigate the impacts of future spills on Thurs., Dec. 2nd (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and  Fri., Dec. 3rd(9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) at 1777 F St. NW in Washington D.C.

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

Written by Will Nuckols

December 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Will new Obama ocean policy affect offshore drilling?

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Today President Obama became the first American President to codify a U.S. position on Oceans through the establishment of an Executive Order.    

While the recommendations to the President by the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force were just published in their final form today, indications of what would be in the policy document have been circulating since last fall, and while there are small changes in the final document, the Executive Order largely follows the draft recommendations from 2009.   

The “policy of the United States” for oceans does include some language that will potentially result in changes from the status-quo. The policy will “promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations,” and depending on how this language is interpreted, decisions on resource utilization, which has too often been short-sighted, might finally take a long term view.   

Essential Elements of a Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning process

The nine “essential elements” of the Obama Administration’s process to select optimal uses and reduce/avoid use conflicts may result in a good long run public policy process, but it is doubtful that they could move fast enough to address the Gulf of Mexico issue of deepwater drilling or the Shell request to drill in the Arctic. Those decisions are likely to be made by DOI in a more traditional manner.

 

While there is a nod to the events in the Gulf of Mexico (“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and resulting environmental crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are, and how much communities and the Nation rely on healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems”) there is little that directly addresses the problems that the people of the Gulf of Mexico struggle with today….with one potential exception: coastal and marine spatial planning.  But that process is intended to be a fairly through, methodical process with broad input from a range of federal, state and tribal stakeholders, in addition to input from affected parties and the public. These processes are designed to generate the greatest buy-in, but it is unlikely that they can move quickly enough at this point to address fast-moving policy issues that are on the Administration’s plate today, particularly the hot-button topic about whether to allow, or indefinitely block, new deepwater drilling in U.S. waters.   

 But while it doesn’t provide a clear roadmap that indicates where we are headed as a nation which continues to struggle with conflicting uses and practices that have significant impacts on the environment and the economy, it does provide a framework for organization.   

How the organizing governance bodies, headed by the National Ocean Council (NOC), make decisions will have a large role on the function of these groups, and their importance to public policy development and oversight. The last Administration did not declare how decisions would be made within the Commission on Ocean Policy (COP) or in their subordinate organizing groups, and this limited their usefulness for some policy areas. This Administration’s decision that “The Co-Chairs would seek to encourage decisions and recommendations based on consensus of the [National Ocean Council]” with disputes being forwarded to the President may mean that those frustrated with a NEPA process where those with “comment authority” are ultimately ignored and a Coastal Zone Management Act “coastal consistency” which allows veto power to one entity – the state – would become more balanced. Or these sorts of conflicts may never reach the NOC, having been deemed to fall into the category of decisions constrained by existing statutory processes which determine comment and decision authority. It might take a move by Congress if the processes surrounding those processes will change.   

So while we have a National Ocean Policy for the first time, and we have a 96 page policy recommendation that will be the Bible that this Administration follows, how this exactly plays out – we’ll have to wait a bit longer to wait and see. 

 

The full executive order is included below:    

The White House    

Office of the Press Secretary    

For Immediate Release
July 19, 2010

Executive Order–Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes    

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:    

Section 1. Purpose. The ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food, energy resources, ecological services, recreation, and tourism opportunities, and play critical roles in our Nation’s transportation, economy, and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and security. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and resulting environmental crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are, and how much communities and the Nation rely on healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems. America’s stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes is intrinsically linked to environmental sustainability, human health and well-being, national prosperity, adaptation to climate and other environmental changes, social justice, international diplomacy, and national and homeland security.    

This order adopts the recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, except where otherwise provided in this order, and directs executive agencies to implement those recommendations under the guidance of a National Ocean Council. Based on those recommendations, this order establishes a national policy to ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests.    

This order also provides for the development of coastal and marine spatial plans that build upon and improve existing Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional decisionmaking and planning processes. These regional plans will enable a more integrated, comprehensive, ecosystem-based, flexible, and proactive approach to planning and managing sustainable multiple uses across sectors and improve the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.    

Sec. 2. Policy. (a) To achieve an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations, it is the policy of the United States to:    

  • (i) protect, maintain, and restore the health and biological diversity of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources;
  • (ii) improve the resiliency of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems, communities, and economies;
  • (iii) bolster the conservation and sustainable uses of land in ways that will improve the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems;
  • (iv) use the best available science and knowledge to inform decisions affecting the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, and enhance humanity’s capacity to understand, respond, and adapt to a changing global environment;
  • (v) support sustainable, safe, secure, and productive access to, and uses of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes;
  • (vi) respect and preserve our Nation’s maritime heritage, including our social, cultural, recreational, and historical values;
  • (vii) exercise rights and jurisdiction and perform duties in accordance with applicable international law, including respect for and preservation of navigational rights and freedoms, which are essential for the global economy and international peace and security;
  • (viii) increase scientific understanding of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems as part of the global interconnected systems of air, land, ice, and water, including their relationships to humans and their activities;
  • (ix) improve our understanding and awareness of changing environmental conditions, trends, and their causes, and of human activities taking place in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters; and
  • (x) foster a public understanding of the value of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes to build a foundation for improved stewardship.

(b) The United States shall promote this policy by:    

  • (i) ensuring a comprehensive and collaborative framework for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes that facilitates cohesive actions across the Federal Government, as well as participation of State, tribal, and local authorities, regional governance structures, nongovernmental organizations, the public, and the private sector;
  • (ii) cooperating and exercising leadership at the international level;
  • (iii) pursuing the United States’ accession to the Law of the Sea Convention; and
  • (iv) supporting ocean stewardship in a fiscally responsible manner.

Sec. 3. Definitions. As used in this order:    

(a) “Final Recommendations” means the Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force that shall be made publicly available and for which a notice of public availability shall be published in the Federal Register.    

(b) The term “coastal and marine spatial planning” means a comprehensive, adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based, and transparent spatial planning process, based on sound science, for analyzing current and anticipated uses of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes areas. Coastal and marine spatial planning identifies areas most suitable for various types or classes of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and preserve critical ecosystem services to meet economic, environmental, security, and social objectives. In practical terms, coastal and marine spatial planning provides a public policy process for society to better determine how the ocean, our coasts, and Great Lakes are sustainably used and protected — now and for future generations.    

(c) The term “coastal and marine spatial plans” means the plans that are certified by the National Ocean Council as developed in accordance with the definition, goals, principles, and process described in the Final Recommendations.    

Sec. 4. Establishment of National Ocean Council. (a) There is hereby established the National Ocean Council (Council).    

(b) The Council shall consist of the following:    

  • (i) the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, who shall be the Co-Chairs of the Council;
  • (ii) the Secretaries of State, Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • (iii) the National Security Advisor and the Assistants to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Domestic Policy, Energy and Climate Change, and Economic Policy;
  • (iv) an employee of the Federal Government designated by the Vice President; and
  • (v) such other officers or employees of the Federal Government as the Co-Chairs of the Council may from time to time designate.

(c) The Co-Chairs shall invite the participation of the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to the extent consistent with the Commission’s statutory authorities and legal obligations, and may invite the participation of such other independent agencies as the Council deems appropriate.    

(d) The Co-Chairs of the Council, in consultation with the National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, shall regularly convene and preside at meetings of the Council, determine its agenda, direct its work, and, as appropriate to address particular subject matters, establish and direct committees of the Council that shall consist exclusively of members of the Council.    

(e) A member of the Council may designate, to perform committee functions of the member, any person who is within such member’s department, agency, or office and who is (i) an officer of the United States appointed by the President, (ii) a member of the Senior Executive Service or the Senior Intelligence Service, (iii) a general officer or flag officer, or (iv) an employee of the Vice President.    

(f) Consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality shall provide the Council with funding, including through the National Science and Technology Council or the Office of Environmental Quality. The Council on Environmental Quality shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, provide administrative support necessary to implement this order.    

(g) The day-to-day operations of the Council shall be administered by a Director and a Deputy Director, who shall supervise a full-time staff to assist the Co-Chairs in their implementation of this order.    

Sec. 5. Functions of the Council. (a) The Council shall have the structure and function and operate as defined in the Final Recommendations. The Council is authorized, after the Council’s first year of operation, to make modifications to its structure, function, and operations to improve its effectiveness and efficiency in furthering the policy set forth in section 2 of this order.    

(b) To implement the policy set forth in section 2 of this order, the Council shall provide appropriate direction to ensure that executive departments’, agencies’, or offices’ decisions and actions affecting the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes will be guided by the stewardship principles and national priority objectives set forth in the Final Recommendations, to the extent consistent with applicable law. The Council shall base its decisions on the consensus of its members. With respect to those matters in which consensus cannot be reached, the National Security Advisor shall coordinate with the Co-Chairs and, as appropriate, the Assistants to the President for Energy and Climate Change, and Economic Policy, and the employee of the United States designated by the Vice President, subject to the limitations set forth in section 9 of this order, to present the disputed issue or issues for decision by the President.    

Sec. 6. Agency Responsibilities. (a) All executive departments, agencies, and offices that are members of the Council and any other executive department, agency, or office whose actions affect the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes shall, to the fullest extent consistent with applicable law:    

  • (i) take such action as necessary to implement the policy set forth in section 2 of this order and the stewardship principles and national priority objectives as set forth in the Final Recommendations and subsequent guidance from the Council; and
  • (ii) participate in the process for coastal and marine spatial planning and comply with Council certified coastal and marine spatial plans, as described in the Final Recommendations and subsequent guidance from the Council.

(b)Each executive department, agency, and office that is required to take actions under this order shall prepare and make publicly available an annual report including a concise description of actions taken by the agency in the previous calendar year to implement the order, a description of written comments by persons or organizations regarding the agency’s compliance with this order, and the agency’s response to such comments.    

(c) Each executive department, agency, and office that is required to take actions under this order shall coordinate and contribute resources, as appropriate, to assist in establishing a common information management system as defined in the Final Recommendations and shall be held accountable for managing its own information assets by keeping them current, easily accessible, and consistent with Federal standards.    

(d) To the extent permitted by law, executive departments, agencies, and offices shall provide the Council such information, support, and assistance as the Council, through the Co-Chairs, may request.    

Sec. 7. Governance Coordinating Committee. The Council shall establish a Governance Coordinating Committee that shall consist of 18 officials from State, tribal, and local governments in accordance with the Final Recommendations. The Committee may establish subcommittees chaired by representatives of the Governance Coordinating Committee. These subcommittees may include additional representatives from State, tribal, and local governments, as appropriate to provide for greater collaboration and diversity of views.    

Sec. 8. Regional Advisory Committees. The lead Federal department, agency, or office for each regional planning body established for the development of regional coastal and marine spatial plans, in consultation with their nonfederal co-lead agencies and membership of their regional planning body, shall establish such advisory committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App., as they deem necessary to provide information and to advise the regional planning body on the development of regional coastal and marine spatial plans to promote the policy established in section 2 of this order.    

Sec. 9. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order, the establishment of the Council, and the Final Recommendations shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:    

  • (i) authority granted by law to an executive department or agency or the head thereof; or
  • (ii) functions assigned by the President to the National Security Council or Homeland Security Council (including subordinate bodies) relating to matters affecting foreign affairs, national security, homeland security, or intelligence.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.    

(c) In carrying out the provisions of this order and implementing the Final Recommendations, all actions of the Council and the executive departments, agencies, and offices that constitute it shall be consistent with applicable international law, including customary international law, such as that reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.    

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.    

Sec. 10. Revocation. Executive Order 13366 of December 17, 2004, is hereby revoked.    

BARACK OBAMA     

THE WHITE HOUSE, July 19, 2010.    

     

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

Is the Deepwater Horizon accident similar enough to all other deepwater drilling operations to stop drilling offshore? One federal judge has said no.

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page olf of Judge Maetin Feldman's June 22 2010 decision

The full 22 page decision by New Orleans District Court Judge Martin Feldman can be viewed at whnuckolsconsulting.com/pdf/jf.pdf

Today in District Court in New Orleans Judge Martin Feldman overturned the Obama Administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling, saying that the Administration’s decision was arbitrarily imposed. Hornbeck Offshore Services, while filed the case in court, argued that the Administration has provided no proof that other drilling operations posed the same threat as occurred when the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, resulting in the ongoing spill that has caught the attention of the public and the media in the U.S.

The 22-page written ruling issues by Judge Martin brings attention away from tar balls on beaches and focuses attention on the regulation and legal aspects of the aftermath of the disaster.

While Robert Gibbs has stated that the Obama Administration will immediately appeal to the Circuit Court, it is likely that the back and forth in the appeals process is likely to escalate beyond the 5th Circuit before the litigation comes to a final conclusion.

Judge Feldman noted that the Administration has failed to document irreparable harm that warrants suspension of operations, nor how long it would take to implement new recommendations regarding safety. While the 24/7 news cycle does make one wonder if it really was necessary for the Administration to carefully document in written form that a major oil spill of epic proportions can occur when drilling deep offshore wells, I suspect it was the open ended timeline of the moratorium that has moved the oil services industry to push back this hard.

On the surface, the Administration’s decision to put a stop to an entire section of an industry for what was beginning to look to some like an ever lengthening period of time, is not in the tradition of government’s reaction to safety issues. When a plane crashes, a common reaction is to pull all planes of that design, or ones that use a suspected particular part, out of service until the defect is better understood and fixed. The same applies with recalls in the auto industry – a particular model of car is taken off of the market. But the analogy in the car business would be to say that because a Toyota Prius pedal became stuck on the highway, all cars who can go highway speeds would be taken off of the streets irrespective of who made the car. If you start looking at the oil drilling moratorium in this way one would be lead to think that the reaction to stop offshore deepwater drilling is way out of line.

Page 19 of the findings today show Judge Feldman questioning “If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines?” He then concludes “That sort of thinking seems heavyhanded, and rather overbearing.”

 The judge cited the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and noted that the APA cautions that an agency action may only be set aside if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or not otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. §706(2)(A). Accordingly Judge Feldman needed to find a “clear error of judgment” by the federal government to decide in favor of the oil services companies who brought their case before the court. What the Judge had to see in the federal government’s case was a “rational connection between the facts found and the choice made” to shut down deepwater drilling.

 Judge Feldman wrote “After reviewing the Secretary’s Report, the Moratorium Memorandum, and the Notice to Lessees, the Court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium.”

 Further in the findings, Judge Feldman identifies holes in the definition of “deepwater drilling” and the back and forth of whether it means 500 or 1000 feet – a topic that has also been questioned in the media for the past few weeks.

 The judgment concludes by issuing a preliminary injunction against the government because the “defendants have failed to cogently reflect the decision to issue a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium with the facts developed during the thirty-day review. The plaintiffs have established a likelihood of successfully showing that the Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the moratorium.”

 Today’s findings state that the federal mandate for a suspension of drilling over 500 feet “cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.”

 There do appear to be multiple options for the federal regulators to control deepwater drilling from this point forward.  As Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has stated, the Administration will take the case up on appeal at the Circuit court level, and a second review of the Administration’s procedures that resulted in the moratorium might result in a decision in the government’s favor.

 But the Department of the Interior does not need to hang its hat solely on the battles between attorneys. Flaws, be they overstated or real, identified by Judge Feldman, give DOI a roadmap to craft a second decision that could also result in a suspension of overly dangerous drilling procedures until improvements in the risk/reward balance are improved.

 It is important to note that no investigation will result in a set of recommendations that make drilling at any depth risk free. What is desired is a better balance between risk and the capabilities to manage the risk, and that is something that everyone can get behind.

The full 22 page decision by New Orleans District Court Judge Martin Feldman can be viewed at www.whnuckolsconsulting.com/documents/judgefeldman22June10.pdf

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Written by Will Nuckols

June 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Salazar announces 10 state wind partnership and an Atlantic renewable energy office

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Ken Salazar speaks at CHOW

Ken Salazar provided the opening remarks at Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, DC

This morning at Capitol Hill Oceans week in Washington, DC, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, made two announcements:   

1. Ten governors from Atlantic states have agreed to form a consortium that will focus on wind development on the Atlantic coast.   

2. DOI will be establishing an office that will focus on renewable energy development in the Atlantic.  The office will be located in Virginia.   

While the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska remain major traditional energy producers, it was clear today that for an expansion in the U.S.’s renewable energy portfolio, DOI will be focusing on the Atlantic coast.   

Secretary Salazar’s remarks at Capitol Hll Ocean Week are available the Vimeo at the link below.   

Secretary Salazar announces offshore wind energy consortium.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm. 

Written by Will Nuckols

June 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

At this morning’s House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the oil spill, ethics where a major theme

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House Resources Committee Hearing 26 May 2010

The House Resources Committee Hearing was well attended by members, the press and the public

At this morning’s hearing at the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, following opening remarks from Chairman Rahall and Ranking Member Hastings, Secretary Salazar called for a changes to be supported by the House Resources to support two of Secretary Salazar’s main themes:

1. Reform is essential and

2. We need to move to a new energy frontier.

While little of the remarks provided details about new energy, as that topic has been the subject of several prior hearings, there was much discussion by Secretary Salazar and in questions from Chairman Rahall and Ranking Member Hastings about the topic of reform and ethics.

Salazar stated that reform efforts are not new, and that a reform agenda has been on his agenda since he started the job as Secretary of the Interior. In addition to the internal ethics committee investigations and training at DOI/MMS, Sec. Salazar emphasized that congressional action was also needed for reform to be effective. Salazar called for Congress to provide an “organic act” for the Minerals Management Service, and argued the importance of organic authorization for an agency that (a) collects $13 billion a year in funds from oil and gas development and (b) develops the offshore oil and gas resources in the U.S.

Nick Rahall House Resources Chairman 26 May 2010 Hearing

Congressman Nick Rahall is the Chair of the House Resources Committee

Chairman Rahall asked Secretary Salazar if splitting MMS into three parts address the ethics problems that have been highlighted in the Inspector General reports and have the ethics reform package that the Secretary sited really taken hold yet?

Salazar stated that we do think that organizational change is necessary. The reorganization will be moving to remove the revenue collectors and separate them from the leasing and inspection functions of MMS.

Ranking Member Hastings asked if there are people in MMS identified as doing the wrong things, have they been removed from the government payroll?  Salazar responded that if they have done something wrong that requires termination they have been terminated. And some have even been prosecuted and have gone to jail.

But Hastings responded that it is his understanding that some of these people are still on the job. The distinction between removed and still on the job may be because employees named by the IG have been placed on Administrative leave pending further examination of the issues.

While the back and forth about ethics concerns continued, what did not emerge in a concise form was a depiction of what reforms would be possible only through the passage of organic authorization language for MMS compared to what can be changed today based on the authority of the Secretary.

Labels of blame can be suspect in the world of politics, and as such perhaps an accurate analysis will only come in fits and spurts through the Congressional hearing processes. While quite valuable, this will not be our only avenue to determining the cause of the gulf oil spill and also providing recommendations for changes that should occur as we continue to produce oil and gas offshore in the U.S. Last Friday President Obama named a bipartisan commission, chaired by Bob Graham, former Senator and Governor from Florida, and Bill Reilly, the EPA Administrator under President Bush’s Administration. These two chairs, and the five additional Commission members yet to be named, may be our best chance for a balanced and independent review of offshore oil and gas production.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.